It was like listening to a perfect song. The feeling of raindrops on hot summer skin. It was eye contact with a beautiful stranger across a busy street, yearning for the start of something new.
Inventing spells made Kim Namjoon feel alive.
“He’s doing it again, Miriam!”
“Kids these days. No respect for property,” chided Miriam.
“Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry used to be a proper magical institution!”
“I hope the Headmaster gives you a beating!”
Namjoon snorted, dragging his wand across the brick wall, inscribing the walls in graffiti. The living, breathing renaissance paintings on the other side of the hallway griped at him. Namjoon liked to think that art wasn’t art until other art started complaining. That made perfect sense.
At the very least, it was the sort of thing that made sense in a place like Hogwarts: the most prestigious and populous magical school in all of Great Britain. It was a place where spell-casting was taught in lessons, where the paintings could make snappish comebacks, and where the walls were alive with magical potential.
Kim Namjoon was damn good at fulfilling that magical potential, because he was a damn good wizard.
His magic wand burned hot in his hand. Namjoon rushed to finish the phrase, and pulled back from the wall. Red smoke rose from his inscription. He felt the heat on his fingers.
Namjoon beamed at the paintings behind him.
He said, “Wouldn’t that have been embarrassing, if my wand got fried from the new spell?”
His audience of old-fashioned paintings booed in response.
“A good burning might stir some sense into you!”
“Back in my day, children were burnt all the time! It built character!”
“I hope the Headmaster lights you on fire!”
Namjoon rolled his eyes, and spun back to reread his words.
You need to survive.
The spell was too volatile. After little adjustment on his intonation, the spell would surely cool down. After that, Namjoon could write whatever he pleased in his longest-lasting graffiti spell. Ink and quills? No way. That was amateur anarchism if ever he saw it. He nodded at the wall for a job well done, and stashed his wand back into his pocket.
The paintings had stopped crowing, and started tittering nervously, as though he were an actual dangerous criminal. He wasn’t going to draw on their faces--at least, not until the new spell was perfect.
Namjoon grinned. He gave them a sarcastic wave good-bye. A painted man with shiny grapes shrieked. Namjoon’s smile faded.
He began to head back to his dormitory, when he overheard the footsteps of strangers behind him. He paused, and casually leaned against the wall to eavesdrop.
“...I know we’re a traditional sort of school, but, just once, I want the house elves try making, like, ethnic food... ” The stranger's companion burst out laughing. “I’m serious!”
Namjoon could almost hear the goofy smile in his voice. The stranger spoke with warmth dripping from his every word. “I want noodles, or burritos, or--”
The second voice was lower, and more authoritative.
“Do you smell that?”
Namjoon heard the two sniffing. The authoritative guy coughed.
“I mean like... paint and smoke?”
The pair started walking again.
Namjoon twitched with anticipation.
The other guy sniffed again, and coughed like his friend did before.
“Merlin’s pants. Yeah, what is that?” His warm voice sounded distressed.
They stopped walking.
“What the...?” The low voice mumbled with shock.
Slowly, the other person read aloud.
" 'You need to survive.’ ”
Namjoon covered his mouth to suppress his giddy laughter.
There was a stretch of silence.
“Is this a curse or something?”
The other one gulped.
“The words are burning into the wall,” he said anxiously. “Is it going to break down the school’s protective enchantments or something?”
Immediately, the other guy responded. “We should get a teacher.”
“Or the Headmaster,” agreed the soft-spoken boy.
Namjoon grit his teeth. That was not the reception he expecting.
He wanted more awe and inspiration; less horror and fear. If these two were going to report him, he needed to make a hasty escape. Namjoon stood up straight. He tried to inconspicuously power walk away from the so-called crime scene.
The two boys were promptly barraged with a choir of complaints from Namjoon’s biggest fans.
“Ah, excellent! You two have prefect badges! Professional tattletales!” One of the paintings shouted.
“Snatch up that tall boy over there with the horrible haircut!”
“He wrote all over our wall!”
Namjoon groaned, and broke into a sprint.
“Wha--?” one of the prefects shouted. “Hey you! Get back here!”
Namjoon’s ran, legs pumping, wildly searching for an escape route.
Prefects. Of course, it was just Namjoon's luck that his audience would be uppity rule-enforcers. No wonder they were so scared. Prefects were such squares.
Namjoon was in some deep trouble now. Gryffindor Tower was on the other side of the school. There was no way he could reach it without getting caught. Besides, he was too skinny and out of shape: the distance would probably kill him. Namjoon knew a hundred of hiding places in the school, but he had chosen an abandoned hallway specifically for the new spell. He had thought it would add to the sense of mystery, but instead, Namjoon set his own trap.
One of the prefects almost caught up to him. Namjoon made a sharp turn towards the downstairs. He heard yelling, and glanced at the framed paintings. The angry portraits were also chasing him. Fantastic.
“They’ll catch up in no time!” Miriam cooed.
“I can’t wait for the Headmaster to roast you over a warm fire!”
“Dangling over hot coals!” cried a knight on horseback.
Namjoon pointied his wand at the paintings and cast a spiteful, non-verbal ‘ Silencio! ’ spell on them. While they silently pounded and waved their fists, Namjoon spotted at the staircase.
Dangling over hot coals. Huh. Now, that was an idea.
Namjoon looked behind him. Those damn prefects were catching up. For once, he had no time to overthink.
He took a deep breath, bent down, and jumped over the stair banister so that he dangled over the side, hidden from view. His right arm gripped the column and his left hand held his wand like a lifeline. Namjoon seriously needed to do more chin ups. This crazy gambit had better work.
One of the prefects reached the staircase. The boy was short, black-haired, and fairly fit. He was one of those uptight upperclassmen who never let anyone get away with anything. He looked as though he had never smiled in his entire life: a thick, bratty scowl was permanently glued to his face. Namjoon hated him instantly.
The other prefect caught up. Namjoon felt a jolt. The boy's eyes were framed in long lashes. He had smooth skin and perfect, plump lips. High cheekbones. Tall. Broad shoulders. His symmetrical features were all too familiar. Kim Seokjin. Head Boy of Hogwarts. The pride and joy of Gryffindor House. Kim Namjoon's house, where all the students exemplified "valor" and "bravery."
Kim Seokjin was worst hall monitor of them all. Namjoon especially hated his stupid, perfect blonde hair. It was definitely bewitched in several grooming spells to make it so lustrous and shiny. Namjoon always felt self-conscious of his own hair in comparison: his previously punk white hair had faded into a silvery, lightning struck disaster.
That was besides the point. There were more pressing matters at hand-- he was dangling from a staircase, for starters.
“Did he get away?” Seokjin asked.
The scowling one replied that the culprit had vanished.
Seokjin sighed, and patted him on the back.
“Whatever. Let’s just go report this incident right now.”
Namjoon was screwed. His breathing was too loud. The prefects needed to pass him by soon, or else Namjoon's arm was going to fall off.
The black-haired prefect continued to scowl suspiciously. Namjoon faintly remembered him berating the first-years Slytherins for talking during last week's school entrance ceremony.
What a dumb stick in the mud, Namjoon thought.
Sharply, the prefect cried, “Hominum revelio!"
Make that a smart stick in the mud.
The spell whooshed through Namjoon's stomach, causing the stream of blue light to blaze red upon human contact.
“Dangling from the stairs?” the prefect yelled. Him and Seokjin rushed towards him, wands pointed straight at Namjoon’s face.
“Namjoon?” Seokjin said instantly. His nose wrinkled in disgust. “Seriously?”
“Seriously!” Namjoon spat out. “Glisseo!”
The staircase flattened under the two prefects’ feet.
They tumbled down the flight of stairs, screaming, their arms flailing wildly. Namjoon would've laughed, if his arm didn’t feel like it was hit with a jelly jinx.
“Come on, come on,” he muttered to himself, desperately attempting to drag himself over the banister. “Almost there.”
Namjoon’s left arm wrapped around another column, and he nearly made it up, before his arm cramped up with intense pain.
“No, no, NO--!” Namjoon shouted.
He desperately clung to the banister, before falling, in what felt like slow motion, down to the hard, stony floor.
Namjoon swore he heard the paintings on the floor above him cheer. Either he had a concussion, or he really needed to brush up on non-verbal spells. That silencing charm wore off way too quickly.
None of his bones were broken, but bruises bloomed on his back. Namjoon bit the inside of his cheek, resisting the urge to scream.
Faintly, he heard panting and footsteps running towards him.
The irritable prefect grabbed him by the front of his robes. Namjoon kept his eyes shut.
“Oh Merlin, he fell really far down!” Seokjin shouted behind them.
“This guy just burned a curse into the wall, and then ran like a coward,” spat the irritable prefect. “Don’t cry just yet.”
Namjoon forced his face to relax. He collapsed, loosening his body into a corpse. His jaw went slack, and his mouth opened. He hoped the bite on his cheek bled vividly.
“Yoongi, he’s passed out! We have to take him to the Hospital Wing!” the Head Boy yelled fervently. Namjoon was home-free. They would leave him alone in the Hospital Wing, and then he could run back to Gryffindor Tower, no sweat.
The grip on his robes did not slack.
“Jin, you’re not thinking straight,” said the boy in front of him. His wand poked Namjoon’s chest. “Ennervate.”
Namjoon glared at the boy on top of him. The boy smirked triumphantly.
“Yeah yeah, I faked unconsciousness," Namjoon snapped. “But for your information, I didn't curse the school. It was a silly spell I created for fun. Satisfied?”
The prefect forced him to stand up.
Namjoon glared. “I hate professional tattletales.”
“Well, I hate meaningless vandalism,” the prefect said right back.
Namjoon jerked back, and punched the prefect in the face.
Before he could retaliate, Namjoon yelled, “Stupefy!"
The boy fell to the ground with a heavy thud.
Namjoon groaned. This was far too much collateral damage for writing on a wall. He began to run.
“And can you explain why this memory stops short so suddenly, Namjoon?”
He ignored the question, as he pulled his face back from the swirling white depths of the Pensieve. Namjoon blinked his eyes rapidly as they adjusted back to the bright lights of the Headmaster’s Office.
He used to love this room. Namjoon wished to explore each crevice of it, years ago: it was packed with fascinating trinkets, old books, student records, and portraits of the past Headmasters of Hogwarts. There was always the soft buzz of interesting music emitting from a curly, silver instrument on a shelf. Next to that instrument was the Sorting Hat. Namjoon always wondered what sort of magic made that hat so intelligent.
The office was stuff and reeked of prestige, but Namjoon found all of it extremely impressive in his younger years. Almost as impressive as the Headmaster himself.
Headmaster Bang Shihyuk traveled the world as a renown Auror. He caught criminal wizards and witches with ease, before becoming an acclaimed Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. He was promoted sixteen years ago to Headmaster.
The man looked like a handsome wizard melted and weathered by age-- although, Namjoon had no idea how old he actually was. As far as Namjoon knew, Bang Shihyuk might have appeared, fully formed, crawling out of the sea, like an uglier, wiser version of the Roman goddess, Venus. He had a modern spiky black haircut, contrasted against his puffy, wrinkled face. The man wore flamboyant, strangely-made robes suitable for rockstar wizards and rebellious teenagers. He had perpetually sleepy expression and spoke in a high-pitched, lispy voice that never raised to a yell.
The Headmaster was easy to mock from a distance. When Namjoon had first arrived to this school, he wondered how such an awkward man became the leader of Britain's most important wizarding school.
That all changed when Namjoon got to know of the Headmaster's true nature. His public persona was a carefully constructed farce to put people at ease. Embodying a weird, out-of-touch wizard more appealing than his actual personality. In reality, Bang Shihyuk was a cold man. He was always had a plan. He was rich, and powerful, and from an important pureblood-wizarding family. Bang was a descendant of infamously wealthy and powerful wizards who had ties with Namjoon's family. There was a reason he was considered a talented negotiator and auror: he always had a scheme brewing underneath that harmless-looking mask.
Namjoon rubbed the back of his neck. All of the bruises from his fall had been healed by the Headmaster. Namjoon hadn't thanked him.
Avoiding eye contact, he focused on the swirling, liquid-gas of the Pensieve instead.
The Headmaster’s office held many treasured items, but none were as mysterious and special as this container for magical memories. It engulfed you in realities of the past if you stuck your head into it, and Headmaster Bang had just forced Namjoon to guide him through his evening.
“What happened next?” The Headmaster repeated gently.
The temptation to kick and shatter this precious bowl increased every year Namjoon looked into it.
Sometimes, he also wanted to kick and shatter this old man.
“Seokjin used a stunning spell on me,” he mumbled.
“Yes,” Headmaster Bang nodded. “As expected, from the school Head Boy.”
Namjoon’s ears turned red.
This entire trip down memory lane was a parade of humiliation.
Of course, it was just Namjoon's luck, that the moment he toed out of line, he was caught by the school's student leader and his irritable little sidekick. Now Bang was going to hover over Namjoon for his entire school career like some frantic mosquito, sucking up his life force and leaving an itchy urge for freedom.
“Your parents are worried about you,” Bang said abruptly, crashing into Namjoon’s train of thought.
There were more than 300 students in this school. Namjoon wondered if any other student saw this office as much as he did. There were plenty of other students to obsess over. Plenty other important pureblood families with terrible children. Yet, Bang singled Namjoon out, again and again.
Headmaster Bang sighed, and walked back to his desk. Namjoon sat in the stiff, ornate chair set up for him.
“They don’t like seeing their brilliant son caught up in petty offenses in school. Frankly, neither do I.”
“I’ve been behaving this year,” Namjoon said.
Bang gave him a look of exasperation. “It’s the second week of September.”
Namjoon crossed his arms. “All I did was write on a wall," he insisted. “This is really unnecessary. Students vandalize all the time. Have you ever used a bathroom at this school? Have you seen what's written on those disgusting walls?” He gestured to the door. “Why aren't you calling every other student with a quill and a bad attitude into your office?"
“Show some respect to your Headmaster!” called one of the Headmaster portraits.
Of course, more art was yelling at him today. Namjoon couldn't help but snort.
“Hush,” Bang curtly said to his portraits. Immediately, the eavesdropping portrait pretended to fall back asleep.
Headmaster Bang turned, tight-lipped, to Namjoon. He sighed again.
“Namjoon, you know better than anyone that you’re no ordinary student with a quill and a bad attitude.”
The Headmaster stood up, and walked back to the Pensieve. Namjoon stayed sat in his chair. Bang stirred the contents of the basin with his wand again.
“Do you remember the first time I invited you to my office?”
Bang did not wait for an answer. He stopped stirring, and conjured up a ghostly figure. Namjoon winced. The figure was all too recognizable.
Wide eyes. A smattering of acne. Chubby cheeks. Thick glasses. Scrawny.
A thirteen year old illusion of himself.
The ghost of Kim Namjoon's past opened his mouth.
"You're right, sir. I could probably skip a few grades, but honestly, I would prefer not to. I like going to class with my housemates. And I, er, don't have a career plan yet, so I wanna take my time to decide. Um. Yeah.”
Headmaster Bang was showing this to get under his skin. It was to humble him: make him more susceptible to manipulation. Always the same tricks up his sleeve. Namjoon balled up his fists.
“Aren't you bored in your current classes?” echoed the Pensieve's past version of the Headmaster.
"I like my classes.”
“That's not what I asked. I asked if you found them stimulating on an intellectual level.”
The illusion squirmed in his seat.
“ I don't want to leave my friends behind.”
“You’ll still share a dorm. You'll make new friends in the older grades.”
“Can't it wait a little longer?”
There was slight tremble evident in his voice. The small Namjoon was getting teary-eyed.
"I don't...I don't know what to do when I grow up. This is all too much! I don't have any aspirations, or goals, or anything! Just....give me more time, sir, please! Please...I need more time! I need to find out who I want to be! I need a dream...something....I don't know...it's all so messed up--I'm sorry..."
“I remember that day."
Namjoon's real voice sounded so low, compared to the past version of himself.
“Get rid of it.”
“I'm sorry,” the Headmaster said, calmly tapping the Pensieve and sending away the memory. “I didn't think it would bother you. You used to love exploring the Pensieve.”
Namjoon ran a hand through his hair. His hair was a bowl-cut in that memory. How humiliating.
“Yeah, well, I've gotten kind of sick of that thing,” Namjoon grumbled.
“Do you know why I showed that to you?” Bang said.
Namjoon did not make eye contact. He simply shrugged.
“Back then, you were passing all your exams with flying colours. Your teachers all agreed that advancement would suit you.” Bang said this brightly. He sounded proud. Proud and condescending.
“But when I summoned you here, you refused. Adamantly.”
Namjoon glanced at him. Headmaster Bang's face was morose. He looked lost in the past.
“I accepted your decision. You stayed in your unengaging classes, full of unfulfilled potential, and now, look where we are.”
He gestured around the room.
“Back at the Headmaster’s Office again, with another misdemeanor to add to the student records.”
The Headmaster tapped his desk, and a huge, thick book popped out from one of the drawers. It engulfed the desk with its size. Plonked on its spine, the book magically flipped through its own pages.
“You've have had quite the record over the last two years. The strange thing is, from first to third year, you were a model student.”
Namjoon glared at Bang.
I was also a fool, he thought. A gullible fool who would lap up every word you said like it was religious scripture.
The Headmaster’s eyes widened. Namjoon shoved his thoughts away, and looked back down to the carpet.
“I supposed the end of third year was your breaking point. Starting from your fourth year, you slept through class, defied the dress code, partook in excessive note-passing, spoke out in class, broke curfew, vandalized, and argued with your teachers. Not good, but at the time, it didn't seem too offensive. A few detentions straightened you out, and your marks were spectacular. I didn't think anything of it.”
Namjoon looked up at Bang again.
You still called me into your office to show me those memories from the Pensieve, Namjoon thought. You showed me my parents when they attended this school. You showed me what they were like as teenagers. How studious and hardworking they were. It was so bizarre. I couldn’t sleep for days. Going home for the summer was a nightmare.
Namjoon looked away. He didn’t say anything.
“Last year was not good for you," the Headmaster said grimly. “Excessive skipping of class. Sneaking out of school. Duelling. Destruction of property. Inappropriate clothing. Offensive language used against your teachers. Sneaking in illegal substances--”
Namjoon reflexively blurted out, “I wasn't going to smoke that Devil Lettuce, I swear, it was for--”
“I know,” Bang interrupted. His beady eyes glared at Namjoon. “Why do you think I overturned your suspension, you reckless fool? Do not interrupt me.”
Namjoon paled. He nodded.
“I went out of my way to do that for you. I did your family a personal favour. My mistake.”
Bang rubbed his temples. Tinges of emotion shining through his face were infinitely more terrifying than his usual, carefully compose structure.
“I thought you were striding towards change during your Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. Your examiners were in awe. They said it was like watching child's play."
The book in front of Bang stopped flipping, and sat flat on its spine with an incredibly detailed record of one specific offense.
“You squandered all of my goodwill by the very end of the year.”
Bang leaned in, and read from the book aloud.
“ 'During the final Charms O.W.L written examination in the Great Hall, tapestries of nude individuals were magically summoned and plastered onto all of the students' examination papers. Perpetrator: Peeves the Poltergeist. Peeves mentioned an inside collaborator, but when questioned further, proceeded to make noises with his mouth resembling the sounds of flatulence.' ”
Hearing the Headmaster of Hogwarts use the phrase 'sounds of flatulence' in a deadly serious voice would be hysterical in any other context.
However, seeing as Bang Shihyuk was this close to expelling him, it was certainly no laughing matter. Namjoon opted to stare back down to the carpet, instead.
“Look at me, Namjoon.”
Did he really just say that? he thought. This man was unbelievable.
He stared into the Headmaster’s cold, black eyes.
You want to look into my eyes, and use your magic to pick apart my thoughts? Fine. I' ve known since I was fifteen, anyway. And you know I know! You won’t even admit that you use legilimency on students because it is a crime without warrant or consent. I’ve read the books!
They stared each other down. Namjoon knew this was a bad idea. He should just take a deep breath, and cleanse his mind: compartmentalize his thoughts and emotions until there was a thick barrier of occlumency magic to defend himself. The Headmaster was getting what he wanted: provoking him until his barrier broke, letting his thoughts and emotions flood through. He didn’t care.
Namjoon didn’t think about the prank. Instead, his brain filled with one overwhelming emotion: hatred.
You scare me so much. Do I scare you? Is that why you single me out like this? Just because I'm smarter than everyone else in this school?You’re a liar, and a criminal, and I can think whatever I want of you, because if you acknowledge it, you’re fired and carted off to Azkaban. That cursed prison would suit you perfectly.
The Headmaster did not talk for a long time. His face was perfectly smooth. It was devoid of any reaction.
Finally, he spoke.
“I care about your thoughts. I empathized with your fears in third year. I knew how lost and helpless you felt in fourth year. In fifth year you shut me out, but I still saw glimpses of your remorse, your restlessness. I am on your side. That is why I let Peeves take the blame for your insolent prank.”
Namjoon put up the barrier in his brain again. There was no point in baiting him. The Headmaster would never admit he was breaking the law. His eyes returned to the spot on the carpet.
He quietly said, “One stupid prank doesn't make me a dark wizard.”
Bang softly said, “I've seen many dark witches and wizards in my lifetime.”
“They hold themselves higher than others people, believing themselves superior from birth. The Dark Arts attract smart, young mages who feel the world owes them a grave debt. You ache for a purpose in life, Namjoon. You know that. It torments and controls you, but I've always been here, protecting you from that temptation, from that evil.”
Their faces still burned vivid in Namjoon’s mind.
"Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"
Their faces in the Pensieve.
The Dark wizards.
In the last evening of his fifth year in Hogwarts, Namjoon was invited to the Headmaster's Office. There, Headmaster Bang said no gentle, goofy remarks that so often calmed Namjoon down during his visits. Bang told him he was disappointed. Bang knew that he was responsible for the end-of-year prank. Underneath the harmless surface of the prank, Namjoon had committed a cardinal sin. Somehow, incomprehensibly, Bang had crawled into his mind.
Bang forced him towards the Pensieve and sent him spinning through the most horrible memories he ever witnessed. It was scenario after scenario of evil witches and wizards committing unforgivable atrocities. Kim Namjoon had never been more terrified in his life. He remembered the way they held themselves. The cleverness they showed off, the insecurity they shrouded. The strangest part was how normal they appeared until they crossed the line.
He bore witness to a murderer talk to himself, avoid eye contact, and slouch his shoulders, like Namjoon did when he was nervous.
A tyrant looked through career brochures in school, with an expression of distaste that mirrored Namjoon’s apprehension of the future.
They were charismatic loners. Shiftless and unhappy. They were storms of warning signs and reckless behaviour bottled into beings both powerful and unhappy.
It was uncanny how much they resembled Namjoon.
The way they looked so lost, until they broke.
They would make a horcrux, or use a forbidden spell, or brew a cursed potion.
It was like watching alternate versions of himself trade away their souls for happiness.
They always looked so indescribably happy.
Will I ever come close to that kind of joy? He had thought in a blood-curdling moment of despair.
Namjoon snapped out of his thoughts. Damn it, he wasn't paying attention. Headmaster Bang was nodding his head sympathetically. Namjoon grimaced. Damn it, damn it, damn it.
Leave me alone, he thought automatically. It was no use. He broke.
Namjoon inhaled deeply. As steadily as he could, he said, “You're just mistaking coincidence with correlation, sir. That’s the slippery slope fallacy. I'm in control of myself.”
He managed to smirk a little
“It's a phase. A little teenage rebellion, you know? I'm still figuring it out. Just wait a little longer.”
The Headmaster didn't speak. Namjoon knew he was trying to claw into his mind again. Too little, too late. His mind was like a locked bank safe: if he kept everything untouched, he would get rich.
“I'm moving you up to seventh year classes.”
Namjoon's heart froze.
The Headmaster crisply closed the enormous book in front of him. With a wave of his wand, he sent it back into the desk drawer, and conjured up a memo pad. Namjoon watched Bang levitate a quill and ink onto the blank page of the first page, sending perfect cursive spirals across the page.
“I should have done so when you were younger, but--better late than never. It’s still early on in the new school year. I'm certain that all your teachers will accommodate the change. I'm sending them memos right now for confirmation. Your parents have already written back, in total agreement. You will start your new classes tomorrow.”
Namjoon didn't bother to shield his thoughts at this point. He looked straight into the Headmaster’s calculating eyes and let him see his overwhelming cascade of panic that had swept his brain.
“Does my opinion not matter anymore?” He said hoarsely.
“This is an executive decision for your own good,” the Headmaster chirped, carefully flicking his wand in different directions, folding up the freshly-written memos into neat paper cranes. They spun and zoomed past Namjoon’s head with dizzying speed.
The Headmaster finished waving his wand, and looked back at Namjoon. He had the nerve to smile.
“I would give you a list of your new curriculum’s syllabus, but you already own all of those books, don't you?”
Of course he did. He finished studying the 'Standard Book of Spells: Grade Seven' when he was fourteen.
The Headmaster twirled his wand, and produced a chart in neat print writing. It fell into Namjoon's lap, but he stood up from his chair, and threw the paper back on the desk.
“I’m not following this new timetable,” Namjoon said harshly.
Bang placed his wand on the desk, and folded his hands.
“Of course you are.”
He had stopped smiling.
Namjoon stepped back. Cold, it all felt cold. This wasn’t suppose to happen.
“I don't want to graduate early.”
“Either you follow my orders or I’m expelling you.”
Another freeze clenched Namjoon's heart.
The Headmaster’s eyes were deadly serious.
“Why are you doing this?” whispered Namjoon, clenching his fists.
Bang calmly leaned toward him.
“I’m doing this because I should have done it a long time ago. You need to look deep inside yourself, and ask what that brilliant mind of yours is meant to do. Smuggle in illegal plants for fake Brain Elixirs because you are bored? Plaster the walls with nude models, as some sick joke? Duel your peers, knowing full well that you will destroy them every single time?”
He shook his head in disgust.
“You scrawl your inane words onto the walls on my school, as if it will always be your playground to lay claim to. Perhaps, feeling your future loom closer will cause you to explore your goals and dreams with some heavier weight. I should have expelled you the moment you used the Imperius Curse on Peeves, but I thought the Pensieve had truly affected you, and made you truly remorseful.”
It was bright summer's day, when Namjoon spotted Peeves the Poltergeist in the hallway on his way back from the library. It was the day before his final Charms O.W.L. examination.
Namjoon hated exams. They were boring. He never learned anything. He despised watching his friends tear up and despair over the subjects he found so simple to master.
Peeves the Poltergeist had dumped an inkwell on his head. It was infuriating. Namjoon absentmindedly wondered if a semi-corporal ghost could be cursed. He had been researching Unforgivable Curses in the library. The Imperius Curse controlled its victims. The Cruciatus Curse tortured its victims. Avada Kedavra was the killing curse. All the books stated that only talented of wizards could use such dastardly magic. If ever was there a more golden opportunity for Namjoon to prove himself, it was in that moment.
The next day, he watched as everyone in the Great Hall forgot all about the tense examination, and began to laugh hysterically from the prank. It was rippling ocean of a delight, as student after student gradually left their paper behind in favour of the ridiculous situation. It the happiest moment of his entire life.
Did that make Namjoon a bad person?
Headmaster Bang certainly thought so.
Namjoon sat down.
“So that's the reason,” he muttered. “Expel me or advance me. Doesn't matter. You just want me to leave your school as soon as possible.”
Maybe expulsion was the better path. He was too stupid to use his smarts for anything useful. He burned through any challenge set for him, attempting to feel anything outside of emptiness and contempt. Stupid, smart, soulless freak. He was a real monster in the making.
“You’re not a monster," Bang said softly. "You’re simply a confused, brilliant child. The world outside of Hogwarts is so endless in opportunity, Namjoon."
“I know,” he bitterly replied. He couldn't take this anymore. A pit of anxiety and remorse was growing in his stomach. Namjoon was barely keeping his mind in check. He needed to be alone in his thoughts. He wanted to leave this office.
“You can leave,” Headmaster Bang said politely. “Just remember to take your new timetable on the way out.”
Screw you, old man.
He stood up and picked up the new timetable in a trance, and was about to head towards the door when Bang called out:
“Ah! I have one more condition!”
Namjoon stopped, and looked at the Headmaster with a blank stare.
He croaked, “Yes, sir?”
The Headmaster stood up and spoke as though the idea had just occurred to him.
“You should to join an extracurricular activity.”
“Nope,” he said, quickly walking towards the door.
“Kim Namjoon,” Bang cried. “It has been six entire years! You never engage with students on a deeper level! That is why you are so troubled!”
“Clubs are boring and useless,” Namjoon whined. “I don’t care about anything!”
“You care about everything,” Bang reprimanded. “So much so, that it tears you apart.”
Headmaster Bang counted off clubs with his stubby old fingers.
“Transfiguration Society, Charms Club, Potionmaker’s Society, Magical Creatures Enthusiasts, Herbology Club, Defense League. You would be an asset for all of those groups.”
He clapped his hands together. The Headmaster was getting a little excited.
“Channel your creative talents into more productive pursuits! Ghost Poet Society, The Spellmaker’s Team, The Librarians’ Book Collective! Use your moral outrage for an advocacy group, like S.P.E.W. or Society for Support of Squibs, instead of lashing out at--”
“Are you going to expel me if I don’t join some stupid society?” Namjoon interrupted. It was irritating to witness the headmaster's dorky public persona when talking about clubs and societies.
“Absolutely.” The Headmaster nodded.
Namjoon would take the advanced classes. He would even stop with the misdemeanors. That was probably all for the best.
He absolutely, positively refused to waste his precious time on a silly club.
Bang couldn’t take away all his choices.
Namjoon needed to survive.
The Headmaster glanced at his memo pad.
“Ah, you’ll also be serving a detention with Professor Hobeom next Wednesday evening. Flobberworm sorting. 7 P.M. sharp.”
Namjoon's heart finally sank to the very bottom of his body. It was there with his dignity.
“I’ll be sure to write that down on the timetable,” he said dejectedly while walking through the door.
Bang said, “I’ll be checking in on you next week! Remember: extracurricular activities!”
“Goodnight, sir,” he replied.
“I believe in you, Namjoon!”
Namjoon screamed, “GOODNIGHT, SIR!” and slammed the door behind him.