aprilclash (aprilclash) wrote in theanswerisyou,

a silver (and green) lining [3/5]

a silver (and green) lining

October 26th

When he knocks at Minseok’s door, Sehun is not really expecting him to be inside. A little part of him, the stubborn, scared child locked in the crevices of his soul, the one who worries at his bottom lips and turns his head on the other side instead of trying to change things, wants to believe that Minseok is not in his room. Maybe he’s in class, maybe he’s meeting with other professors or talking with the Headmaster or he’s out for a walk or…

Except the door does open, interrupting Sehun’s anxious musings, and Minseok’s tired face emerges from the stripe of darkness.

He doesn’t simply look sick, he looks like shit. Dark bags under his eyes, the hint of stubble on his usually perfectly shaved chin, the tiniest hint of drool at the corner of his mouth and a web of creases marks on his cheek, all signs that show that Sehun’s knocking just forced him to get out of the bed to come and open the door. His face looks devastatingly adult like this, so different from the cheerful, baby-faced image he tries to sell to his students.

Sehun gloms, going through his conversation with Kris in his head, over and over again. Play hard to get, be cold, make it clear that you’re not interested in him. It’s so difficult, not only because Kim Minseok has been his first, childish love and Sehun has never really gotten over him, but because this Minseok is unguarded now, raw, he doesn’t have the kind of self-control he usually shows around Sehun. There are no filters when he’s like this, still warm from sleep, his mind confused, his eyes surprised. Sehun is afraid of his sincerity.

“Sehun, we’ve already been through this.”

Sehun simply ignores him and steps inside the room, using his imposing height to force his way inside. He sits down on the couch, the same couch where he was almost kissed a few days ago. He looks at Minseok expectantly, waiting for the teacher to do his move, to see how he’ll react to Sehun cornering him in his own home.

Minseok sighs, hands clenching and unclenching nervously. It’s a good thing, because it means that Sehun’s presence affects him enough to make him forcefully want to remove the student from his sight. This is what Sehun wants from him, a sign of weakness, of helplessness. Right now, Minseok could break his heart, or accidentally show him an opening, something Sehun can exploit to get to his heart.

“Sehun,” he begins, his eyes flicking back and forth on his surroundings, stubbornly avoiding Sehun’s serious gaze. “I’m a teacher and you’re my student, you know that right?”

“I know,” he answers, glad for the blankness of his voice, glad that he’s able to hide his inner turmoil under it.

Minseok bites his lips, almost taken aback by his collected reply. “Then you surely understand. What happened in this room…”

Sehun doesn’t let him finish, he cuts him off with strong, sharp words. “What happened in this room? I don’t know. Nothing happened. Nothing,” he repeats coldly. “You offered me hot cocoa. We chatted a little. Nothing strange. You’re not that much older than me, you shouldn’t feel guilty just because you offered me hot cocoa.”

Now Minseok is clearly taken aback, staring at Sehun with a mixture of confusion and disbelief carved in his face. “It’s still wrong. I’m your teacher and you shouldn’t visit my private rooms.”

He says it slowly, measuring the words one after another, and Sehun simply watches him, drinking in all the little details, analyzing them, forcing his heart not to beat too loudly, his face not to twist in unwanted emotion – he’s got this, he has to resist, to be strong, don’t show him any insecurities or he’ll feed on them and he’ll get the upper hand, whispers Kris’ voice in his head.

Sehun simply watches Minseok, thinking about how much of a joke this whole situation really is, to him at least. Years ago, he would never have hoped to talk to him like this. But now he can see it clearly. The little tremor in his hands, his eyes flickering nervously to escape a staring contest, the way he tastes the words slowly before letting them out, afraid of exposing himself too much. His presence affects Minseok, makes him feel uneasy, unable to control himself. Kris was right. Minseok might be caught in this mess just as much as Sehun is, if not even more.

“Then,” he answers, “you shouldn’t have brought me here yesterday. But it’s alright, I understand your position. I’ll leave.”

That’s it, the last stab. It makes Minseok bite his bottom lip so hard it bleeds, but Sehun doesn’t stay long enough to see it. He gets up and darts towards the door, waiting, hoping for Minseok to stops him. Minseok does.

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the bathroom of the Astronomy Tower.” He feigns disinterest, and now Minseok would really do anything to make him stay a moment more. He can’t explain Sehun’s behavior, the sudden coldness, and he’s craving for a chance to talk to him just for a few minutes more, hoping to solve the riddle behind Sehun’s words and actions.

“Why do you always keep going back there?”

He shrugs. “I like the view. No annoying people. No Gryffindors. No teachers,” he adds, in a last flare of cockiness.

“You should go to the Great Hall and eat something, it’s not healthy for you to be continuously skipping meals and you’re already so th-”

“Sorry if I interrupt, but it’s not really your business. You may be my teacher, but that doesn’t give you the right to be obnoxious about what I do in my free time and in my private life.”

“I meddle because I care…”

He stutters, and Sehun fits himself in that single moment of hesitation. “You shouldn’t. You’re only a teacher, Professor Kim, and I’m only one of your students. You made it perfectly clear today, and every other day too.”


“Excuse me, Professor Kim. I shouldn’t even be here, my bad. Good afternoon.” He doesn’t need to hear what Minseok has to say. It would be a mistake. Staying would just give Minseok more time to realize that Sehun is even more scared and confused than he is, that the cold, collected demeanor he showed was nothing more than an act, a carefully orchestrated bluff. There’s no reason to risk blowing everything up when he has done so well until now.

He quickly bows and he walks away, under Minseok’s stupefied eyes, shying away from the hand that the teacher has feebly extended towards him in an abortion of attempt to stop him from leaving.

vi. seulgi

October 30th

Ignoring Minseok is easy when the teacher stops looking for Sehun altogether. No matter how many meals Sehun skips, despite Wendy’s, Sooyoung’s and sometimes even Taehyung’s and Jimin’s worried stares, no matter how many times he hides in the bathroom of the Astronomy Tower, the Muggle Studies teacher doesn’t barge in his solitude anymore.

Seulgi does, sometimes together with Wendy, sometimes alone, bringing food wrapped in white and red checkered handkerchiefs.

Sehun swallows a big, fat lump of saliva every time the door swings open and it’s not a short, handsome, dragon leather-clad Muggle Studies teacher entering the room with rapid, angry strides, but a Gryffindor girl and sometimes a Slytherin girl.

“Why do you come here?” he asks Kang Seulgi, one of the rare times she’s come alone. She looks at her own nails while she thinks about the answer, pretending to be focused on a little imperfection on the nail art.. She wears the colors of her House, red and gold, in magic nail polish that shifts according to the light. It’s for the game, tomorrow morning, Slytherin vs. Gryffindor. She’ll cheer for her own team.

“Because Wendy can’t,” she answers in the end, matter-of-factly, forcing a spoonful of soup inside his mouth when he opens it to reply. “And because she cares, even if she doesn’t want to tell me why you’ve decided to hole up in a toilet like a dramatic teenager in a MTV reality show.”

“That’s rude. I’m way more dramatic than them,” he answers. Seulgi has hanged with him long enough not to be surprised anymore at his bizarre knowledge of Muggle trivia and she simply slaps his shoulder, hard.

“Ouch! Why did you do that?”

“Because Wendy always hits you when you’re being too dramatic.”

“Yes,” he complains, rubbing his shoulder – she hit him harder than she probably meant to. “Wendy does it because she likes me!”

“Maybe I’m starting to like you too,” she says, with a wicked smile, just to make him scoff. “Just kidding, Sehunnie, there’s no need to make that disgusted face. You’re too much of a child for me. God, I can’t believe there was a time when I used to think you were hot, you’re so bratty.”

Sehun scrunches his nose, wants to tell her that she’s the bratty one, but something else catches his attention. “You thought I was hot?” he mutters. When, how, why.

She shifts on the edge of the window, laying the half-empty plate on the edge of the window.

“Well, it’s not like we’re lacking charming men, in Gryffindor,” and Sehun has to restrain himself from saying that it may be true, but they’re all dumb, “but you’re somewhat different. Good grades, extremely rich, Slytherin, a cold and dangerous heartbreaker.”

“Me? A heartbreaker?” He can’t really hide the disbelief. Seulgi clicks his tongue. “Yes, I know. Not that I know you it all sounds like complete, utter bullshit. But maybe that’s the problem, Sehun. No one knows you. You’re a very private person.”

It’s true, he can’t deny it. He’s never made an effort to get people to actually know him, the real him. More than he never wanted to, he never needed to.

“And you were Son Wendy’s boyfriend, and she’s so perfect and everyone in the school simply thought you had to be amazing to be able to stay with her.”

“We weren’t,” he confesses, slowly, almost afraid to make a mistake. It has just hit him, how close he and Seulgi have become, for him allowing her to bring him lunch and talk like this… It feels just so intimate, like they’re really friends. And Sehun doesn’t keep secrets from his friends, not from the few friends he has. “Together, I mean. We were never together.”

He doesn’t know where Wendy and Seulgi are, but he knows that Wendy likes Seulgi, has liked her since their first day on the Express. Like all the snakes, Wendy has learnt how to change her skin, to adapt herself to her environment in order to survive and to be successful, but under the hard scales, under the cold façade, Wendy really is a romantic at heart. Sehun can’t really blame her, he’s still in the middle of a crusade to get his first crush to notice him and fall in love with him, after all.

He waits for his words to sink in Seulgi’s mind, watches her eyes widen and her lips part. “What do you mean you weren’t together?”

“It was… convenient. Listen, I never liked girls. And from what I know, Wendy never liked boys.”

Seulgi’s eyes shine, her hands come to her mouth to cover the expression of absolute surprise, confusion and… hope? Maybe, the light that flickers in her eyes is really hope.

He doesn’t add anything else and Seulgi doesn’t ask, either, but he can’t shake her curious eyes away for the rest of the lunch.

She turns towards him before she leaves, brushing crumbles away from her skirt. “Ilhoon says you’re his partner for the Muggle Studies group project.” He nods. He had almost forgotten about the project. “Give him a chance, he’s a good boy. He wants to talk to you, but he’s too damn scared you’ll turn him into a frog.”

“Wendy could probably do that, but Transfiguration has never been my best subject.”

“I know. You’re only good at Potions, like a true Slytherin.” There’s something challenging in her eyes, a sparkle that dares him to defy her words, show her he’s different, but another walking cliché but a real person, Oh Sehun. But maybe it’s too soon for that, and he’s already disclosed too much of himself to this girl today. “See you later, Oh Sehun,” she says, with a final wave, before the darkness of the stairs swallows her.

He doesn’t move, keep staring at the barely lit staircase where Seulgi has just disappeared.

“I’m even better at Muggle Studies,” he says, out loud, only when he’s sure she can’t hear him anymore. She’d think he’s just joking. It really sounds like a big cosmic joke. Oh Sehun, the best of his Muggle Studies class, in love with his Muggleborn Muggle Studies professor. What an unfunny joke.

vii. sehun

October 31th

Quidditch games are not Sehun’s thing. They never were his thing, but they were Kris’ thing, and Zitao and Jongin’s thing, so he always went to see them, together with Wendy and Baekhyun. He called it emotional support and Zitao and Jongin called it having a personal cheerleader, but Sehun didn’t really mind getting up early if it was for them.

Now that they’re not at Hogwarts anymore, though, he virtually has no reason to go and see the game. He doesn’t know why he finds himself on the bleachers, sharing a box of Pumpkin Pasties with Taehyung, Wendy and Sooyoung.

Slytherin is not a big House – not as big as it used to be a few years ago – and all the students know each other. Jimin is shouting directions to everyone in the team. He’s the most experienced player on the team, but it’s his first time as a captain and he looks a bit pale. When he looks in their direction, Taehyung and Sooyoung start waving a big banner with his name on it, and his face color changes from ghostly white to bright shame red.

Little Yerim – their new Seeker, a tiny, smiley second year who blushes a lot and bows every time Sehun looks in her direction – stops in front of the bleachers, right in front of Sehun and Wendy, gracefully floating on her broom. “The whole team is really happy to have our Head Girl and Prefects here,” she says, not without a little stutter. It’s her first official game and she’s clearly nervous, her smile a little tight at the corners of her mouth. She looks at Sehun with something like longing until Wendy elbows him in the ribs with a warning glare. “Say something, Sehunnie.”

“Oh, right, right… There’s no need to be so tense. I’m sure you’ll play a good game, Yeri.” She beams at the nickname, her whole face lightening up while her posture loosens.

“I’ll try my best, Prefect Oh!”

It’s impossible not to be infected by her blinding smile, and when she sees Sehun smiling back at her, she beams even more, her eyes disappearing while her teeth flash white. When she flies away, back to the rest of the team, Wendy starts laughing and elbows Sehun again.

“I knew you would’ve been useful! I just knew!”

“What did just happen?” he asks.

“Nothing, just you lifting the mood of our Seeker and probably of the rest of the team.”

“How did I do that?” he asks, disbelieved.

Taehyung sighs. “Because everyone likes you. Ok, it’s clear that Yerim has an ominous crush on you, but the rest of the team respects you as well. You and Wendy are our senior students, the only ones we have. The whole House looks up to you, always. They’re probably feeling very honored that you came to see them play even though everyone knows you don’t exactly like Quidditch games.”

“Jimin asked us if you two were coming three hundred times yesterday night,” reveals Sooyoung between giggles. She waves the banner - GO PARK JIMIN!, silver words shining on a green field - once more, just for the sake of seeing the ears of Slytherin team’s captain go aflame.

Sehun is not used having people relying on him for something, but the way Yerim smiled at him, full of pride and joy because one of the senior students acknowledged her existence, was not totally unpleasant.

“I’m not sure the House should look up to me anyway.”

“I think it’s too late for that, Sehunnie,” comments Wendy. “And like Taehyung said, unfortunately, there’s only you and me this year. They’ll have to live with what they have. But you handled it well, you know, I’m sure no one was expecting you to show up today. But you did, and that’s enough for them.”

“But I…”

“Shhh, it’s starting!”

Park Jimin, captain of the Slytherin team, and Yoo Youngjae, captain of the Gryffindor team, shake hands. Then the game starts.

“Everyone will be there!”

With there, Wendy means at the shores of the lake, where the entire Slytherin House will be having their victory party. It doesn't happen everyday to beat Gryffindors in the first official match of the season, and the team is especially happy.

“Come on Sehunnie, think of how happy Yerim will be to see you there.”

“Oh no, malicious woman, you already fooled me once today. I went to see the game, that's the most socializing I can do in twenty-four hours. Try again tomorrow if you want to drag me to a midnight party.”

Wendy shakes her head, but doesn't insist. She knows better than to push Sehun to go out of his comfort zone two times in a row.

“It's a pity, though, because I'll need all the help I can get to deal with our students tonight.”

The party is not exactly legal - there will be second year students who shouldn't be out of their bed after curfew - but Professor Kangin just winked at them and signed a written permission. He' a very liberal professor, the Head of their House, a little biased towards his Slytherin students according to the rest of the school, but in Slytherin they don't mind the obvious preference their Head House accords them. If it wasn't for him, no one would ever stand up for the them.

“Professor Kangin is going to cover for us in case the other professors complain about this party, so we must not betray his trust behaving like stupid kids. That means, Ren, no alcohol. Yerim is only a second year and all her friends will be there too. Do you want our team to be disqualified from the competition?”

The other students sulk and complain, but the joy of the victory is too sweet and they finally let go. Sehun hopes no unwanted bottles of Firewhiskey will make their appearance at the party, or they'll all be in trouble.

“Are you sure you don't need my help?” he asks, feeling a little guilty that he's leaving Wendy alone to deal with their rowdy Housemates.

“No, don't worry. I officially announced I'll hex anyone dares to sneak alcoholic drinks to the party and they're all terribly afraid of me. Besides, I wouldn't want to force you to go a victory celebration and ruin everyone's mood because you hate this kind of things and because you haven't stopped moping yet because your secret love doesn't even watch at you in the alleys.”

“Who's Sehun's secret lover?”

They turn around to see Sooyoung, pretty as a flower, standing at the door and waiting for permission to enter. She pretends to tap her finger against an imaginary door, “Knock knock, am I interrupting something?”

“Just me teasing Sehun about his dirty little secrets.”

“But I want to know Sehun's secret too!”

She pouts, entering the room. Sehun whistles when he sees her dress while Wendy covers the amusement on her face with her hand.

“Sooyoung, aren't you forgetting something at home? Like, your skirt?”

Both girls laugh at his question, while Sooyoung does a coquettish catwalk in Sehun's room wrapped in a scandalous mini skirt.

“Don't be a prude, Sehunnie! Our little Sooyoungie has beautiful legs, let her show them. I'm sure her date won't be able to resist her charm tonight.”

“Date, what date? Are you dating someone?” he asks, suddenly interested. “I want to know who he is. Do I need to scare him? Do I need to give him the talk?”

“I'm not telling you anything,” she answers, smiling cheekily at him. “You won't tell me who your crush is and I won't tell you who my date is.”

“I'll ask Taehyung then. He's your best friend, isn't he?”

Both girls stop laughing and Sooyoung blushes.

“Wait a moment... Taehyung, really? Really, Sooyoung?”

“It's just a date, we're testing the waters... Nothing serious, really.” She cocks her head to the side, rubbing her hands to hide her embarrassment. She looks hopeful and happy.

“If he doesn't treat you like a princess tell me and I'll throw him in the lake at the first occasion.”

It’s late. Most of the students are already back from the party. Sehun has heard them coming back between stifled yawns and excited chatting. He’s busy reading one of his favorite comics - a limited edition of Spiderman he and Jongin bought in Muggle London a few years ago - when Jimin barges into his room, panting harshly and looking paler than Sehun has ever seen him.

He leans against the door, trying to regain his breath and talk at the same time. “At the lake, a fight...” He pants, swallowing the knot on his throat caused by the quick run. Sehun is up on his feet before he can start talking again. “Some people from other Houses went to the party and they said something about Sooyoung... and Taehyung reacted...”

It takes a few heartbeats for Sehun to process Sooyoung’s name, and when he hears Taehyung's too he's already running, dragging the unfortunate boy with him despite his short breath.

“What happened?”

“Wait,” begs Jimin between harsh pants, “I can't run anymore...”

“Are they still fighting?” insists Sehun, crossing the Common Room with long strides. A few first years send him confused glances, but he gestures them to stay inside and keep quiet. It's really late, three in the morning maybe, and they should all be to bed. “What's Wendy doing? What happened?”

“A group of other students wasn't too happy about our victory and they came to the party, I think to provoke us. There were Gryffindors, but boys from other Houses too. Yoo Youngaje, his Hufflepuff friend Jung Hoseok, mostly older students from the Quidditch teams, but there were some younger kids too. They said stuff, we talked back and things got a little heated, but nothing else happened.”

There's no need to ask what kind of stuff was said, Sehun knows it all too well. The usual crap about Slytherins cheating, being racist bastards, rich smug fuckers and overall terrible human beings. Sehun knows the story. Nasty words to make up for the anger for a lost game, killing the joy of the winners to forget about their disappointment as losers.

“Was someone drunk?”

“Everyone from Slytherin was sober - I swear Sehun, there was only Butterbeer at the party. But the other guys were kinda wasted.”

“Where was Wendy?”

She would've never left the students alone, not even for a few minutes. Unless…

I want to ask Seulgi out. The night of the game. Slytherin vs. Gryffindor. I don’t care who wins, but I’ll ask her out.

“She was walking the underclassmen home. We didn't stay long after that. The mood was kinda ruined and it was also getting late. Head Girl Son took the younger kids back to the dorms and told us to tidy up and come back. It was just me, Ren, Taehyung and Sooyoung left.” Two prefects, the captain of the Quidditch team and Byun Taehyung. “She trusted us to be alright.”

“Then what happened?”

Jimin shakes his head. “I don't know. We were coming back to the castle and Taehyung and Sooyoung were trailing behind. They were talking, and you know…” He blushes. Sehun nods. It was a date. Holding hands and giggling and stealing kisses in the darkness.

“We were just letting them have their space. But suddenly we heard shouting, and when we went there were students from other Houses too and hexes were flying everywhere. Sooyoung was furious.” He stops, takes a deep breath, trying to give a sense to his memories. “And Taehyung was bleeding so Ren said he would stop the fight and... I didn't know where Head Girl was, so I came to find you. They're still in the forest, and it's far enough from the castle that no one probably heard the screams.”

Sehun feels something like acid flowing in his veins. He promised Baekhyun he would take care of his little brother. He had told Sooyoung he would've thrown every boy who didn't treat her like a princess in the lake. He walks faster, still dragging Jimin.

“I'll go to find them, you have to come back and call the teachers. Call Professor Kangin, wake him up and tell him to come, ok? I don't even care...”

Jimin opens his eyes wide, staring at Sehun like's suddenly gone crazy. It's one of those unsaid rules that circulate among the students, something that no one will ever tell you not to do, but you know anyway. Never call the teachers during a fight, no matter what happens. It's not as if it's a rare occurrence to find students breaking the rules, be it secret duels in the middle of the night, sneaking out to play in the dark woods, or meeting with your lover near the Herbology greenhouses. It's always happened and it's not going to stop only because someone, sooner or later, gets caught. The students have become smarter during the years, finding out secret passages and ways to corrupt the paintings to keep their mouths shut.

But there’s a limit. Jimin knows very well that if he involves a teacher the punishment won't be light and everyone involved will receive it. Fighting within the school grounds, entering the Forbidden Forest, breaking curfew... “Me and Ren are in the Quidditch team, they won't ever allow us to play agai-”

“Jimin,” insists Sehun, and his voice may not sound like Wendy's, clear and strong, full of authority - he never really needed to sound imposing in the two years he's been a Prefect - but Jimin stops and listens. Sehun has never really cared about this kid, but this kid knows him and respects him, so he looks at Sehun with big, scared eyes and trusts him. “What is more important? The Quidditch Cup or your friends? You said Taehyung was bleeding, what if he needs immediate help? There are hostile creatures in the Forbidden Forest, what if their little argument attracted unwanted attention? We can't deal with this alone. I don't care if we all end up with detention until the rest of the year, we need to call a teacher!”

He waits for the words to settle in Jimin's head, looks at his Adam's apple bobbing up and down as he swallows. His expression softens and he grabs the boy's shoulder, desperately trying to convey calmness and authority, even if he feels his blood racing from the urgency to get there and see what is happening. But he needs Jimin to call Professor Kangin. “If they're still fighting, I'm not sure I'll be able to stop them all by myself, do you understand? And you told me Taehyung - Taehyung, your best friend, Jimin - is hurt.”

“Yes,” confirms the boy, “he was bleeding a lot and I think he was unconscious but I'm not sure...”

“Then you know what you have to do. Even if you get detention, even if we all get detention, the team will understand. Taking care of our own comes before the game, right?”

If only the other students could hear him now... Sehun knows what other people think of Slytherins. They'd do anything to achieve their goals. Cold, manipulative, sly snakes... But Slytherins is more than that. They take care of their own, before anything else. They'd do anything to protect the people they love, and that's what finally convinces a shaken Jimin to nod, a newfound determination shining in his eyes. Sehun smiles at him but it's a tight, nervous smile. They have lost too much time.

Professor Kangin's room are in the dungeons, and that's the direction of Jimin's hurried steps, while Sehun takes the fastest route for the Great Hall, running in the darkness with only the help of a Lumos that wakes up all the paintings, making them grumble in disdain when he passes them.

The Great Hall looks scary at night, all empty except for the millions of star dotting its ceiling, but Sehun doesn't passes through the big door, choosing to dash towards the entrance of the school instead, the massive wooden doors that lead to the garden. They are sealed with a spell at night, but there's always a little emergency door carved in the tall surface of the main portal, only visible to Prefects, Head Students and the teachers.

A spell will warn the Headmaster that someone has crossed it, but Sehun is far too worried to care about that.

He wonders how it got to this. How things could degenerate so much that students ended up attacking other students. He tries to remember if it was a common occurrence in his previous year, if Zitao or Baekhyun ever came back after a good brawl wearing the signs of spell, blood and sweat staining their uniforms, but he doesn't remember. He never cared enough to ask them how these things work, and he never thought he would find himself in this peculiar predicament, meditating on customs and traditions of high school fights.

They were drunk, he thinks, and nervous. Someone said one word too much... He grits his teeth and keeps running, past the garden and its stone kiosks, past the greenhouses and the Whomping Willow, past the sign that points towards the Quidditch field. He raises his wand as soon as the first line of trees of the Forbidden Forest appears, but the light that pours out of his wand becomes faint and tiny, almost invisible. It will allow Sehun to see where he's going, but it's still small enough to hopefully not alarm the dangers of the forest.

Sehun is not a stupid. No matter how many legends he heard during his freshman year about these woods - stories of challenges that always showed a brave Gryffindor getting out of this food holding a fairy that would grant him good luck while the Slytherin rival ran away in fear - he knows that there is a reason if the forest has been forbidden. No one in their right state of mind would ever set foot in these woods, inhabited by Centaurs, Hippogriffs, werewolves, someone even say sly Wyverns. There are Unicorns, of course, and fairies, but the first would hardly get close to the students while the latters are more likely to try to bait them towards danger, rather than bringing good luck.

He's been walking for a few minutes, when he spots it. The light of a Lumos Maxima, cutting through the branches. Unlike his spell, this one is strong and powerful, painfully foreign in the stagnant dark of the forest. Sehun runs towards the source, almost slamming against a tiny Gryffindor kid that plays as a Beater in his House's Quidditch team. His faces loses all color as soon as he sees Sehun, descending upon him with the coldest face he can muster.

He's not alone. Sehun recognizes their faces, even if he never bothered to learn their names. He quickly Disarms them, turning towards the one he's most familiar with, Gryffindor's Keeper, Choi Junhong.

“Where's the rest of you?” he asks. He can't see Youngjae, nor Hoseok, nor any of the other seniors. “And where are the Slytherin students?”

Junhong gasps, a loud crack resounding in the air before he can answer.

“Where are they?” insists Sehun.

“I don't know. I swear, we were just playing, we didn't want to hurt anyone.”

Sehun doesn't bother him with an answer. he's too angry for that.

“We got attacked,” explains one of the Chasers in the Ravenclaw team. “Spiders. The other seniors told us to run towards the castle.”

“Spiders?” repeats Sehun. He mouths the word, remembering something Wendy said after a meeting with the Headmaster at the beginning of the year. The spiders are becoming a real threat. Even the Centaurs are beginning to complain about them...

He's so distressed he doesn't even realize he's still pointing his wand towards the other students, until one of them squeals. “Go back to the castle,” he barks, watching them scamper away in the night.

Another ominous crack tear the silence of the night to pieces, but Sehun focuses on his Four-Point Spell and follows that blue light that will lead him to his friends. He's starting to hear things, in the dark. Rustling, hisses and crackles of dried leaves, something is moving up between the branches.

Suddenly, a noise startles him. It's stronger than before, less subtle. The blue and silver trail left by the Four-Point Spell becomes thicker, stronger, shining towards the source of the noise. They're running, Sehun realizes, and just as he thinks that a voice shouts a Stupefy Spell at his left and something dark gets hurled in the darkness.

He recognizes the voice. Sooyoung.

“Do you see some other of those creatures?” asks someone else in a deep voice. Sehun hasn't talked to him many times, but he's heard enough of him talking in class with someone else not to recognize Hoseok's deep tone. His voice, usually cheerful and curling comically high around the words of a silly joke or funny story, is now tight and shaky.

He steps out of the bushes, only to have four wands pointed at his face.

“Wait, it's Prefect Oh!”

There are five people in the clearing. They're all pale as ghosts, their faces dirty and their clothes torn. Sooyoung is shaking slightly. Choi “Ren” Minki is standing next to her. They're not really friends, but Sehun knows him thanks to the few night patrols they shared together as Prefects. He’s lost his Prefect badge and his cape and his beautiful face that makes girls swoon in the alley is bruised, but he’s calm and focused. He's the one who recognized Sehun immediately.

Sehun exchanges a few glances with Hoseok, who sighs, lowering his wand - “Oh man, we thought you were another of those spiders!” - only to choke on his breath when he sees the last two boys. Youngjae's face is guilty when he meets Sehun's eyes, but Sehun is not looking at him. Sehun is looking at Taehyung, who's lying, unconscious, on Youngjae's shoulder.

“What happened to him?” he asks, feeling cold all over. His voice comes out blank, empty. He needs to keep his emotions under control because they're apparently under attack in a hostile territory, he can't just punch Youngjae and ask for an explanation.

“He's alright, I think it's just a concussion,” tries to mediate Hoseok, but it doesn't ease the block of ice Sehun feels in his stomach, dragging him down. He had promised Baekhyun to take care of his brother, hadn't he?

“You think... And since when you're an expert?”

“Prefect Oh!” calls Ren. “Can't we talk about this later, please?”

Sehun's eyes reluctantly leave Taehyung's side to look at Sooyoung. She's clearly under shock. There are leaves in her disheveled hair and her eyes turn around frantically every time she hears a noise coming from the darkness of the forest. The other boys are tense, but more lucid.

“Ok, let's move.”

His Four-Point Spell is still active, but the destination has changed. Now the luminescent trail points towards the end of the forest. If they can get out of the woods, they'll be safe.

“Why didn't we think of that?” murmurs Hoseok, and in another situation Sehun would kindly tell him it's because they're Gryffindors, masters in the art of getting themselves in trouble and totally unable to solve them on their own. But they're still in the forest, still under attack, and even if he's still resolving to punch them as soon as they're not in immediate danger, they stayed behind to help Taehyung. They're not enemies, not right now.

“Come on,” he simply says, before turning towards Youngjae. “Do you need help carrying Taehyung?”

The boy thinks about it. He's the Captain of his team, but he's not very bulky and he's clearly tired from running with all that additional weight. In the end, he refuses.

“No, I'm still faster than you. Besides, I'd feel safer knowing you're free to use your wand and keep those things away.”

Sehun is not as strong as Wendy, or Sooyoung, but the former is at the castle, unaware of everything that's happening, while the latter is too shaken to be reliable in this situation. She's purposefully avoiding to look at Taehyung. Sehun is afraid that if she does, she might collapse for good. Her wand trembles every time her eyes flashes in the direction of the boy lying like a stringless puppet on Youngjae's shoulders.

Sehun nods. “Ok, follow the Spell. We're not far, less than ten minutes of walk.”

They don't walk. They run, not looking back. They're almost at the clearing, only a few meters away from the end of the forest, when the spiders finally attack. Not tiny spiders like those surging over the leaves below. Spiders the size of carthorses, eight-eyed, eight-legged, black, hairy, gigantic. It's the first time Sehun sees Acromantulas outside the miniatures painted in his school book. He finds them terrifying and huge, the sound of their pincers clicking horribly in the night.

By the time he's blinked enough to wake up from the stupor and fear induced paralysis, Sooyoung has already Stupefied three creatures, Ren other two, while Hoseok is fumbling with his wand to keep a Shield Charm up in the air.

“Just a few meters,” he shouts, taking Sooyoung's wrist and dragging her away. Youngjae is at the end of the path, ready to bolt in the open field that separate the forest from the gates of the school. Taehyung's head lolls heavily on his shoulder.

An Acromantula blocks them, cutting their escape, while others reach the group from behind. They surround them, lowering themselves from the trees slowly, almost lazy with the certainty that they've caught their prey.

Sehun feels desperation climbing up his chest to squeeze his lungs. “Just a few meters,” he repeats, but the path is blocked and they have nowhere to run and…

And then Minseok arrives.

It's not a dramatic rescue. Minseok doesn't defeat the entire Acromantulas colony of the Forbidden Forest all by himself. He just uses a Full-Body Bind Curse on the one blocking their only escape route, blinding the rest with a Lumos Maxima that leaves Sehun's eyes pulsing in pain even if he had shut them as soon as he heard the spell leaving Minseok's lips.

They all tumble out of the forest and in the soft grass, not stopping until they're at the gates of the school, panting harshly, sweating, still alive. Sehun finally lets go of Sooyoung's wrist, only to see the girl fall on the ground like a ragdoll.

“Did you leave anyone behind?” asks Minseok, the coldness in his voice melting on Sehun's skin like the first snowflake before a blizzard. His throat closes around nothing, too dry after the run. His chest heaves up and down heavily. It's not like he knows the answer anyway.

Ren replies for all of them. “There were some lowerclassmen with us but we sent them to the castle when the Acromantulas first attacked us. They ran away while we distracted the creatures but I don't know what happened to them.”

“They left the forest.” Sehun's voice is scratchy and thin, but they hear him anyway.

Minseok's eyes bore holes in his own. They force him to lower his head and hide against his messy, wet fringe. “I met them on my way here and I sent them away. Choi Junhong, right? And that Ravenclaw kid, and a few others.”

“All the other Slytherin students came back to the dorms with Head Girl Son,” adds Ren. “No one else was left behind.”

“Why are we losing our time making conversation while Taehyung is still like that?” Sooyoung's voice, high and sharp as an arrow, silences every other sound. Youngjae lowers the boy on the ground and Minseok reaches him in fast, angry strides.

They all hold their breaths as the teacher carefully checks the boys. “He's breathing, but why is he not waking up? What happened here?”

His words are met by silence.

“Can someone answer me? Sehun?”

If anyone thinks it’s strange that a teacher is calling a student by his name, no formalities, no barriers between them, just a raw, exasperated need to know what happened, they don’t show it. Or maybe they do, but Sehun doesn’t notice it.

With Minseok's attention focused on him, he feels so small. He doesn't know what happened, but with the way Hoseok and Youngjae are looking at each other, so frightened and comically guilty, with the way Ren is biting his lips from the effort of keeping quiet and not exposing them... It's not difficult to guess. Sooyoung simply walks next to Taehyung, kneeling next to him. She holds his hand and cleans the dirt from his face carefully. It's almost as if she doesn't hear what's happening in front of her.

The silence stretches and no one speaks.

Sehun takes a deep breath.

“We must bring him to the Infirmary.”

The corridor is dark and cold. Ren stands next to the door, trying to eavesdrop what Madame Lee, the school's nurse, and Minseok, are saying. They didn't even let them enter - Minseok simply told them to wait for him outside while Madame Lee, still wearing her nightgown, checked Taehyun's condition. Sooyoung sits on the floor, hiding her face against Jimin's shoulder and refusing to let her tears fall.

Jimin was waiting for them at the entrance of the school. He exchanged a long glance with Sehun, with the older boy quietly thanking him for calling Minseok. All the other students involved in the fight must already be in their beds, except Hoseok and Youngjae. They're leaning against the window, more nervous than Sehun has ever seen them.

The silence stretches, coiling in the darkness of the wide corridor. It's not absolute, but tainted by faraway echoes - paintings sleepily chatting, stairs changing their course, old, rusty armors scratching their necks. But in front of the Infirmary, it's almost like the little group of students is wrapped in a bubble of tension.

“Why did you call the teacher?” asks Youngjae, in the end. “We'll probably be expelled, all of us, do you know that?”

“Better expelled than dead,” comments Ren. Jimin doesn't even bother to answer. Like Sooyoung, he purposefully refuses to look at the Gryffindor.

“You know how things work. We do not call the teachers. We'll all get in trouble now, and for what? We didn't want to hurt anyone. It was a prank, ok? We just wanted to scare you a little bit, it wasn't ser-”

“Shut up.” Sooyoung looks up. Her eyes are still a bit unfocused, but the shock is leaving place to cold, implacable anger. “Shut up. Why are you still here? To admire the consequences of your behavior? You got what you wanted. You taught a filthy Slytherin his place. You put us in the dirt, where we belong? Aren't you happy? Can we worry about Taehyung in peace without having to see you gloat about what you did?”

“I didn't-”

“I don't want you here!” she screams, and Youngjae takes a step backwards, far from her, scared by her reaction. The paintings start to mumble and grumble, curious like the old gossips they are. Jimin tries to stop her but the dam is already broken. “You did this! You and your friends! You-”

“Sooyoungie,” says Sehun, and she finally stops. He pets her hair, pushing her gently in Jimin's arms again. He remembers how Jimin, at that time just a snotty, Pure-blood brat, had reacted when Taehyung and Sooyoung first became friends. He remembers Wendy kicking his ass for bullying her, but more than everything he remembers the way Taehyung confronted him and forced him to apologize to her. How Taehyung made him understand.

“Take care of her for me, can you?” he asks. Jimin quickly nods and his arms tighten around her, almost to protect the girl from Youngjae and Hoseok's mere presence. Sehun turns towards the two of them.

“You,” he says, looking only at Youngjae and taking pride in the way his voice doesn't waver, stays clear and firm, “come with me.”

They look at each other quickly, before Youngjae nods. The Gryffindor follows him out of the Infirmary, through the dark corridor. The castle is still asleep, but always alive. In the darkness, they can hear creaking and rustling, the breathing of a giant in the middle of a long dream, slow and rhythmical. Sehun leads them in one of the empty classrooms, not too far from the Infirmary but far enough that Sooyoung doesn't hear anything. She's already too worn out for tonight.

“Why did you call the teacher?” he asks again, his face hard and angry under the light of the few candles Sehun has lit. “Now we're all in trouble.”

“No, you're in trouble. We had permission to be at the lake tonight, while you didn't. And unless you tell Professor Kim who hexed Taehyung, you and your friend will be the only found culprits, so you were breaking curfew and bullying another student.”

“I told you, it was an accident!” Youngjae's voice is more frantic now, a note of despair finally breaking the patina of bravado and arrogance. It's finally sinking in, dripping slowly like thick poison, what really happened. “If you hadn't called the teacher-”

“Youngjae,” Sehun’s voice snaps like a violin string, so sharp in the cold night, “if the teacher hadn't come, things could've been much worse. Do you still refuse to see what almost happened tonight?”

There’s no answer, but Sehun is far from done. “Tell me, Youngjae, how does it feel to be the bad guy?” The boy blink, frozen. “You're popular, you're brave, you're the Captain of your Quidditch team, you tutor those three third year students in Charms and Transfiguration, right? And all the lowerclassmen think of you as a model, someone to imitate. You're one of the good guys,” he continues, just for the sake of seeing Youngjae twitch weakly. “Except you aren't. You're a bully. Taehyung is a good kid. You can ask your friend Hoseok. He's in the Wizard’s Chess Club with him, after all. Everyone likes him in that club, Hoseok can confirm it. And what about Sooy- What about Joy?” He hastily change the name of the girl, not wanting to give something this private and personal that Sooyoung only shares with her closest friend, to Youngjae. Yoo Youngjae doesn’t deserve to know the curve of Sooyoung’s smile or the twitching of her eyes when she’s concentrated or the way she sways and trips when she’s a little drunk. Such a bright young woman, and he doesn’t deserve any of her. “You made her cry. Has she ever offended you? Has Taehyung ever hurt you?”

The words leaves Sehun's mouth in a rush, pushing one against the others, anxious to get out and vanish in a puff of white against the cold night breeze. It’s cold, even inside the castle. It feels like not even the school’s spells are working to keep the bite of ice out of Sehun’s voice tonight.

This is the longest conversation Sehun has had with Youngjae. Sehun has never been good at serious conversations, nor he is good at pointing out the flaws in other people when he's usually too intent on counting his own. But Youngjae has crossed the wrong line and if even his friends are too coward to tell him to stop, Sehun will. Especially because his friends got hurt this time. And he's not sure he'll be able to forgive Youngjae for this.

So he goes on, throwing his words like salt on the open wound of Youngjae's honor, tearing him apart and feeling more Slytherin than he's ever felt in the six years he's spent in his House. “Good guys don't go around hexing people just because they happen to belong to a certain House. You know who does that? Ah, that's right, Slytherins. Because we are evil and cruel and we think we own the world. Is this the reason why you've threatened them? Is this the reason why you almost killed a boy you didn't even know?”

“It wasn't me!” explodes finally Youngjae, cornered, exasperated, wounded. “I would've never been so stupid, it was just a joke.”

Sehun knows it wasn't him. Youngjae is an asshole and an idiot, but he knows how to use his wand. He wouldn't accidentally let out a curse like that. He and his friends tease, leer, they jostle and push and show their fists in group like a pack of haughty, pretentious dogs, but they would never do something that incriminating. Their attacks are more subtle, secret - words whispered in the hallways and at the back of crowded classrooms, legs extended at the last moment to let you trip, hands that shove and push and are quick to disappear under the cape of the uniform every time a teacher is in sight.

“It was one of the younger kids, wasn't it? Probably a Gryffindor, since you're so keen on taking the blame on yourself just to protect him.” Youngjae doesn't answer, but his jaw is tense and his lips curled in a grimace. Sehun sighs. “Go on, be the culprit if you like it. You may not have pronounced the spell, but this is your doing. Those kids were following you, hanging from your lips, drinking your every word.”

Sehun thinks about the expression of utter joy and pride painted on the faces of the Slytherin Quidditch players only a few hours ago, right before the game. He thinks about how important it is for those kid to have a pillar of support, to be able to rely on the older students, how much they look up to their seniors. He never thought that one day he would've become a source of inspiration for someone else, but now he is, together with Wendy. And he knows what his Slytherin underclassmen have learnt from him. To mind their own business and mostly ignore the insults thrown at them, to look in front of themselves without showing their weaknesses, to be cold outside Slytherin and warm inside, to help their friends and risk their life for them.

At least, that's what Sehun hopes he's conveyed them. But what did Youngjae's underclassmen learn from him? To be brave and stubborn to a fault maybe? To always give their best and believe in themselves? Sehun doesn't know the Youngjae who shines inside his red and golden tower just as much as Youngjae as never seen Sehun inside his green and silver dungeons.

“You taught them to pick on Slytherin the same way I was taught to pick on Gryffindor back when I was a freshman here in Hogwarts. With time, I grew out of it, but apparently you didn't, so congratulations. This is really your doing, but I hope you think about what kind of lesson you're giving the real culprit if you just decide to protect him instead of letting him face the consequences of his actions. Who knows, maybe he could actually learn something from his punishment... Something like not hexing people so easily.”

The light of the moon shining through the window projects on Youngjae's face a chiaroscuro of shame, bright contrast making his face look comically torn. Sehun is sure his words have hit the boy deep down. Behind his armor of prejudices and useless bravado, Youngjae is a good person. He's a Gryffindor, being good people is what they are most proud of, after all. And he stayed behind, for Taehyung, to keep the spiders away from him, Sooyoung and Ren. Sehun doesn't know if it was only the Gryffindors' natural penchant for dangerous, heroic deeds or if he actually felt responsible for what had happened. But Youngjae and Hoseok have stayed and they have fought for a couple Slytherin kids. There's still hope.

“The choice is yours. But do me a favor, Yoo Youngjae, don't say it was just a joke. This is where stupid jokes have gotten us.” He waves his hands in the direction of the Infirmary and walks away, leaving Youngjae alone with his thoughts.

Minseok is waiting for Sehun outside the door of the Infirmary. He looks tiny against it. He looks tiny in his teacher cape too. Worn out, frazzled at the edges, burnt by the flares of too many spells. His hands, when they settle around Sehun's wrists, are scorching hot.

“Where's Yoo Youngjae?”

“In the empty Arithmancy classroom. Reflecting upon his actions.”

“You shouldn't have left with him. I told you to wait for me there, didn't I?” It was meant to sound stern, but it came out exhausted, like Minseok wasn't ready to deal with this kind of situations. Sehun understands. Minseok has been a teacher for less than two months, he wasn't ready for this. But he came and he saved them and Sehun is grateful.

“Thank you,” he says, instead of answering the question. It takes Minseok by surprise.

“No, thank you. Park Jimin said you sent him back to call a teacher. You were lucky. I was taking a stroll around the castle when he found me.”

Sehun nods. They were really lucky. When Sehun left him, Jimin was heading towards the dungeon, towards Professor Kangin's office. If he hadn't met Minseok first, maybe no one would've come to save all of them in time. “Thank you for saving us,” he repeats, and Minseok is taken aback again.

He looks at Sehun with a scorching, painful intensity, trying to lure him into his dark eyes to drown him there. Sehun holds his stare, not knowing what Minseok wants from him. He just waits, until Minseok finally drops his gaze with a long breath. Whatever he was looking for, he didn't find it.

“Just when I thought I had you all figured out,” he mumbles. “You haven't answered my question. Why did you ignore my order and leave the waiting room with Yoo?”

“I needed to talk to him. You were a student, not too long ago. You know how it works. You can imagine what happened.”

A flash in Minseok's eyes. He can imagine it very well, but he won't admit it. Not now that he's on the other side. “No, I can't. Why don't you tell me? What happened tonight, Sehun?”

It's a confession that he wants, but Sehun is not going to give it to him. How could he? He wasn't even there. “I only arrived there after the incident. Everything I say wouldn't be more than a supposition.” Yes, that's right. Let Youngjae decide what version of the truth will be the most appropriated. Sehun gave him that choice, after all.

Minseok bites his lips, clearly unhappy with Sehun's reply, but the boy doesn't leave him time to inquire further. “How is Taehyung?”

“He has a minor concussion, but Soonkyu is more worried by the effects of the curse thrown at him. Whoever did it,” and his eyes narrow as he says it, scanning Sehun's face for some hints on the name of the culprit, “ was really inexperienced. They probably misspelled the words. That means there could be side effects we know nothing about.”

“Will he wake up soon?”

“We hope he wakes up tomorrow. If he doesn't, I'm afraid he'll be moved to St. Mungo's Hospital.” He pauses, the possibility unwelcome. “But he'll wake up.”

Are you really sure or are you just trying to convince yourself?

“What about Joy?”

“Madame Lee gave her something to sleep. She'll stay in the Infirmary for tonight. Park Jimin too. And Choi, the other Prefect, he insisted to stay too.” Half of Slytherin's sixth year will stay with Taehyung, and Sehun doesn't doubt that tomorrow the other half will join them. Everyone in Slytherin inevitably likes Taehyung, in the same way they had liked his brother Baekhyun before him, and their brother Baekbom before them. They have the same puppy smiles and cutely charming manners. They smile a lot. They make everyone else smile a lot.

“I have to contact Byun Taehyung's parents and inform them of his condition as soon as possible.”

That startles Sehun, pulling him out of his reverie. “That would be... problematic. You probably don't know, but informing Taehyung's father is not the best choice. Taehyung is currently living with his brother...”

“But the rules of the school clearly state that in case of accidents the parents...”

“It's something personal,” insists Sehun, seeing Sooyoung snap out of her blank state to focus on him and on the strangely familiar way he's addressing their professor. “Taehyung wouldn't want his parents to be informed. Please,” he lowers his voice, ignores Sooyoung's inquiring eyes and the mute question they hold. He focuses on Minseok and prays that his words can reach him. Minseok is still not too convinced, but Sehun doesn't give up. “I'll personally inform his brother. The fireplace in Wendy's room is linked with the Floo Network, I'll be able to contact Baekhyun faster than any owl would.”

Their eyes meet. Minseok's gaze is unreadable and Sehun could never guess what's happening inside his head.

The teacher sighs. “Alright, I'm trusting you on this. Please contact his closest relative and inform him that Taehyung was involved in an accident.” He sighs, too tired, too worn out. Minseok is a dreamer, one of those teachers who want to make a difference in the same, naive way he had tried to help everyone back when he was Head Boy. But maybe he's too young, maybe he wasn't ready for a world in which students attack each other, almost kill each other, for something stupid like the colors on a tie and a lost Quidditch game.

“We'll talk about this again tomorrow. Meet me in my office after breakfast. That's all, Oh Sehun.”

He leaves immediately, to find Youngjae before he goes to talk with the Headmaster. Sehun only stops to check on Sooyoung and Jimin. She's already sleeping. Jimin and Ren quietly sit on the spare bed. They won't sleep until Taehyung wakes up. Sehun knows it very well because he won't sleep either.

He'd stay with them, stealing anxious looks at the curtain that covers Taehyung's bed from their eyes for the whole night, until Taehyung wakes up and asks with a weak and strangely amused voice what the hell is everyone doing in the Infirmary with him. But someone must warn Baekhyun and Sehun feels responsible enough to know it must be him. He was the one who made a promise to Baekhyun about Taehyung's safety. He's also the one who must face the consequences of his actions.

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