london is a bit dreary. that’s to be expected - rainy days and gray pavements add to the simply sodden mood that overtakes most of the city at any given time. yoongi didn’t expect it to be this gloomy, like something bad’s about to happen. right now, there’s a bunch of rolling gray clouds, but no actual rain.
yoongi stuffs his hands in his pockets and searches around for that one piece of paper. his coat flaps around with the sudden wind that comes and goes. in diagon alley, a bunch of other people also pass by him, mirages, images pressed against the backdrop of a rainy city. everything is stony grey, quiet, cold, almost solemn. yoongi misses something, deep inside of him, that is not part of this country.
he eventually finds the scrap piece of paper and unfolds it with chilly hands. from it reads a list of things that he was sent out to get; yoongi carefully presses a thumb over each bullet, looking at the scrawled handwriting of his mentor, and keeps count. he’s sometimes very bad at remembering things.
in a corner of the shopping district is where he finds it; a small little curl of a store, hidden behind a bunch of other mom-and-pop shops, with it’s trodden faded red and white striped awning that reminds him of a muggle establishment more than anything else. at the very top reads reinhart’s repository in simple white letters. yoongi pulls up the collar of his coat and peers through the glass door for a bit, checking to see if anyone is inside.
there’s a light open; electricity, surprisingly, with a working light at the top, and something of an electric lamp as well on some sort of desk nearby. yoongi pushes the door and it gives; a bell sounds, signifying the entry of another patron, and from behind the bushels of herbs he hears a faint voice say, “one second!”
inside, it looks just like how an apothecary's place would stereotypically look. the cherry wood shelves look much darker with the absence of much light and are covered from bottom to top in mason jars, bags, satchels, and other containers. a lot of them are tagged with a small loop of colored thread and with a handwritten tag; yoongi touches one of them just out of curiosity and it feels like parchment, with curly black letters reading out horntail’s skin. it smells overwhelmingly like incense - yoongi supposes that with so many herbs in one place, it would only be natural that it would smell awful, and incense does drown out the other scents, even if it is a bit strong. truthfully, yoongi doesn’t mind. the incense reminds him a bit of home.
it’s even lit the same way. the curls of smoke are dark grayish, and there’s a green box lying next to the upright sticks; yoongi stares at it, because on the box are curled letters of -
“i’m here,” a breathless male voice says, and when yoongi looks up to see who the owner of the store is, it certainly isn’t the reinhart that he was expecting. instead it’s a korean boy - he knows for sure that the other is korean, because the incense is korean - and he has straight honey coloured hair, wearing a button up shirt. there’s a tinge of pink to his cheeks, and he’s rubbing his wrists.
“i,” yoongi starts, “i need these ingredients.”
he hands over the piece of paper and feels more obvious about the slight twinge of accent around his english. yoongi never really got the hang of speaking like the posh do. the other takes it in his hands with slender fingers and clears his throat, looks through it speedily and nods after mumbling each order out loud. “do you need these by today?” his english is fairly fine, but yoongi can hear that it’s not perfect, not british - there’s something about the way he says his vowels that is distinctly something else. when he looks up, anticipating yoongi’s answer, yoongi nods.
the boy bites on his lip. “well, some of this might be hard to get, sir. i don’t think we’re in stock of any phoenix tears... i could check, but you’d be better off looking at a wandmaker’s storehouse.”
yoongi grimaces. “this is for a wandmaker’s storehouse.”
taken aback, the boy blinks. “well, what are you trying to get it here, for?”
“the dragonkeepers are not set to come back for another two weeks. my master told me that i needed to make a certain type of wand before the week is up, and i need phoenix tears for it. the rest is all he needs,” yoongi jerks his chin toward the written words.
“you’re a wandmaker apprentice?”
yoongi hears the little tone of his voice, the way his words turn up. a question, but also a sort of bridging connection, like he’s trying to reach out for something. usually, yoongi doesn’t indulge in this kind of stuff - he’s not good around people, not all the time. being charming or charismatic is something that he needs to work himself up to doing, and it leaves him tired and worn out afterward.
“and you’re...an apothecary?”
“apprentice,” the boy admits, pulling at his bangs, almost instinctively tucking it back as well. “like you. i started the day i turned eighteen, so almost a year now.”
yoongi raises an eyebrow. “that’s...impressive. most people, if they try to aim for an apprenticeship, only obtain it after they’ve turned twenty.” like yoongi himself had done; the first thing he’d done when he’d turned twenty was go out and find himself his current mentor. three years later, he was still trying to break away from learning and start creating.
the boy seems to smile to himself, almost pleased, his ears turning vaguely pink. he clears his throat then; “i can check out stores, but we might not have a lot of phoenix tears, sorry. the others - we definitely have in storage. this one,” he points to something on the paper, “is in aisle four, shelf ten, with a red tag. if you get that jar, i’ll measure out the grams for you here.”
so yoongi leaves to go find aisle four, shelf ten, a jar with a red tag and the appropriate name. it doesn’t take him long - lacewing flies, with their delicate spindle of white - and he immediately picks it up and holds it with both hands. there are numerous other jars on the shelf, all with red tags, and he recognizes most of those ingredients as fragile and easily breakable. he supposes that was what the coloring system meant. it was all very organized.
“you’re in luck,” the boy’s faint voice says from behind him. yoongi shuffles until his boots scuff a little against the floor. “i found an extra vial of phoenix tears in the back, hidden under some roots,” he shakes a small vial in front of yoongi’s face. with a smile, he places the entire thing inside a dark, mossy green bag. “hand those over, thank you, i’ll measure them.”
yoongi does so wordlessly, watches as the shopkeeper uses the scales to measure each quickly and efficiently, a movement coming from practice. soon enough, he packages all the ingredients that his mentor wants and ties up the back neatly, with a little bow.
“here,” he says, pushing it forward. “that’ll be ten galleons, four sickles, and two knuts.”
the boy pats the corner of his eyelid pointedly, and yoongi is swayed by how large his irises are before he realizes that the other is pointing out the most expensive item on the list: the tears. yoongi coughs up the money and settles them on the desk.
“thank you for your patronage,” the other says drolly, gathering up the money and counting it. yoongi takes his bag and pauses, almost wants to say something - maybe in korean, maybe just for the heck of it, to make a connection, to say that this incense reminds me of home - but in the end, he clicks his mouth shut and nods tersely, walking out of reinhart’s repository into the cold, london air.
the second time he goes, it’s because his mentor has retained an injury from having handled some sort of volatile material. his entire hand from his fingertips to his elbow has been burned. yoongi had tried to keep the burning to a minimum by putting a cooling spell on it, but as with most magical ingredients, there was no helping the burn. the only thing that can really do is - well -
the door to the repository is open. there’s a sweet scent coming out of it, and when yoongi peers his head inside, he notices that there is a blonde haired girl looking around the jars with blue tags, her eyes skimming over each ingredient. yoongi ignores her and walks in carefully, noting that the boy from a couple days before is absent at the moment. he heads to the front and rings the bell there, hoping that someone will be able to hear.
what he doesn’t expect is for the boy to pop up from beneath the counter, a couple of yellow leaves on his head, looking harried. yoongi actually startles a step or two back, and he rarely finds himself startled by anything. the boy coughs and his hands are chalky white.
“oh, a customer,” he says, straightening himself up. he wipes his hands on a tissue; his shirt is a soft powder blue. he brushes the foliage off his head quickly. “you’re the ahjussi from before, aren’t you! the one with the phoenix tears.”
“yes,” yoongi says, frowning, “but i’m no ahjussi, i’m like - what? a couple years older?”
the boy stares at him, wide eyed, before putting his fingers to his mouth in a shocked movement. “oh, i - i - you’re korean?” the language switch is quick and efficient, a pleasing aesthetic to hear, and yoongi’s mouth twitches at his flawless accent - that is, to say, he has a little bit of something southern in him, more south that his hometown of daegu.
“born and raised,” yoongi answers. he shoves his hands in his pockets and nods a little; “min yoongi.”
“jeon jungkook,” the other answers, and yoongi can say he’s a little bit surprised that other doesn’t have some english name to use. not a lot of people seem to keep the heritages of their syllables from a seemingly distant past. the blonde girl turns to face them once, quickly, in the way of the people who are in the presence of a language they don’t know how to speak do when faced with it. when she notices yoongi catching her little slip, she quickly turns back.
“what are you here for, yoongi-ssi?” jungkook asks, and yoongi finds himself somewhat pleased to hear it in korean. it’s been a long time - quite a long time - since he’s last heard his mother tongue so fluently. his master is british through and through, bred and raised in the dreary dregs of london. yoongi misses his scorchingly hot summers and brutally cold winters; he would take that over the mindless neutrality even the weather seems to take here.
“burn cures,” yoongi says.
“is the cause of the burn magical?”
“well,” yoongi pauses, “it was caused by a magical item?”
“what kind of magical item? something charmed or hexed? or was it something natural that caused the burn?”
“the second one,” yoongi answers. “it was a dragon scale from one of those breeds that have failsafe protection magic, possibly older than anything i’ve ever known.”
“hm,” jungkook pauses, looking down at the counter as if it has all the answers. maybe it does; yoongi certainly can’t see from here. “a dragon scale? that causes burns?” with his frown comes a little burrow in between his brows.
yoongi, unable to help himself, goes, “would you like the name of the scale? i can’t pronounce it, but i’ve got it written down here somewhere.”
jungkook obviously looks like he doesn’t want the help, but ends up huffing and nodding his head anyway. yoongi hides a smile; seems like the apothecary’s apprentice doesn’t know all his cures after all. somehow his huffiness is endearing. yoongi has never been fond of the people who act like they know everything, whether it be warranted or not.
the blonde haired girl doesn’t buy anything, simply waves goodbye before letting the door close behind her. jungkook goes into the back of the room, mumbling something underneath his breath, leaving yoongi there with his hands in the pockets of his coat. he can feel humid droplets of water on his brow and his hair; the rain will probably get worse throughout the day. perhaps he should invest in an umbrella.
jungkook returns with a thick leather tome. he sets it next to a half filled jar of strange, string-like things, absentmindedly pushing aside a wooden box as well. he opens it up and coughs a little as a puff of dust rises in the air. yoongi tries to get a look at what he’s doing, but the book is far beyond the counter enough that he can only make out the illustrations and not the actual words themselves. jungkook moves the slip of parchment between his fingers as he flips through the book, wincing a little as a papercut forms on his pointer finger.
“here it is,” jungkook mumbles in english, pulling away to rub at his neck. “looks like this will need a proper cure. how bad is the burn?”
jungkook looks unimpressed. “are you asking or telling?”
yoongi, feeling a strange wash of shame, clears his throat as his ears turn red. “i’ll check.”
“if it’s a first degree magical burn, i can make the potion myself. if it’s a second or third degree magical burn, however, he’ll have to come in for me to see the extent of his damage. if it’s quite bad, i’ll have to ring up my master.”
something in yoongi turns sour. with a dry throat he asks, “is it really that horrible?”
jungkook blinks at him. something in his expression shifts from the strictly professional mien to a softer, more gentle one. “no, of course not. magical burns can be quite awful, but dragon scale burns tend to not be as malicious. even still, i’m not allowed in the stores used to treat those kind of burns; therefore, i’d need my master to come in and see the damage for herself.”
yoongi exhales. he stares at the leather tome for a while more, just to have something to focus on. the fact that jungkook had quietly switched from english to korean barely registers; all he can hear is the sound of his master’s hiss, the way he had swept the table of all it’s materials before groaning and settling himself into bed. yoongi gave him a dreamless draught per his request, but left soon afterward. his master may have been grouchy and a hermit, but yoongi had come to care for him in the past three years.
“is there a pensieve?” he asks. “i could show you the memory of it. it happened in the morning.”
after a moment of consideration, jungkook opens the door for yoongi to step beyond the counter. as yoongi passes by him, he notes the timid fragrance of something distinctly floral; from jungkook, he thinks numbly, watching as jungkook takes out his wand from his back pocket and flicks it in the general direction of the front door. it locks from the inside, the sign flipping to show a polite we’re closed for the moment! yoongi stands at the doorway, unsure of himself, until jungkook walks to the back door and motions for yoongi to follow him.
the first room yoongi sees is a sort of inventory room. it’s larger than what he’s actually seen from a customer’s angle, spanning a good couple of meters this way and that. the shelves are from ceiling to floor, all tagged and organized the same way the repository itself is. walking down the hall a little brings them to a separate room, this one filled with books. there’s a card catalog waiting at the edge of the first shelf, and jungkook closes it with flighty fingers as they pass by. keeping secrets. yoongi looks away in whatever form of respect he can drudge up.
they continue on, the hallway splitting into two parts as they continue on. at the split, jungkook makes a distinct right; there is only one door at the end of that hallway. yoongi spies two doors down the other, facing each other and looking quite inconspicuous. he follows jungkook, his boots clicking on the hardwood floor. he should hardly be surprised; magical houses always hold secrets.
jungkook taps the door with his wand three times. fascinated, yoongi watches as the door accepts the apprentice’s magical signature, a series of clicks giving away the locks that are most likely being undone.
they enter a wide, spacious room, with lots of light. the windows, large and arching, show that it has started to drizzle faintly outside. there is a small parlor on one side and numerous desks on the other. the back wall is imbedded with more bookshelves; there are portraits, as well, but at current they remain empty. jungkook motions to one of the sofas, saying, “please, sit.”
as yoongi takes a seat and continues to scan the new area he’s in, jungkook comments, “i would offer something to drink, but it seems like you’re in a hurry.”
“maybe another time,” yoongi murmurs, watching jungkook flick his wand once more to open up a large, oak cabinet. inside is a sturdy wooden table that hosts a large stone basin. runs and precious gems are embedded through its sides, making it glow. wisps of silver mist rise from the top.
“i apologize for the short notice,” jungkook’s voice jerks yoongi out of his reverie. the younger looks hesitant, now, the lines of his face dimly lit by the silvery glow of the pensieve. “you really could just - “
“this would be faster,” yoongi says. “i wouldn’t offer if i wasn’t comfortable with it.” which is true; he’s had to use pensieves numerous times, enough for his master to buy him one for himself. yoongi supposes that he’s a creature of habit.
he motions for jungkook to come closer and closes his eyes for a moment, raising his wand to his temple and - words, whispered underneath his breath, clogging up his throat - yoongi tilts his head to the side and winces -
the memory is pulled out with little to no resistance. it happened this morning, so it’s still fresh in the forefront of his mind. he sets it inside the pensieve and steps back, grimaces when it makes him feel a little dizzy on his feet. there’s a strange tête-à-tête between him and jungkook; one moves forward while the other moves back. jungkook tilts his head to the side a little asking quietly, “no?”
“no,” yoongi says. no need to go back. he watches, instead, the silver mist illuminate the planes of jungkook’s face as he stares into the memory.
after what seems like ages, he pulls back. with a wave of his wand, jungkook removes the memory from the pensieve and leaves it locked up in a tiny glass bottle, handing it over to yoongi. “looks like a second degree burn,” he tells him. “your master unfortunately needs to come back to meet mine if he wants a proper solution to it. that, or he could head off to st. mungo’s.”
“tell me the date and time,” yoongi replies firmly, because his master is nothing if not entirely unwilling to go to any medical facility like st. mungo’s. at the front, jungkook writes him a little slip of a note with shimmering blank ink. the date and time slots are unfilled. at yoongi’s considering look, jungkook gives him a small smile; “it’ll change.”
yoongi leaves the store with the note in his pocket. he traces over the letters of jungkook’s handwriting.
they end up going to reinhart’s repository exactly a week later. his master is an old man with hair cropped at his shoulders and tied back at the nape of his neck. he’s not exactly the kind of person yoongi imagined himself working for in the future - in truth, he always saw himself maybe apprenticed to a swordmaster or someone who dealt in magical weapons - but this is where fate has landed him. at the feet of a gnarly, wizened old man whose days linger and linger, whose english is perforated with a thick, eastern european accent. he and yoongi can barely understand each other, simply talking through the written word.
the entirety of his left side is bare; not even the lightest muslin can prevent pain from shooting up those raw nerve endings. it looks like a regular burn, but yoongi can spot the threads of magic through his master that are beginning to sizzle out. the burn definitely needs to be seen, but his master was - and still is - too stubborn to go for professional help. something about a lack of trust and a war.
yoongi helps him the best he can, but with his dislike for touch, he finds himself grimacing throughout the journey and trying to shift subtly away from the elder. his master says nothing, observant as he is. this is one thing yoongi is grateful for; the fact that his mentor doesn’t point out his flaws and deficiencies when it comes to yoongi’s personality.
the door is left open; yoongi walks in gingerly, following after his master’s heavy footsteps. the person who is behind the counter is not jungkook; it is an older woman, her dark hair pulled back in a loose bun. streaks of gray run through at the sides and at her temple, offsetting stern gray eyes. her mouth is a tad bit crooked, but she looks like the average english woman walking through the streets.
“how lovely,” she says, spotting yoongi behind his master. “i hadn’t expected to have any contact with you for years, vane.”
“likewise, reinhart,” his master replies gruffly.
“and yet,” she continues, sounding cross and lofty at the same time, “you’ve been buying from my stores. my apprentice is both observant and diligent - his bookkeeping is extraordinary.”
his master does not reply.
the woman, reinhart, purses her lips and stands stiffly. her shoulders are straight, signifying a woman who knew her strength and knew just how much power she holds. yoongi lags behind, watching with careful eyes as she and his master both go toward the back of the room, the same place he and jungkook had gone before. just before they disappear between the hallways, reinhart turns to face yoongi. they have a good couple of meters between them; she and vane stand apart, even as he hobbles. at yoongi, she states in a much softer voice, “you may stay here, young man. i’m sure that your master would have you do much, but he’ll be indisposed for most of the day, as will i.”
“magical burns become more severe the longer you leave them alone,” she says with a grimace. “and from what jungkook tells me, it was quite severe already.” yoongi blinks at the sound of jungkook’s name coming out of her mouth, as accented and unfamiliar as any other word in the korean language transmuted into english. yoongi nods listlessly. he has nothing to do, then. “if that is the case, then i welcome you to my shop as if it were your own home.”
“he has work to do,” his master snarls, unhappy, but after sharing one look with yoongi they both know that whatever task would be given to him could also be done another day, another time. nothing too pressing. finally, his master secedes, “don’t be too far, min.” unable to pronounce his first name, his master vane had gone on to refer to him by his last. yoongi would not use his english name no matter what.
reinhart leaves, the door open behind her. yoongi stands in place, unable to move. he stares at the numerous ingredients around him and wonders how long it took for a witch of reinhart’s caliber to gather all of them - and how long it takes for her to keep them in stock. not long, yoongi supposes. she’s never around.
he finds himself moving toward the different types of wood (most of them shaved or in small splinters in jars, enough for potions and draughts) and names each wood to himself, mumbling them underneath his breath. if he imagines hard enough, he can think of their consistency and their flexibility, their color, the shape of them as he asks each to take on their own life.
“mine is made of alder wood,” speaks a familiar airy voice behind him. yoongi turns his head a little to see jungkook stepping up next to him, looking pointedly different from their previous encounters. yoongi’s head spins as he comes close, reaching out to pick up a mason jar labelled alder. inside are silvery pieces of bark with a blood-red underside. “it’s got loads of medicinal properties. anti-inflammatory, good as an astringent and an anodyne...”
yoongi feels the corners of his mouth quirk up. “there’s a story about this wood, in fact.”
“really?” jungkook’s curious tone takes his attention. “would you mind telling me? wandmakers rarely come by here.”
“i’m not a wandmaker,” yoongi says blandly, and jungkook rolls his eyes as if saying you know what i mean.
he’s not the best of storytellers; yoongi shifts from side to side, watching the bark of the tree rest in its mason jar. in jungkook’s hands it looks large and priceless. he begins by saying, “there used to be a tale that the faeries kept alder wood to paint their faces with as midsummer came by. by doing so, they would disappear into the scenery when bears and other creatures began to roam the enchanted forests, places where magic still runs rampant and bends to no one’s will. the alder wood is the only wood that remains unyielding, untampered by magic even as it’s roots grow deep in the underground. it’s why the faeries can turn invisible with it; their magic is dominated by that of the wood’s.” with a pause and a low chuckle, he continues, “strangely enough, people who usually have alder wands are those that tend to be the opposite. merciful.”
jungkook reaches behind him for his wand, an ashen, silver color. he rolls it around in his fingers, looking entirely fond of it. “well,” is all he says. “it has always been my best friend, in a way. stubborn where i’m not.” with a shrug, he returns it to his pocket. “i didn’t always use a wand. i think it was only when i came to london that i purchased one.”
“in korea, we don’t use wands,” yoongi says with a bit of melancholy, and jungkook nods. they sit in their remembrance for a while, stewing over the familiarity of their homelands.
“if you wanted to learn about magic, you either had to go to japan or - “
“ - find someone to teach you,” yoongi finishes. “i went to durmstrang. worst years of my life, i could say.”
jungkook blinks at him in surprise. “really? i was mentored,” he admits. “my mother was non-magical but came from a family of wizards. my grandmother taught me everything i knew. gave her quite a shock when i was learning how to transfigure a coaster and accidentally turned the flowerpots big enough to chase me around the garden.”
“looks like your affinity for plants came early,” yoongi says a little wryly. his mouth closes shut with a click as quick as the words come out, scowling at himself for saying such a thing. he starts to apologize, but then -
jungkook laughs. he’s dressed in a simple sweater and jeans, nothing like the robes he usually wears. he looks soft, approachable. “i guess they did. i suppose you had an affinity for woodworking then?”
“as a matter of fact,” yoongi admits gruffly. “my father is a carpenter, back in daegu. used to look at him work growing up; he got the shock of his life when he asked me for a hammer and i sent the entire toolbox flying at his head.”
jungkook’s mouth falls open in a perfect ‘o’. “oh god.”
yoongi finds a strange warmth flooding through his chest. “yeah. was grounded for a month, and he was half starting to believe he’d gone crazy.”
“i got a letter for mahoutokoro,” yoongi scratches the back of his head, nose wrinkling at the sound of his own awful japanese. “i decided not to go. it was too much for my parents to handle financially, despite how much they said they would pay for us. it was an entire new world, you see, and they just didn’t believe it.”
“i understand,” jungkook asserts softly, and then makes a little humming noise. “do you want to sit down? it’s probably not very comfortable to be standing and talking.”
they relocate to the stools behind the counter. jungkook closes it with a wordless wave of his hand - something he’s quite fond of doing - and yoongi surreptitiously pulls his chair closer to jungkook’s. jungkook leans down and takes out something from underneath the counter. it’s another mason jar filled to the brim with chocolate chip cookies. jungkook carefully slides him two, and yoongi can’t help himself - he snorts.
“this is the most valuable thing i own,” jungkook mumbles, looking cross at yoongi for laughing at him. he takes a bite out of them, and they’re soft and warm, almost like they’ve just come out of the oven.
“it’s charmed,” jungkook taps the side of the jar fondly. he takes out three for himself and lines them up carefully on the counter. then, with bright and excited eyes, he turns to yoongi once more. “you said you were from daegu?” he asks in korean.
“born and raised,” yoongi admits. he takes a cookie himself, bites into it feeling strangely like a little kid.
“i’m from busan,” says jungkook. "not that far, i think.”
that’s where the twinge of something is from, yoongi thinks. it’s been so long since he’s been in korea that he’s forgotten a lot of how the dialects used to sound. when he was younger, a couple of his friends would laugh over their regional differences, their similar words, and then wonder how they could be so similar at the same time.
jungkook clears his throat and coughs a little conjuring up a little glass of water with his wand and a couple of words underneath his breath. condensation on the glass tells yoongi that it’s cold enough.
“a cup of tea would be better,” he says, throwing it out there just for the knowledge of it.
“later,” jungkook says. “tea doesn’t go good with these,” he points at his mason jar, taking another one out with such quick hands that yoongi is led to believe that this is a common occurrence that has gone through childhood to form in the adult.
“i miss it very much,” jungkook continues. “busan. it was always wet there as well; london kind of reminds me of it, but...” the trail off in his voice betrays a lack of something here that was not there.
“when did you leave?” yoongi asks.
“when i was eleven,” jungkook smiles. “i went to hogwarts for a year before i realized i hated it. my hyung followed me to england with the rest of our family, but he’s not magical.” a moment of silence. “no one in my immediate family is.”
most people back home are muggleborn. yoongi is not sure why, but whatever magical spark that remains in people - they get snuffed out. dormant long enough for it to rekindle years later, generations placed in between. “my parents were carpenters,” yoongi offers, taking another cookie. he doesn’t have a sweet tooth but the chocolate is nicely bitter.
“my father worked for the government,” jungkook replies. “my mother stayed at home. you might have learned you were magic by throwing a toolbox at your father’s head, but i found out by accidentally watering my mother’s garden for a month without her knowing.”
yoongi gives him a questioning look. jungkook suppresses a smile, but the corners of it peek out anyway. “i was watering all 20 plants at the same time, with four watering cans.”
he can imagine it; a small jungkook, picking at plants in his backyard, deciding that watering them all is too much work so he’d rather do it by pure force of will. “how did she take it?”
“she threw salt at the watering cans, thinking they were possessed,” he replies, snickering, but it’s fond. “i haven’t been back home since i began my apprenticeship. i was homeschooled in magic, took my newts and owls when i turned of age and studied for them by myself.”
“impressive,” yoongi admits. “i studied in hogwarts for three or four years before i quit. left england for a while to study at durmstrang, but that was even worse.” yoongi barks out a dry laugh. “there’s no place for someone like me there.”
it was more than the fact that he didn’t belong - it was that he looked fundamentally different, was not as pale skinned and blue eyed, did not have the same square jaws and small ears. people that look different are treated different. yoongi found that the magical world whose flame burned bright - only burned in the western world of magic, only accepted shallowly what looked like them on the surface. there’s a reason why so many transfer students transfer right back out.
jungkook offers him another cookie. yoongi’s not a fan of chocolate, but he takes it so their fingertips brush together anyway.
the other tells him how he’s always been interested in plants, always interested in how they grow and they seem to hold so many properties - how it grew to exotic ingredients, potionmaking - and then now jungkook finds himself here, with his slightly accented english and his sweet almond shaped eyes, his unchanged and unfettered korean name.
they shake hands as yoongi leaves, remembering at the last moment that he has an errand to run, and he feels jungkook’s pulse so alive and - so much like his own.
when he’s taking his cup of coffee in the morning, yoongi finds an owl settling themselves down in front of his kitchen table. he lives in a little off-the-road apartment, settled atop the third floor with a view of main street. his kitchen is small enough for one person and a pull out table. yoongi sets his cup down on the little ring that’s already formed on the wooden table and frowns, feeling his body shrug over in exhaustion. he unties the message from the bird and hands it a couple of treats from the bowl on his windowsill. his master’s owl is fond of dropping by sometimes, so yoongi keeps it there for him. this owl is one he doesn’t recognize.
sipping once more and taking another spoonful of his breakfast - oatmeal this time around - he unrolls the parchment paper. the handwriting is loopy and pretty; the first thing yoongi notices is the english stationary at the top, and then the decidedly non english words that follow after it, giving the sender of this letter away quickly.
hello, yoongi-ssi, it starts out, and yoongi’s mouth tilts up at the fact that he can hear jungkook’s voice in his head already. it seems as though mister vane has made a good recovery. miss reinhart wished to let you know about the state of his affairs, as well as to tell you to stop by anytime in the afternoon to collect mister vane and his prescription. fortunately my owl (her name is gooreum) is good at learning new directions. it would appreciated if you could send a note back saying you’ve received this message!
it’s signed with a scrawled signature, written with the same shimmering ink that jungkook used in his previous note to yoongi. looking around and finding only a napkin near him, yoongi swears and forces himself up, heading over to his desk - kept an organized mess for his numerous work - and tears out a piece of paper from one of the journals. he scribbles a confirmation in return, tying it gently onto gooreum’s foot and patting her once; it reminds him of his own owl, a lovely southern white-faced owl with brown feathers. she’s off doing something or another, he supposes.
after gooreum flies off into the morning light, yoongi swallows down the remnants of his breakfast. he goes through the simple motions of waking up everyday, completing the same tasks and cleaning up a bit as he goes. there’s a list of things for him to do resting on his work table, where a mess of woods and sharp, small instruments lay. he settles himself down there for a moment and runs his fingers over the edges of a half finished wand shell, without its core.
he still remembers the sound and smell of his father’s workshop - buried away in a tiny corner of daegu, where the road sloped downhill to the sweets shop. in the morning his father would get up and work on his hands - the most important tool a man has, he remembers him saying - using sand and white powder to dry his hands. they would seep into his pores and eventually leave him permanently stained, white in the corners of his nails and on his life lines. he would smell like sandalwood and oil, something like pine, and yoongi didn’t feel as safe anywhere else as he did in his father’s workshop.
in the afternoon he would work on his orders - a bed, a table, a rocking chair. using only a small chisel and a knife, he’d carve fragile lotus designs into the sides of elaborate cherry wood dining tables, china cabinets, fine lining shelves upon shelves and smoothing over the corners of every sharp edge.
when yoongi was six, his father gave him a carving knife. he has it still, tucked away in some corner of his apartment, rusted with use. he can’t bring himself to throw it away. the first thing he created, the first thing he shaped from one form to something new, was a small figure of a tree. it was misshapen and possibly too far for a six year old to reach, as he couldn’t handle the complexity of the leaves or the veins of the trunk, but his father had taken it and kept it with him every day he went to work and came back home. if he closes his eyes and tries, yoongi can recall the memories like a picture from yesterday; his father sitting on his chair, his back curled over and aging, a light dimmed in his eyes from the oil fire. him saying, you make magic when you do things with your hands.
lost of nostalgia, yoongi barely realizes that it’s begun to rain until the sound of it hits the feeder bowl on his windowsill. he closes the window and wipes down moisture from the side. he hopes that gooreum is alright.
he decides to wait for the rain to settle before heading over to the repository. the chair before his empty fireplace is as good a place as any, and yoongi puts aside his books and other readings to bring out a more recent carving knife from his pocket. there are many types of magical wood, he thinks. none of them are magical until he puts his hands on them. while mister vane is crotchety and not the best teacher, he did teach yoongi one thing: that no wand is magical until you touch it. the wand chooses the wizard, but the wizard begins on the wand. instead of working on wand work, yoongi thinks about his childhood and his first tree.
after a good hour or so, he’s left with sore thumbs and knuckles, as well as a single, intricate maple leaf in his hand. he blows away dust and debris from his palms and knows that some will never come out. bemused at his own choice of carving, where the leaf curves as if it were natural, he wonders why he chose this, of all things. vaguely, an image of jungkook with these exact leaves on his head flitters across his mind, and he smiles.
yoongi keeps it in his pocket, knowing that the edges are still rough - he hasn’t varnished it, or sanded it down - but it’s a comfortable weight. it’s still drizzling outside, so he gets himself something more substantial to eat.
his own wand is made of cherry wood with a dragon heartstring core. yoongi still remembers the day he made it, feeling the tingle of energy in his palms as he held that single silver thread, as he placed it inside a hollow shell to make it whole. it fits him; his grip; his temperance. he’s glad for it.
by the time it reaches fifteen past four, yoongi figures that his reminiscing time is over. he dresses himself neatly, laces up his shoes, and puts on his best black coat. with a pair of glasses to cover his weary eyes and an umbrella, he figures that today should be a day that he’s allowed to look less than put together. grabbing a couple of other things from his house, including keys and a pack of cigarettes, he heads out.
the rain has lightened to a couple of drops here and there, so yoongi sets his umbrella by the front door to pick up later. he turns up his collar against the slight wind and makes his way to the repository.
some may say that he’s a bit too sentimental, keeping trinkets like muggle keys and carvings, but he likes them. thinks that they’re a reminder of ingenuity, of the fact that people don’t need magic to survive - simple things are more often than not, good enough.
when he reaches the repository, it’s door is curiously closed. he spots, from a distance, jungkook - standing outside and watering flowerpots at the edge of the windows that he had not noticed before. they’re white flowers, blending in gracefully with the white stones of the shop. yoongi shuffles for a moment before heading into his line of sight.
while content, jungkook’s mouth turns up in a smile as he sees yoongi get closer. “yoongi-ssi!” he says, and the familiar string of his name makes yoongi’s chest warm. “you’re here in time for tea.”
“i’ve already had, thanks,” yoongi declines.
“fair enough,” jungkook sets down the watering can. yoongi is suddenly reminded of his childhood story, where he would use four or five cans at a time to water his plants. strange, how he knows these tidbits of intimate information. “i’m not a big fan of tea or coffee myself, though i’m starting to like tea a bit more.”
“you’re not british enough,” yoongi says.
“i’m not,” jungkook laughs. “i still like flavored milk. have you ever tried it with green tea?”
just the thought of it makes yoongi snort. “i can’t say i have.” what an idea; somehow he thinks only jungkook could have came up with it.
“it’s actually good,” he continues, looking a little embarrassed. today he’s in black robes, sweeping across his feet. opening the door, jungkook goes, “want to come inside?”
“i’m here to pick up my master,” yoongi says as they begin to walk in; without the scent of incense, it all feels a little bit dusty. “how is he? i got your note, but i’d like to know in more detail.”
jungkook first hums as he opens up the counter and settles a couple of things on the counter, including a pot of a spouts, a candle (unlit) and a charm. he says, “he’s doing quite well. most of the damage has been mitigated, but he’ll have some scars. i’ve made a drought to help with any future pain. thankfully, he can still use his hands.”
that sends a shot of relief through yoongi that he didn’t realize he’d been holding in. the most important thing a tradesman had were his hands; despite how much he disliked and liked vane in turns, he didn’t want to witness the accident that took away someone else’s meaning of living.
“what’s this drought?”
“something i made myself,” jungkook tells him proudly, eyes gleaming. “i created it a couple of years ago, which is how i got my apprenticeship here in the first place. here, let me - “ he pauses now, digging in his sleeve for his wand before swishing it around in one quick motion. from underneath one of the shelves, a brown leather bound book flies towards jungkook, landing neatly in his hands. it all goes so fast that yoongi has to blink and take a moment to process.
“there it is,” he says, opening the latch of it. “i was wondering if i left it here last night; seems like i did.”
“was that - wandless magic?”
jungkook blinks. “oh, well - yes,” his expression turns into something shy. “it was one of the forms of magic i was good at. that, and charms.”
“impressive.” wandless magic is notoriously hard to master, because it’s more of a feeling than a reflex; every time you do a spell, the magic should come from within you. a lot of people forget that wands are conduits, only channelling the energy that already rests inside a soul; the real magic is in the blood.
this, of all things, leaves a light dusting of pink across jungkook’s cheeks, and yoongi can’t help but stare.
“come look,” jungkook motions him closer, and yoongi breaks out of his reverie, trying not to linger on the redness of jungkook’s ears. he shows yoongi his journal, which looks more like an amalgam of information than a regular diary for personal thoughts. each page has a heading in different pen, the loopy handwriting scribbled across the entire page wherever there’s space. sometimes there are pictures, sometimes there are photographs, sometimes there are sketches. some of them move, some of them don’t. almost every page has notes scribbled on the margins, blotted corners of ink, smudged lines, erased words or entire sections covered with paper and glue to be written over again. it’s not a journal, it’s a capsule.
“wow,” is all he can say, voice quiet and slightly breathless. “this is - yours?”
“one of them,” jungkook admits. “ever since i was little, i’d take note of everything i could find and then look up their magical properties. i was never good at reading,” he admits, “so it would take me forever in the library to figure out what these are and what they do.” fondly, with a distant look on his face, he runs a slim finger across the edge of a page. “i’d ask my gramma then, and she’d tell me. that’s how i learned i was better off listening and doing rather than stuck with a book.”
“this is amazing,” yoongi looks at the english and korean, all mixed up together. “you’re great at drawing.” it feels awkward on his tongue, the compliment, mostly because it seems like such a understatement. yoongi is also a person who visualizes - sees what he wants to shape in his mind and then makes it happen. looking at the pictures of plants and other things in jungkook’s book, he can almost see them in his mind’s eye - that’s how detailed these pictures and sketches are, shaded into the last detail.
almost involuntarily, his eyes flicker over to jungkook’s hands, which are covered in stray quill marks and ink on the pale underside of his wrist. yoongi pulls his eyes away.
“this is the drought i made,” jungkook flips to a page all the way in the back, where a list of ingredients and instructions lay. a bunch of ingredients are crossed out, some of the amounts changed. “it took a lot of experimenting, but it was good enough for miss reinhart to accept it - and me - into her apothecary. i’m still working on perfecting it even further for harsher wounds, but for now, it’s more than good enough for your master. it’s also not as shitty tasting,” he whispers the last part, like it’s a secret between him and yoongi.
“don’t let the sellers know,” yoongi says, “or else you’ll be buying them out of house and home.”
jungkook smiles, dimple appearing at the corner of his mouth just faintly. “that’s why we keep it here - more customers for a local recipe. it works very well. here’s to hoping some potions master doesn’t try to recreate it.”
“you would probably make a better one,” yoongi comments, now sensing the full breadth of jungkook’s talents.
“i doubt it,” but jungkook looks pleased.
the instructions themselves are simple, if not lengthy. yoongi tries to read through the more complex explanations of why one should do this and that, but it goes straight over his head.
“i won’t ever remember this,” he says blandly.
“good,” jungkook promptly closes his book, “that way you can come back more often. one second.” he heads to the back, presumably to put his very valuable notes away. yoongi gets stuck on that way you can come back more often, an implied: please come back. it makes his face feel warm. looking outside, it’s still raining; what in the world? is he getting sick? was the air chilly and humid enough to get him with a common cold?
jungkook puts a brown paper bag in front of him. the top is tied with a red ribbon and it looks sturdy enough to make a clink sound on the wooden counter when he sets it down gently. yoongi is already thinking of all the different pockets he can put that in so as not to carry it around london.
“these are his vials,” jungkook tells him needlessly. “once in the morning, once in the afternoon, preferably after he eats something.”
wordlessly, yoongi takes the package in his hands; it’s heavier than he thought, but he finds himself keeping it in his hands instead of trying to magic it into being smaller and more lightweight. the mass of it in his fingers feels real.
“i’ll go get him,” jungkook says then, vanishing away behind the doors. when master vane comes back out with his arm in a cast and a stern miss reinhart next to him, yoongi’s eyes automatically search for jungkook - he’s not there. he waits, one minute, two, but there’s still no sign of him. eventually, he has to leave with errant goodbyes, feeling bereft.
when they run out of the potion nearly three weeks later, all of which has passed by in a blur for yoongi, relief washes over him at the fact that he has to go back to the repository to get more. it’s not that being with master vane is awful, because it isn’t - he takes care of himself - but all the work that he had left behind or fallen back on suddenly falls to yoongi, as the old man can’t use the entirety of one arm (his dominant arm, too). yoongi is struck in the middle between gathering dragon strings from trappers in bulgaria or portkeying into master vane’s personal contacts, at nondescript locations, each of them more gruff than the next and disbelieving that yoongi - intense-eyed, foreign looking yoongi - is a famous old wandmaker’s apprentice. he says nothing, lets the charm from his belt say it all.
while vane is nowhere near the level of fame that other wandmakers have - notably pierson, ollivander, and kowalcyzk - he’s been in the british isles since before they were the british isles, and his family has been in the research of it for much longer. yoongi isn’t sure what he wants to be - a wandmaker or a creator or a supplier, all the things that master vane seems to be.
other than the singed edges of his coat and his hair, he usually returns from his excursions mostly unharmed. it’s all he can do not to drown a sleeping drought and knock out for a couple of hours, for the morning dawn brings another day of errands that are suddenly pushing themselves up by due dates. hours. minutes.
the month goes by slowly, as spring goes away and summer brings more rain, showers of it that feel warm and humid. yoongi wishes to forgo his coat but has learned since coming here that summer is no warm, welcoming witch; she’s as moody and cold as the other seasons. often times - often times, his hand reaches into his pocket and traces across the gilded edge of a wooden maple leaf. it’s been long since he varnished it, its smooth edges catching on the blisters upon his fingers.
the one day that he doesn’t any work laid out for him is the day they run out of the potion meant to help with his master’s burn. yoongi settles himself up, strangely nervous, and heads out without an umbrella.
on his way there, he can’t help but feel the monstrous burn of his stomach, aching for food, and realizes that he hasn’t really eaten anything for hours. a quick stop won’t hurt, he reasons to himself, entering a rustic bakery with aplomb. he’s not too fond of sweet things, but often times these places have a good bite to eat. spotting a small sandwich menu, yoongi pulls out a couple of british pounds - kept somewhere in his pockets, he had to dig for them for a good minute - and settles them on the table in front of the young lady at the register.
she stares at the money, before going, “is there anything else you’d like to buy, sir?”
“not particularly,” yoongi replies, and she shrugs.
“it was quite a bit, all i’m saying,” with a swift movement of her hand, taking up all the money to put in the cash register. yoongi taps his foot against the linoleum until his eye catches something on the bottom shelf of the display case.
“wait,” he starts, pointing at the cake below. “give me a slice of that, please.”
she counts out his change in her small palm and drops it in his hand before reaching down to take out a piece of cake, wrapping it in a small white box with the logo of the bakery on it. yoongi receives his sandwich in a brown bag. it’s only when he’s outside does he come to a sudden realization:
“i don’t even like carrot cake,” he says to himself, wondering at his own strange behavior. scowling, looking at the cake box hidden in a plastic bag, he wonders why he had even bought it. finishing up his late lunch, he heads over to the repository, his feet walking him there by memory.
inside, sweet incense burns from the corner - this time it perfumes the room with a hint of something floral, like jasmine or rosemary. yoongi rubs at his nose and when jungkook turns around to meet his eyes from over the counter, his fingers shoot up to wave instinctively before he grimaces and forces it down. what?
“welcome back, hyung,” jungkook says, a cheeky little smile on his face, and yoongi blinks at the sudden honorific.
it’s difficult, trying to keep the obvious redness of his ears at bay, but yoongi thinks that he does it well. thinks: something is wrong with him, the sudden swirling of his gut, the way jungkook flashes across his memory like he can’t help it.
“i came for the droughts,” yoongi starts, cut off by the sound of a large paper bag being set before him on the counter. jungkook’s eyes glint in something mischievous when yoongi blankly stares before him.
“i’m always prepared,” jungkook comments, “even caught you off guard.”
and he doesn’t know what it is: the soft, friendly way jungkook talks between them, the lilting of his voice in korean, or the way he seems to be the only real person in london - not made up of blues and grays and storm color, but browns and warm softness like the earth, like wood. yoongi craves it, feels it seeping into his bones like curling up next to a fire after a hail. stubbornly, he doesn’t reply and sets his own little bag on top, thinks: when haven’t you caught me off guard? says: “for you.”
jungkook’s mouth falls into an ‘o’, his eyes widening. got you there.
then, just like that, the brief shyness disappears from his face to form into excitement. he starts mumbling in rapid korean, his words slurring together and changing into his native dialect, “what’s this? is this cake? i like sweets, how did you know, when did you even buy this - “
“i’m always prepared,” yoongi deadpans. a moment passes; they both break out into laughter, yoongi with his slow paced chuckles and jungkook with his giggles that break through his teeth like whistles. his laughter is the type to be silent at first, then through small sounds, growing greater and greater. yoongi can sense it even if he doesn’t hear it right away.
“alright,” jungkook rolls his eyes, but his mouth is still pressed open wide in a smile. “carrot cake? i haven’t had this in ages.” he looks up at yoongi through his lashes, bemused. “why carrot?”
in his mind, yoongi makes the vague comparison: jungkook’s bunny teeth when he smiles, the twitch of his nose when he’s concentrated. he shrugs. “just because.”
with a bite of his lip and a swish of his wand, jungkook summons two plates and spoons. “here, share with me.”
“i’m not a fan,” yoongi starts, and then cuts himself off right before that. how else can he explain why he bought the cake? on that note, why did he buy the cake? “of frosting. i’ll take a smaller piece,” he explains, clearing up jungkook’s querying look.
they set aside the incense, the books and other journals resting on the counter, the measuring scale and other random tidbits to make space. jungkook brings them two glasses of water to go along with their cake and yoongi pulls up a stool to sit opposite jungkook, feeling a little bit silly. he thinks about all the things he has to do today, all the errands he has to run, all the people he has to meet -
“here,” jungkook hands over his slice - smaller, thankfully - on the china plate, his fingers tinged with icing at the sides. when he puts the remaining cake on his plate and throws the rest in the garbage, he’s practically vibrating in his seat.
“what, haven’t eaten cake in forty years?” yoongi can’t help himself from saying, watching the way the other’s eyes light up in excitement. there’s a wince that crosses his features; why in the world did that come out so sarcastically? but jungkook takes no offense to it.
“i’m actually not allowed to have anything too awful,” he admits. “master reinhart is vegetarian, and so i have to eat that way as well - and healthy, too. so i miss it,” he mumbles at the end. “it’s been way too long.”
from inside him, urge to say something presses down on him until yoongi is blurting, “if you want, you can come get coffee with me sometimes.”
taken aback, jungkook says, “what?”
“or tea,” yoongi corrects, side-eyeing all the tea packets nearby. “say that you’re going out for a cup. if i just happen to order something i don’t want to finish...” he shrugs, the back of his neck heating up the way it does when he’s embarrassed. “then. you know. no one can really blame you.”
while jungkook, wide eyed and speechless, finds his words, yoongi stuffs cake in his mouth to shut himself up. good thing he didn’t buy anything sweeter.
“thanks, hyung,” he finally says, a little breathless, and yoongi thinks to himself it’s really not that meaningful but remembers that for jungkook, he hasn’t had something sweet in years. since he started his apprenticeship, maybe. perhaps he snuck out of his room when he was younger, spending pocket money lining the edges of his coats, but maybe - and more probably - he didn’t do that at all.
“you know,” jungkook finally says after they spent a few minutes quiet together, staring down at their respective plates, “you’re kinda sweet too.”
yoongi coughs down his cake feeling it go down the wrong pipe, feeling his ears burn, and jungkook smiles at him, laughing at his predicament. even though yoongi manages to right himself a little bit later, his chest still aches.
two weeks pass before the embarrassment of asking in the first place settles in for yoongi. he didn’t expect jungkook to take him up on his offer, more so he had – hoped. that the other will. he had fancied himself with his own likes, with the overture of friendship, the familiarity of him: with his korean name and his korean words, with burgeoning sweetness of his smile that beckoned.
yoongi dreads thinking about going to the repository again, next week, for the final batch of droughts – then he and jungkook would be just acquaintances, merely people from the same country who had managed to find each other in a world that seemed like another planet entirely. yoongi isn’t sure if he wants that. it’s only when he’s home that he realizes his great lack of a social circle – his friends are namjoon, a professor at hogwarts that teaches one class in total (to a bunch of seventh-years that wish to go into namjoon’s highly challenging field of magical theory) and spends the rest of his time freezing in the scottish mountains and reading obscure books. there’s hoseok, who is working in the care of magical creatures, doing something or another with dragons and wyverns (he is, in fact, one of yoongi’s most trusted contacts and friends). the others he knows by association, all of them attracted to each other by their names, their foreign syllables, with the words of a language that binds them together, no matter how brief.
jungkook sends gooreum in that week, with a little note that smells of jasmine. yoongi’s fingers run over the edges of it and jungkook’s writing, now a familiar loop, reads: would you like to get coffee at 3? i really want to eat something sweet.
it’s unapologetically blunt, yet also a little bit timid, almost like he’s expecting yoongi to forget. there’s a little doodle at the edge of the paper, showing a character that must be jungkook, waving insistently at yoongi from his two dimensional surface. despite himself, yoongi smiles and writes back a quick reply note on the back, noting that it’s around 3 hours before the appropriate time, and sets gooreum back into the air with a snack to hold her over. she hoots at him, nips his fingers, and then flies off into the distance. in fifteen minutes, he gets another note, relaying the time and place.
the coffee shop they end up going to is a small one, located in the middle of the street between a bookstore and a magical warehouse. yoongi shrugs on his coat and, though he’d never admit it to himself, sprays a little bit of cologne and combs through his hair to make it less rowdy. jungkook is standing outside of the coffee shop, whistling something while leaning down to look at the flowers that are situated outside of the shop. small, purple blossoms hang off the windowboxes, going off nicely with the brownstone building.
when he sees yoongi, he straightens, face brightening. coddled up in a blue scarf around his neck and a long gray coat, paired with his hair flying this way and that in the sudden breeze, yoongi finds it – cute. jungkook reaches out a bare hand to motion him closer, as if no one else can see them.
“hyung, look,” he starts, pointing down at the flowers. he moves his hand closer to them and, to yoongi’s horror, they reach out to snap at his fingers with vicious microfibers that bear a sordid resemblance to thin teeth. jungkook only laughs in delight.
“what – don’t do that! you could bleed, the fuck?”
“i’m fine,” jungkook rolls his eyes but pulls his hands away. “they’re bloodflowers. a lot of people think that they’re really red, but they don’t like fresh blood, just older blood – that, plus the fact that they’re originally a dark blue color, gives them their purple shade. they just like nipping,” he teases the bloodflowers again.
“why in the world would a damn coffee place have those?” yoongi asks, incredulous.
“they eat bugs and pests too,” jungkook replies thoughtfully. “probably helped keep out bugs like that from the kitchen. c’mon, hyung!”
jungkook grabs a hold of his elbow, leaving yoongi to stare at the shape of his fingers on his clothes. he drags them in and they settle down at the table nearest to the window. it’s obviously a magical place. the first hint was the bloodflowers, of course, but now it’s much more obvious. there’s a piano to the side that’s playing by itself, some slow jazzy tune that sets a low, easy mood. the air tingles with energy and life, moving this way and that; a trail of cups, plates, saucers and spoons follow a waitress as she waves her wand in the air in tiny circles, all the meanwhile taking orders with a notepad and a self-writing pen. there’s a mop sweeping itself in the corner where someone spilled some tea, and numerous pillows refluff themselves after their patrons leave their comfortable seats.
“neat,” yoongi comments, and jungkook beams at him.
“i’ve never been here before,” the other says chirpily, looking around him and taking it all in. “i usually go to the coffee shop near our repository, but i figured that i might as well try something new. their tea isn’t really that good, either.”
“why buy tea when you can make your own?”
“why buy coffee when you can make your own?” jungkook responds in kind, using the same tone yoongi had, and he grudging concedes; sometimes he just doesn’t want to do the work in the morning.
“i want pie,” jungkook reveals, like a secret, and yoongi snorts. “then get pie.”
“hopefully reinhart doesn’t have fourteen eyes,” jungkook mumbles under his breath, probably hoping yoongi wouldn’t hear him.
“didn’t you offer me from your cookie jar when i first came by?” he says instead, amused.
“those are specially made to have no sugar and no additives,” jungkook taps his fingers on the table. “i couldn’t survive that entire time without something. not like she could say anything about that, now could she? i wasn’t breaking any rules.” the smile that comes after is partially impish, partially proud of his own cleverness. yoongi snorts.
they order coffee, tea, and jungkook’s pie. he looks positively excited, eyes flickering everywhere and taking trace of all the magic in the air. he reaches out a hand, once or twice, to catch onto an errant teacup or a napkin dispenser about to fall to the ground, but then leaves it be when he sees a mug crash into tiny pieces before knitting itself together and hopping off.
“do you miss your home?” yoongi asks quietly, after a harried waitress brings them their orders. his coffee is warm to the touch, spilling past the rim.
“sometimes,” jungkook replies in a way that means: i think about it all the time. he takes a bite of his food and then pushes pieces of it around his small plate, face distant. “my mom used to make sweets like this. she would always try to get me to help, but i never wanted to – always outside, in the garden, playing with hyung or the neighborhood kids. i wish…i wish i had listened.”
yoongi feels for the maple leaf in his pocket, feels it’s rounded edges, and thinks about the leaves in jungkook’s hair the day he had popped out from under the counter. for some reason, this image sticks with him more than the rest. yoongi exhales and lets go. his heart is thundering, rising to his ears like a tidal wave.
“my father was just a carpenter,” yoongi starts; when jungkook’s eyes on him, it doesn’t feel hard to let the words slip from his lips. “i liked working with wood because of him.”
“you’ll be a great wandmaker,” jungkook says quietly, conviction in his voice. he flushes when yoongi stares up at him, surprised. hiding his face in a sip of tea, as if it’s any help, he goes, “i just know it.”
“maybe not the greatest, but i’ll at least be one,” yoongi allows. “the war may be quiet for now, but it won’t be forever.”
jungkook stirs his tea with a small spoon. “do you believe you-know-who is really gone?”
it’s a wonder no one else has heard them. in their little bubble of the world, yoongi thinks that it’s almost impossible to be bothered. taking precautions, he gives the place a cursory look before answering truthfully, “i think our nightmares always stay behind, even if they’re gone physically. they’re always here in spirit.”
“what nightmares have you had?”
a sharp inhale. jungkook stares at him, open and honest, beseeching. when he looks at yoongi like that it feels gratifying, freeing, sweet. like there are no secrets between them, even though everyone has secrets, even though everyone has something they’re afraid of. yoongi’s coffee is half finished.
“sometimes about being alone,” he admits. “sometimes about losing everything.” everyone. not about losing contact with his family – about forgetting them all together. about forgetting who he is. he remembers the time before this peace and quiet, a teenager trying to make sense of the fear so potently saturated in the air.
“you’re not alone,” jungkook says this time, soft, his hand reaching out to touch yoongi’s across the table. “you have me, if no one else.”
months after the first burning incident, master vane comes into the part of the workshop that is dedicated solely to yoongi, for both his projects and just a place for him to rest. he’s working on the cores of four different wands, noting down their differences, when his employer sets down a medium sized burlap bag in front of him. it rattles the moment it touches the table, bringing yoongi out of focus.
“what’s this?” he asks in his accented english, wanting to inquire more about the bag but knowing that it would all come out in due time anyways. vane grunts something, flexing his stiff fingers. his arm hasn’t completely healed, not yet. in a couple of months he’ll be able to regain his former dexterity – until then, he uses his right hand for everything else.
“money,” vane replies. “approximately 100 galleons.” his accent is thick, moving slowly when he talks, almost like a hindrance.
yoongi’s brain is stuck on the large sum of money. he stares, wide eyed, at the bag. “what, why?”
“tradition,” vane mutters, not unkindly. his eyes shift toward the door as if they want to leave, but he knows his apprentice better than that. yoongi would only follow him out with more questions than answers, constantly needling. it’s not that he doesn’t have a respect for his elders – he just won’t stop until he gets what he wants.
“tradition,” he repeats, the syllables slower this time. between he and his master, they’ve been able to communicate based on hand movements and magic, not words. they’re both awful with words. for yoongi, it’s easier for him to write something down than physically say it. he has a lot of thoughts, a lot of moving pieces, but it’s only when they come together on paper do they make sense.
“no father to pay me, when i was back home,” vane begins, tone distant. “my master gave me the money to buy a house. i proposed to my wife after i knew i could give her something worthwhile.” he pushes the bag closer. “my master’s master gave him his own tools and let him inherit his shop. tradition.”
“i don’t,” yoongi starts, feeling the back of his neck warm.
master vane has never been nice to him – he’s a gruff old man, born and raised in the cold countryside where warmth was hard to find. there’s parts of him that are buried deep within his soul and in his memories, parts that have long been laid to rest. yoongi doesn’t resent him for his grief, just stays away so that it doesn’t bleed into his own. vane is neither forthcoming or overtly genial; he’s a mercurial man living alone in a big, rainy city. he stares off into the distance often and never seems to know how to express what’s on his mind, but he’s not stupid. there is a keen intelligence there that begs to be passed on. that’s why yoongi is here, anyways.
“i see the way you stare at that boy,” vane says. “you go to wherever he is.”
it’s been two months since he’s met jungkook, a couple of weeks since they began to get coffee together out twice a week. sometimes they take walks beforehand; sometimes they sit in the park and simply talk. yoongi thinks about jungkook’s nose burying itself in his scarf, jungkook’s smile, his faint dimple, the way he stretches out his legs whenever they manage to find a big open space to sit on. sometimes, with the evening bell, he can hear the sound of jungkook laughing.
“i don’t,” he starts again, but his words fade and die in his throat. don’t what?
vane gives him a glare. “i’m no fool,” is all he says. “do what you want. whether it be – a house. a gift. i don’t care. it’s yours.”
with a great heave, he moves himself to go toward the door. vane’s footsteps are heavy, the gait of a man who is reaching higher in the years. yoongi feels like there’s something stuck in his throat; he can’t say anything, not even thank you. it’s like it’s lodged somewhere deep inside him. faced with the enormous meaning of his mostly emotionally unavailable master’s actions, yoongi is frozen in place.
vane stops at the door.
“she died before we moved in,” he says. “i never went back to that house. it is meaningless if you lose them.”
he shuts the door hard behind him, the sound echoing in bare space.
yoongi doesn’t think about his feelings. he goes through each day dealing within the moment, never wanting to reminisce too much about the past. the only thing that remains there is hurt, anger, nostalgia. what remains now is what is important. yoongi doesn’t want to – he doesn’t want to propose, dear god, he can’t even imagine it. the thought of it scares him down to his bones, opening up and bringing more of himself to the surface. having someone else see him as much as – as –
then he stays up at night, thinking about it. it’s like a foggy dream, what life would be like. his face and chest feels warm when he think about jungkook – it’s unlike any type of feeling he’s ever experienced, like the tingle of butterbeer running through his veins. yoongi thinks it’s not – it’s not love but – it’s – like running. starting. just holding up at the finish line.
he saves the money somewhere else, continues to hold the little wooden maple leaf in his pocket.
when he goes to see jungkook next, he’s overly aware of this fact. they meet outside when it’s a bit more chilly, so once more jungkook has the bottom half of his face covered by his scarf – still no hat to keep his ears warm. when he spots yoongi, he pulls down the front of his scarf and beams, waving hello, and yoongi – yoongi’s heart gives one, tremendous thump.
“hyung!” jungkook starts, getting closer and closer. “i didn’t eat any lunch, so we should get something to eat instead! what do you think? i’ll pay half this time!”
“alright,” he replies faintly, and lets jungkook grab onto his hand to lead him somewhere. yoongi hasn’t realized when he began to feel comfortable around jungkook enough for him to casually touch yoongi like this, someone who keeps arms length from everyone.
they end up in a small chinese restaurant, sitting on their tables and letting the scent of soy sauce and curry fill their senses. jungkook peels off his coat slowly. when he looks at yoongi he frowns, going, “hyung, are you okay?”
“what?” yoongi shakes himself awake. “i’m fine.”
“you look a little warm,” jungkook’s brows furrow. he reaches forward and places the back of his palm against yoongi’s forehead. the elder’s breath catches at the contact of jungkook’s warm skin on his comparatively clammy face. yoongi wants to reach up and move jungkook aside, but he can’t. again, it feels like he’s frozen, overwhelmed with the wrought of emotion inside of him.
with a slight move to the side of his jaw, jungkook pulls back, looking worried. “it feels like you’ve got the cold or something.”
“it’s not too bad, then,” yoongi says, strained.
“but…it could turn into the flu,” jungkook looks down dubiously at their menu. “maybe we should go back to the repository and – “
“no,” yoongi cuts in, surprising them both. “no, i,” he looks around anywhere for anything, and lands on, “i can get some soup from here. maybe it’ll make me feel a bit better. i’m not completely under the weather; it’ll be fine in a couple of days.”
“i guess,” jungkook agrees, still letting his eyes rove over yoongi’s form.
yoongi hates how it makes him feel inside, that tingle. like magic.
“how has work been,” he prods gently, anything to get the topic off of his health.
jungkook recognizes the distraction tactic for what it is, but allows himself be swayed by it anyways. he gives a little sigh. it’s only then does yoongi notice his pallor, how he seems a little bit more thin and drawn out. “even though a lot of people believe that you-know-who is gone, there are many more people that try to create terror in his place. there’s been a couple of skirmishes, so a lot of high-blood families have been by the repository – miss reinhart’s old acquaintances – and ask for poultices and potions alike. it’s been tiring, trying to fill them all.”
yoongi orders for them while jungkook falls into a momentary, contemplative silence. soup for yoongi, noodles for jungkook, black tea for them both.
“it’s frightening, but miss reinhart says that the paranoia will die down.”
“she’s right. it’s only been about five years since he-who-must-not-be-named was defeated. it’ll still take some time for everyone to let down their guard.” yoongi finds himself smiling gently. “i’m sure you’ll be able to relax soon.”
jungkook huffs. there’s a flush on his cheeks that is very peculiar; it makes yoongi’s thoughts wander. “i mean, i don’t mind it. it’s the work i signed up for, the work i love.” he pauses. “but it would be nicer if i could have some time to breathe. like now.” their black tea is served to them then; steaming hot and simple. jungkook wraps his fingers around his cup gratefully. “what have you been doing, hyung?”
unbidden, yoongi’s thoughts turn to what happened a couple days back, when vane had given him the large bag of coins and his untimely advice. with a cough, he goes, “the usual – learning how to make wands, making wands, going to people to get more things to make wands.”
jungkook smiles. “do you need more phoenix tears?”
“hmm, i think i’m good for the year,” yoongi muses, “i mean, my supplier was quite awful, gave me too much for too little a price. a steal for me, but unfortunate for them.”
at this, his companion lets out an aborted laugh. “please, you would be broke without those discounted prices. you need me.”
“that i do,” he says, and he means for it to be joking and friendly like their conversation has been going so far, but his tone falls soft and steady, a reflection of though. a fond sigh. nothing teasing, all sincere. jungkook’s eyes widen as pink tints the sides of his face, starting from his ears to his nose, and yoongi’s heart thumps loudly again. so loudly this time that it might even hurt.
he grimaces and holds a hand to his chest minutely, hoping that the other doesn’t notice either way. thankfully jungkook is too occupied with pulling his sleeves down that he doesn’t, letting yoongi get away with that small movement.
they finish their lunch with random conversation, just about their day and what they’ve been doing as of recent, but yoongi comes out of it feeling like the earth has been pulled out from underneath him. it’s only when he walks jungkook back to the repository and watches him go back inside, giving yoongi two thumbs up from the window, does the world right itself on its axis.
he waits there for a beat or two, watching as jungkook turns away from him and takes out his wand, incanting underneath his breath as he fixes up some parts of the store, and he thinks – it’s meaningless if you lose them –
yoongi’s feet walk him back into the store despite himself. the doorbell hanging above signifies his entrance; jungkook startles, obviously expecting him to have left by now. yoongi stands at the countertop just across from him, thinking about half formed dreams and wanting something so much he’d do anything to get it.
“hyung,” jungkook starts, confused. “what’s wrong?”
“i am sick,” yoongi says, words catching in his throat like they always do when he has something important to say. “i – i am.”
jungkook scowls at him, leaning down to get something from one of his shelves. he’s saying all the meanwhile: “see, i knew, yoongi. if you’re actually telling me that you’re sick then it must be pretty bad – i have some medicine here for the common cold – “ and he when he comes back up from beyond his stores, yoongi leans over the countertop and hooks a hand behind his neck and brings him closer until they’re kissing.
jungkook’s mouth is soft and warm. yoongi can feel the slip of air between his lips, the catch in his breath, his heartbeat hammering loudly – perhaps as loud as yoongi’s. it lasts for half a minute at best, yoongi pulling away to see jungkook’s mouth red and a little swollen, even though they had barely done anything, his eyes wide and glassy –
yoongi steps back, thinking he’s might have made a mistake, and jungkook moves from behind the counter to practically throw himself and yoongi.
it punches a laugh out of him despite himself, both of them tumbling to the floor, yoongi’s back making contact with wood floor. jungkook smells like some sort of perfume and incense, sticking onto his clothes, his mouth meeting yoongi’s insistently. yoongi places a hand on his hip to steady them both, finds their warmth connecting both of them. a little tingle. like magic.
when jungkook pulls away this time, bright eyed and embarrassed, yoongi reaches up to brush his bangs away from his forehead.
“a little sick,” jungkook mocks, shaking his head, coming back for another kiss that yoongi obliges him in.
i am, yoongi thinks. lovesick.
when he comes back to the workshop that night, already knowing that he’s up for a long trudge of work and fine tuning, he smells of perfume and incense. there’s a face-splitting smile that stretches his cheeks and a tingle that goes all the way up to his fingertips.
master vane takes one look at him and tells him to go home.
they continue on with their existence, unaware of everyone and everything around them. in the evenings they meet up for food or talk; sometimes yoongi comes over to jungkook’s small apartment on the upper side of the city, sometimes jungkook sleeps in yoongi’s living room until the elder has to place a blanket over his shoulders to keep the chill of winter away. november turns to december and soon even the rain begins to feel the chill, turning into solid ice, frost creeping up the windows. jungkook loves winter, the snow. he likes to burrow himself into yoongi’s side or drape their limbs together. yoongi lets him. yoongi lets him have everything.
“let’s go out on a date for christmas,” jungkook comes up with after he’s sold another peppermint tea set and yoongi is trying to go over papers in a nook of the repository. “like – somewhere nice. everyone is usually at home with their families for christmas, but…” he trails away, and yoongi knows what he means: their family is an ocean and a half away. “what do you say?”
“we could go see the big tree in the main square,” yoongi adds. “might be nice.”
“yeah,” jungkook sighs happily. “hyung, make sure you have your hands free, okay, because i have a present for you.”
it’s still a week away from christmas. yoongi pauses in his writing, looks up, and deadpans, “what.”
“stop panicking,” jungkook rolls his eyes, checks him slightly with his hip while he’s polishing a mason jar. instead of doing it with magic, he prefers to do it by hand. “you don’t have to get me anything. i just saw it in the store and thought of you.” very clever, jungkook is, not mentioning what store or giving any hint to what it is.
“jungkook,” yoongi starts, a warning tone in his voice, but jungkook reaches over to kiss him sweetly, and it takes all his words away.
“just let me,” he says softly, and that’s the end of that.
on christmas eve, yoongi has no work. he gets a couple of messages wishing him a merry christmas and all, and there are a couple of others that give him small gifts as tokens of appreciation for whatever service he’d done for them in the past.
yoongi thinks and thinks and thinks, but there’s nothing that comes up for him that he could give to jungkook. sure, maybe he’d like a trinket or two, maybe he’d like a new scarf. yoongi doesn’t want to give him these things – he wants to give him something special, something meaningful. jungkook is worth more than just a gift, worth more than any money in the world –
he’s something special. when he smiles at yoongi it feels like the world is opening up underneath him, it feels like everything is going right. when he laughs, when he frowns, when he yells and when he yawns, every minute movement of his takes yoongi in and refuses to let him go. he wants to hear every single one of jungkook’s thoughts, all of jungkook’s dreams, hopes, wishes. he wants more than just the past or the present, he wants today and tomorrow and the rest of the world if he can have it. yoongi thinks that with jungkook by his side, no setback is difficult to recover from, no memory too painful to bear.
on christmas eve, he meets jungkook at the edge of his apartment and picks him up, greets him with a smile, jungkook shakes aside a bushel of mistletoe that falls on his head, turning red and yelling at the person on the second floor and dropped it on purpose; yoongi barely realizes what he’s huffing about, only kisses him deeply as a greeting.
“hi,” jungkook breathes, snow stuck in his lashes.
“tradition,” yoongi says, nodding to the fallen bushel, and jungkook snorts.
they try cupcakes from a man who is selling them by the pound, little dancing sugar fairies on top. christmas in magical london is just that: a whist of wonder and amazement. even though most people are at home with their families, many others are still out and about. joyful music rings through the air by instruments that play themselves on the streets; there are dancing candycanes that dispose chocolate to children. a bunch of elves are dressed up, dancing around the streets and jingling bells. jungkook spares a coin for each of them, counting them out of his pocket carefully before setting it in their hands. jungkook criticizes the peppermint tea they get free of charge with a couple of white chocolate biscuits, and yoongi takes it all in stride. when it’s nearing midnight, they decide to stop their festivities for now – having just had a large dinner of traditional christmas food containing roast turkey, yorkshire pudding, roasted and buttered potatoes, as well as numerous other things they had experienced at the buffet.
jungkook tries hard not to slip on the ice, watching his step carefully and clutching onto yoongi’s hand with a strong grip. they make their way to the large christmas tree standing in the middle of the square.
it’s a tall, beautiful pine, glowing up the night. there are numerous glass jars with small lights inside, all of them floating near the tree. it’s decorated with tinsel, dancing gingerbread men, porcelain figures, glass ornaments that glitter and twinkle in the light. yoongi spies a bunch of written notes that hang near the bottom of the tree, like well wishes and declarations of love, i-miss-you and i-will-never-forget-you and merry-christmas.
jungkook whispers an awed wow, and yoongi steps closer to him to wrap an arm around his waist.
“would you two like to hang one up?” an older woman’s voice asks, and they both turn to see a friendly middle-aged woman in black and red holding out a glass jar to them. it’s about the size of one’s palm.
“are those the lights?” jungkook asks, breathless.
“christmas wishes,” she confirms. with a smile, she places the jar in yoongi’s palm. “just make a wish and blow inside.”
“thank you,” yoongi says, giving her a little coin, which she refuses with a simple shake of her head, leaving yoongi staring off at the woman in surprise. she heads over to another little girl to give her a jar as well.
“yoongi,” jungkook starts, taking his attention again. he looks down at the jar, which is empty. “how is there supposed to be a light in here?”
“magic can do anything,” yoongi reiterates, and jungkook smiles. he pauses for a second. the light from the tree is golden and bright, shining against one side of jungkook’s face, giving his lashes and cheeks a golden glow, his nose and mouth pink from the cold.
“i think it’s magic the way yoongi hyung makes me feel,” he whispers, still looking down at the jar, as if it can take in all his words and keep his heart’s secrets. “i wish i can make him feel that way too, for as long as i possibly can.”
yoongi steps forward, their foreheads touching briefly, and whispers, “i wish jungkook would smile at me every day, or else i might die.”
“no you won’t,” is his boyfriend’s quick answer. “take that back!”
yoongi only grins, not willing to take it back. he blows into the jar before jungkook can utter another word, and they both gasp at how it lights up, a miniature star inside a jar. it’s bright blue and beautiful, frosty like the winter air, like christmas. and it feels – warm.
jungkook looks at the tree and then at yoongi, who pushes him a little with a pat on the butt. he rolls his eyes and scrunches his nose, but goes and hangs it up all the same on the tree, where it hovers in place before rising up with the other glass jars full of star wishes.
when he comes back to yoongi’s side, yoongi pulls him close again.
“i got you a gift, hyung,” jungkook says, and reaches into his pocket. out he pulls a little wooden statue, almost like a nutcracker, but not really. it’s the figure of a man with a knife, holding a little airplane. he’s sitting on a rocking chair. there’s a wind up on his back, and jungkook hands it over to him, going, “try it.”
yoongi winds up the tiny toy, and the man straightens. he looks around, blinks, and stares down at his wooden airplane. with his wooden knife, he finishes the wing of the airplane and lets it soar, where it buzzes around them, taking flight. it’s tiny, cute, and it returns to the man just as the winding is finishing, once again in his hands, turning wooden once more.
“it reminded me of you,” jungkook admits, and yoongi laughs. “when you told me about that story of how you made your first carving, i felt like i had to get this for you.”
it’s sweet, and yoongi keeps it in his pocket. it almost reminds him of his father, actually. it’s something that his old man would certainly like, at least.
“i got something for you,” he starts. “hold out your hand.”
yoongi digs into his pocket and his fingers brush across the wooden maple leaf that he made, the one that reminds him of jungkook. he reaches farther down and takes out a single, newly minted galleon, gleaming gold in the winter night.
“what’s this?” jungkook asks, wide eyed, “a galleon?”
“i have 99 more,” yoongi says. “one for each year i want to be with you.”
jungkook catches on quickly, his eats turning a patchy red once again. “so you want to give me one for – “
“each christmas we’re together,” yoongi finishes. “if you want it. if - if you’ll have it.” if you’ll have me.
“yeah,” jungkook’s fingers close around the galleon, a promise more than what it’s worth. it’s meaningless if you lose them. with this, jungkook grants yoongi’s wish and smiles at him, bright and beatific, “i do.”