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The Taste Of Fire

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Author's Note: Yes, another AU. It's all I write by now, so you should be used to it. This one is a Hogwarts AU! There will be no characters from HP in this. Instead, characters from the Naruto 'verse have all taken their place. Be sure to check the tags, I will add warnings as I go seeing as how I've only got 9 chapters outlined at the moment. So, if things get a bit...heated (which let's face it...they will) be sure to check the tags for anything triggering. This is a student/teacher but Sakura will be aged to eighteen. 

And as well all know by now, Alien loves a slow burn...so expect this to burn extra slow. 

Enjoy!


 

 

 

With each book Kakashi shoved onto the shelf in his new office, a soft thunk echoed off the stone walls. It was strange, being in this room after so many years and he wasn’t sure he would ever get used to hearing himself be referred to as Professor Hatake. But that was who he was now. For the next ten months, Hogwarts was his home once again.

The thought of teaching wasn’t something he had ever considered, especially after serving for so many years as an Auror for the Ministry. He had been contacted only a week prior, by Headmistress Tsunade. They were desperate and promised to pay handsomely. If Kakashi was being honest with himself, he was a bit relieved to have a break from his job.

Being an Auror was something he had dreamt of his entire life. For so long, there was nothing else. If he could tell his 16-year-old self that he would be back in this castle, teaching Defense Against The Dark Arts, he would have laughed in his face. The thought put a small smile on Kakashi’s face as he finished unpacking a suitcase of books and pushed it aside.

He had spent the last fourteen years working for the Ministry, investigating the dark witches and wizards that plagued their world. It was an immensely rewarding job, one that Kakashi was damn good at, but he was tired. Every year, things got worse and worse. The crimes he was assigned to became more and more unspeakable and though he was a bit apprehensive about taking on this new role as a professor, he welcomed the change of pace.

He just hoped the students weren’t obnoxious, lazy, brats.

Beyond his office, he heard the sound of footsteps over the stone floor and he stood to his feet, poking his head out the door. In a billow of long, stylish gray robes, Tsunade made her way down the center aisle between the two rows of desks and folded her arms across her chest as she stopped at the bottom of the circular staircase.

“Well, well, well. Kakashi Hatake returns to Hogwarts.” Her tone was cold, but the small smile tugging at the corner of her lips eased any tension he might have felt.

Kakashi dusted his hands off on the side of his trousers and walked to the railing, leaning a hip against it. He shrugged a shoulder and looked out toward his new classroom. “So it would seem.”

“How are you settling in?” She asked, making her way up to the small landing in front of his office. He held a hand out, gesturing for the woman to go ahead of him and they both took a seat around the massive desk that was still piled high with books and materials.

“I more than likely will not be finished by tomorrow, but I’ve never been one to do things on time.” With a glance at the mess of boxes, parchments and books around them, he sighed. “I figure I can finish unpacking by January.”

A silence fell over them as the Headmistress took a glance around the spacious office, tapping a finger to her chin. The smile faded from her lips and Kakashi sat forward in his chair, feeling the small shift in tension. “Has there been any news on the group of Death Eaters?” Her question was one he had been expecting and he sighed, shaking his head.

“Not since May. We lost sight of them outside a small, muggle fishing village.” Kakashi pushed a hand through his hair and sat back.

“I suppose no news is good news.”

Kakashi scoffed and shook his head. “Not when it comes to Death Eaters. It usually means they’re laying low and plotting something particularly nasty.”

At this, Tsunade leaned forward, narrowing her gaze. “Which is why I’m glad you’re here. The group of students set to graduate this year are some of the most promising witches and wizards to have walked through these doors. They need guidance from someone who has seen the kind of things you have.”

He stayed quiet, letting her words sink into his mind.  He appreciated what Tsunade was saying, that she trusted him to be the kind of Professor these students needed, but he was lying if he said it didn’t make the nerves knotting his stomach just a bit worse. It may not be as exciting or as action-packed as being an Auror, but Kakashi felt as if he were embarking on a journey that would be just as important.

One of the knots from his stomach worked its way up to his throat and he swallowed with a quick clear of his throat. “Yes, well, I’ll try not to scare them too terribly.”

Tsunade smiled, reaching for a pocket on the inside of her robes. She pulled out a small, silver flask that glinted in the sunlight streaming in through the windows behind Kakashi. With a flick of her wand, two coffee mugs that were packed away in a small box beside the desk floated toward them. “Here’s to a new year,” she said, pouring them a small amount of her whiskey.

Kakashi shook his head and took the mug from the air as it glided over to him. He looked down into the amber liquid before glancing back up to the Headmistress. “This doesn’t give me much confidence in the year if we’re already drinking.”

“Sometimes,” The Headmistress said, sitting back in her chair with a long sip from her mug. “Drinking is the only thing that gets me through the day. But, don’t let that deter you.”

Too late. He was deterred. Taking a deep breath, he tugged his mask down around his chin and downed the whiskey in one gulp. It burned the entire way down his throat and he grimaced, glancing down at the remaining drops in the bottom of the glass. Tsunade scoffed.

“You’ll have to develop a stronger stomach than that, Hatake, if you want to last around here.” She tucked her flask away, finished her own drink and stood from the chair. A quick swish of her wand sent the mug back into the box and she paused at the office door, turning back to face him with a soft smile. “You’ll do fine. You may not have the confidence right now, but you will.”

He lifted the corner of his mouth, offering her a small smile in return before she left the room. Kakashi listened to the sounds of her heels on the stone floor until they disappeared and once he was sure she was far enough away, he fell back in the chair with a sigh. The alcohol did nothing to soothe the nerves and instead made him feel a bit too warm.

He pushed his sleeves up to his elbows and figured he could either finish unpacking, or retire to his quarters and read a few chapters of his favorite book before textbooks and homework consumed his time. It was an easy choice and he stacked the remainder of the boxes in the corner of the office with a short point of his wand. He snatched the familiar, well worn book off one of the shelves, turned the light off to his new office and shut the door behind him.

As he moved through the classroom, he couldn’t shake the feeling that by tomorrow, his life was going to change forever.

 


 

 

The train whistle blasted through the air on the platform 9 and 3/4 so loud that it startled a few elderly ladies waving goodbye to their grandchildren. For the students, the sound was the official start of their school year. They were leaving behind their families and heading back to the castle where they would call home for the next ten months.

But for one student, the sound of the whistle barely registered in her mind. Sakura leaned against the window in the compartment, watching the smoke billow between the train and the station wall. She ignored the shouts from the parents on the platform, the laughter of the first years as they raced to find an empty compartment. It was all muffled, background noise to the thousands of thoughts racing through her mind.

All of them focused on one common theme; Sasuke Uchiha.

She was so sick of thinking about him, so sick of her heart breaking over him. But every day, she woke up to the realization that their six-month relationship had come to a screeching halt with no more than a short conversation. He had stood in the castle courtyard on the last day of their 6th year and told her their entire relationship was a mistake. And with a shrug, a fucking shrug, he walked away like he hadn’t just ripped her heart out and stomped it into the dust.

And now, she would be trapped under the same roof, in the same classrooms and with the same friends for ten long months. The only solace she could find was that at least they were in different houses and she wouldn’t have to see his Slytherin lackeys watching her from the shadows anymore.

It was because of them that Sakura suspected Sasuke ended their relationship. He let his friends whisper in his ear and feed him bullshit. And now only did he believe their lies, he considered the opinion of those assholes more important than the bond they had shared.

The thought made the nausea make another round of waves through her stomach and she tucked her legs up into the seat, hugging her knees to her chest. Tears threatened the corner of her eyelids and she blinked them away, refusing to cry another tear over him. He didn’t deserve it. But she still mourned the fact that she gave him so much of her energy, so much of herself that she would never be able to get back.

Sakura let her head fall against the window with a growl of frustration, wishing she could just turn her brain off for one minute. Just one minute of peace before she would have to see him sitting at the Slytherin table, surrounded by those vicious pricks was all she could ask for.

Another blast of the train whistle made her sigh, closing her eyes as the remainder of the students hopped on the train and went racing by her compartment. Thankfully, no one decided to pop in on her. Surely by now, the rumors of the break up of the year had reached the first years and people would be avoiding her like the plague.

Good, Sakura thought to herself. Let them talk. As long as they stay far away from me.

Unfortunately, there were a few people who refused to stay away from Sakura. At least they were her friends. The compartment door slid open as Ino shoved her shoulder into it, her blue eyes rolling as a few younger kids raced past her. “For Merlin’s sake, you’d think a train ride wouldn’t make them go completely fucking bananas.” She turned toward the group of kids to shout at them. “It’s just a train! Calm down!”

Despite her foul mood, it was hard to hide the smile tugging at the corner of Sakura’s lips. She dropped her feet to the floor and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Don’t terrorize the kids, Ino.”

The blonde dropped her backpack onto the bench across from Sakura and stretched her arms over her head, popping the length of her spine. “They’re terrorizing me,” she sighed, falling back on the seat next to her best mate. “Another damn year. It feels different this time, you know?” Her head lolled to the side, ponytail spilling over her bare shoulder.

“Maybe because it’s our last time making this trip?”

Ino shrugged, looking down at her body as she slumped lower in the seat. “I guess. I’m just ready to get started, for once. This is like, the beginning of the rest of our lives and it feels like this year will never end.”

At the door, another figure appeared and Sakura smiled at the familiar dark hair and pale face of their mutual friend. Hinata Hyῡga breathed a sigh as she ducked into the space, tucking a strand of violet hair behind her ear. She had a bag in her hand, black leather with a slender, gold plate displaying the latest designer label, and she gently set it down before sliding the door shut behind her. “I think there are more first years this year than ever before!”

Great,” Ino said with a roll of her eyes. She kicked her boots off and leaned back against the seat cushion, both hands folded behind her head. Before she could say much more, Hinata dropped into the bench across from them and frowned at Sakura, tilting her head to the side.

“Why aren’t you with the other head girls? I thought you got your own compartment.”

Sakura winced at the mention of the other head girls and turned to stare out the window. By now, the train station was slowly moving away, and the brick walls gave way to the cloudy, gray skies of London. Even with the sun hiding behind the thick storm clouds, it was still too bright. Luckily, Sakura didn’t have to answer her friend’s question.

Ino kicked her socked foot out and knocked the new, leather bag sitting at Hinata’s feet, trying to get her to shut up. The bag fell over and the Hyῡga squeaked, reaching to snatch it up from the carpeted floors. “Sorry! I forgot.”

“Must be nice,” Sakura mumbled, not looking away from the scenery passing by the train. For a long moment there was only silence and she suspected her friends were glaring at one another for the sudden spike in tension. Inhaling a deep breath through her nose, Sakura turned back to them and forced a smile, knowing it was better to fake it than make things awkward. “The last thing I want is to see people who only know what happened through the rumor mill. I can catch up with the other Heads at the train station.”

“Have you seen him yet?” It was Ino who asked, her tone cautious and soft. While Sakura appreciated it, she hated it when people tiptoed around her, like she was too fragile to hear the truth.

Scowling, she shook her head. Truth be told, she had been avoiding looking at anyone too closely. She had made her parents drop her off as early as possible and the woman pushing the trolley mentioned how there had been no one else on the train yet. Which was exactly what Sakura had planned. She spent the morning staring out the window, knowing if Sasuke did happen to notice her sitting alone, he wouldn’t dare speak to her.

And though it would have been much more satisfying to brush her pain away, join her friends on the platform and laugh, like she hadn’t a care in the world, she just couldn’t pretend. It was too exhausting. She only wanted to put everything in the past and get on with her final year at Hogwarts. After they graduated, she would never have to see Sasuke again and she hopefully, would never have to even think about him again.

The compartment door slid open and all three girls whipped their heads toward it. Two other 7th years stood at the threshold and Sakura felt her stomach drop to the seat beneath her. Naruto and Shikamaru poked their heads in with a grin. Well, Naruto was grinning like a fool, mostly at the sight of Hinata, while his mate was nodding toward Sakura. She had been found.

“The girls are asking about you. They want to have a meeting.” He rolled his eyes at the mention and Sakura felt like doing the same. She knew she had two choices…Either face the other girls with her head held high or fake a stomach ache and let them all gossip about her. Of course, they were going to do that either way.

“Tell them I’m sick. I doubt the meeting will be much more than their insipid holiday stories and I doubt I’ll be able to stomach that for long.”

Shikamaru opened his mouth to say something but quickly shut it again with a sigh. With a glance to Ino and a nod hello, he clapped a hand to the door frame. “Alright, I’ll let them know.” He backed away from their compartment and disappeared down the hall, leaving Naruto behind.

“Hey,” he said, a goofy smile stretching across his lips the longer he stared at Hinata.

“Hi.”

Her entire face was a strange shade of pink and Sakura rolled her eyes at them. She stood, putting a hand right in the middle of Naruto’s forehead to push him out of their compartment. “You have all year to drool over Hinata.”

He glared up at Sakura, a complaint riddled with swear words on his lips, but he never got a chance to say them. The door slid shut in his face and Sakura collapsed back onto the bench, shaking her head at Ino. The blonde hadn’t moved much but was now smirking to the flush faced girl across from them. “If you two don’t hook up this year, I’m going to lock you in a broom closet until you do.”

Hinata’s face turned an even darker shade of red that Sakura had never seen on a human before and she was surprised that it made her laugh. They fell into a round of giggles and soon, they were picking treats from the trolley. After an hour of stuffing their faces full of junk food, the three girls settled back and did what they did best; gossip.

“Did you guys see Kiba? He’s got a mustache.”

“Gross,” Sakura laughed, wrinkling her nose as she pulled her feet up on the seat beneath her. “Why do guys our age feel the need to attempt facial hair? It looks like they’re growing pubes on their face.”

“Yeah,” Ino started, “But, you’ve got this whole bitter, scorned woman thing going on right now so you’re overly critical of anything with a penis.”

Sakura’s mouth fell open, though she couldn’t really be surprised by her friend’s words. Over the past two months, the only member of the male species she had been able to stomach was her father. Maybe she was overly critical, but she had a reason to be.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she shrugged and accepted Ino’s criticism of her new attitude. “Men are lousy creatures. I’m not being critical, I’m being honest.”

Ino sat up and shook a long string of licorice at her, shaking her head. “You’re not dealing with men, Sakura. You’ve dated one boy. That’s hardly a reason to throw the whole gender away. What you need to do is forget the boys we know and just wait until you graduate so you can date a man. Concentrate on schoolwork like you’re famous for and you won’t have time to worry about Sasuke.”

Her first instinct was to roll her eyes and scoff at the ridiculous idea. Sure, Sasuke and their male classmates weren’t exactly men yet, but how different were they? She doubted that they matured much with age. The only thing a man could do that a boy couldn’t was grow a decent mustache. But, seeing Hinata nod along in agreement made Sakura rethink Ino’s words.

Her best choice would be to forget boys, and she had certainly been trying all summer long. It was just hard to forget that a boy had stomped on her heart in the courtyard of Hogwarts barely three months prior. Diving head first into coursework would be the exact distraction she could hope for and with her advanced classes she had discussed with Madame Tsunade last year, she would definitely have an abundance of things to distract her from thinking about him.

Sakura didn’t offer much else to the conversation as it shifted back to Kiba’s attempt at facial hair. She didn’t feel much like gossiping anymore and besides, her bladder was full, and she wanted to change into her robes before the line to the bathrooms got too long. Her uniform was stashed in her backpack and she swung it onto her shoulders as she announced to her friends that she would be back in a bit.

Luckily, the hallway was relatively free of any students lingering to socialize and she made her way to the bathroom with ease. A very small girl, more than likely a first year, with her bushy haired pulled into pigtails on both sides of her head, squeaked up at Sakura as she came out of the small compartment where the toilets were located. Last year, Sakura wouldn’t have hesitated to give her a friendly, reassuring smile. But not this year.

Maybe Ino’s contempt for their younger school mates was rubbing off on her. Sakura shut the door to the bathroom behind her and dropped her bag onto the small, pedestal sink. She ignored the mirror.

After relieving herself, she began undressing from her muggle clothes. Her school uniform had too many wrinkles for her liking and she could just hear her mother’s voice in the back of her head, chastising her for being so careless with it. She shook the wrinkles out the best she could and slipped on the white, button up shirt. The blue and bronze tie was next, kept loosely tied. The last thing she wanted was to feel as if she were suffocating.

She pulled her skirt and stockings on and packed away her muggle clothes before slipping her feet into her Mary Janes. The black cloak stayed stashed away in the backpack, much too heavy to wear on the train. With a sigh, Sakura stared at her reflection for a few minutes. The grey jumper she wore over her white shirt hid any of the wrinkles, luckily, and for the most part she was properly dressed.

Her pink hair stood out against the drab color and she combed it back with her fingers, pulling it into a bun at the back of her head. She hadn’t bothered with makeup all summer but looking at herself now, she was beginning to regret not putting some on this morning. A fresh bump was starting to appear on her chin and she leaned closer to the mirror to inspect it. Great

As if her life wasn’t sucking enough lately, the gods decided she needed to deal with acne as well. Surely Ino would have some concealer she could use.

Sakura swung her backpack around her shoulder, glanced at her reflection one final time and stepped out of the bathroom. She pulled the door closed behind her and faced the hallway. Her stomach instantly dropped to the floor and she felt as if she had suddenly been punched right in the chest. The air left her lungs in a slow wheeze.

Her eyes instantly moved to the couple making their way down the hallway, arms linked around one another’s. The girl was someone Sakura instantly recognized as Karin Uzumaki, the Head Girl of Slytherin this year. She had her arms wrapped around a very familiar boy who had Sakura feeling as if she might throw up. Sasuke didn’t appear to be too attentive to Karin as she hugged his elbow to her side, staring up at him as if he were the second coming of Merlin.

He stared straight ahead, toward Sakura but not looking at her at all. He looked right through her and somehow, that was so much worse. She wanted to walk by them, chin held high, looking through him but she was frozen to the spot, fighting the lump pressing against the back of her throat. Her head was screaming at her to take a step, to get back to her friends, to just move already before they got any closer.

Sakura did the only logical thing she could think of. She turned back to the bathroom and hurried inside, collapsing against the door with a deep, shaking breath. Her hands covered her face and sobbed into her palms, hating herself for letting them get to her like this. But what the hell was that?

He was already with someone? And not just someone, but Karin! The girl was the Slytherin snake personified and though she had no proof, Sakura suspected it was because of her that Sasuke decided to end their relationship the way that he had. And now, they were together. The thought left a bitter, disgusting taste in the back of Sakura’s tongue and she quickly bent over the sink, her fingers shaking as she turned on the faucet.

She drank in several mouthfuls of water and spat them out, absolutely hating herself for reacting this way. Why did it have to affect her like this? Why couldn’t she be like Ino and let things roll off her back? It wasn’t fair.

Sakura sat back down on the toilet lid and blinked up at the ceiling, taking deep breaths to try to calm herself down. It was only after fifteen minutes or so that the urge to throw up subsided but by then, she was feeling just as bitter and miserable as she had the days after their breakup. She didn’t want to feel this way all year. She just wanted things back to normal. She had the sinking feeling that her final year at Hogwarts would be anything but normal.


 

Several hours later, Sakura was joined at the end of the Ravenclaw table with her fellow Head Boy, Shikamaru. They sat in the seats closes to the sorting ceremony to welcome the new additions to the Ravenclaw house. Of course, the entire time, she had been trying to imagine the whole Slytherin table erupting into flames and hadn’t paid much attention to who, or even how many new students, would be joining their house.

Thankfully, Shikamaru seemed to understand that she wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as the other Head Girls and took on the role of proud, upper class man. He greeted the new first years with a smile and firm handshake, giving Sakura a look each time that said, ‘you should be the one doing this’.

All she could offer was a fake smile that she knew was as cold as she felt on the inside. When the final 1st year was sorted into Hufflepuff and greeted with a friendly cheer from the table to Sakura’s right, she snatched the pointed cap off of her head and dropped it onto the bench beneath her. It didn’t go unnoticed and she managed to catch just a small trace of a scowl from the Headmistress as she stepped up to the podium on the raised platform where the professors were sitting.

For some reason, seeing Tsunade’s disapproving frown cut deeper than having Sasuke look right through her and Sakura looked down at the table in front of her. It wasn’t a secret that Sakura had become a favorite of the Headmistress, though no favoritism was ever shown. If anything, Sakura was now held up to a higher standard than the other students, especially under the condition in which she first attended Hogwarts.

Tsunade had done more for her than any other person, apart from her parents, ever had. Which was why Sakura felt extremely guilty for acting like a brat. She took a deep breath to collect herself and sort her emotions out before slipping her cap back onto her head. Across from her, Shikamaru raised an eyebrow and she forced what she hoped was a warmer smile. She may not be feeling very warm, but she could fake it until she did.

The excited chatter making its way through the Great Hall was silenced with a lift of Tsunade’s hand and Sakura folded her hands in her lap, ignoring the green and silver banner hanging at the opposite end of the room. She focused on the Headmistress’ words and not on the fantasies of giant boulders falling onto two particular Slytherins.

“Welcome to another year at Hogwarts.” Tsunade paused to let another round of applause work its way through the students. “There have been a few changes to the staff this year and I would like to introduce you all to Hana Inuzuka who has accepted the role of our nurse.” The rest of her words were drowned out as a loud, raucous cheer erupted from the Gryffindor table.

Hana scowled playfully to her younger brother, but it was clear she was beaming with pride. However, Sakura’s attention was pulled away from the young woman to a silver-haired man sitting on the opposite side of the empty chair where the Headmistress sat. He had a mask covering the lower portion of his face, from just beneath his eyes down beneath the robes he wore around his shoulders. But what was particularly strange, aside from covering the majority of his face, was the long scar down his left eye. It made him look instantly intimidating and by now, Sakura could hear the whispers from the other students at the table.

Whoever this guy was, he was already the talk of the whole school.

Had she not been so wrapped up in her own misery, Sakura might have noticed it sooner how most of the students were glancing at him nervously. By now, Tsunade had continued on introducing the staff and Sakura turned her focus back to the Headmistress’ words.

“…Defense Against The Dark Arts, Professor Hatake.” She turned to gesture a hand to him and though there was a round of applause, it was nothing compared to what Hana Inuzuka received. Then again, she had only graduated from Hogwarts a couple of years prior and had been a Quidditch star, so her name was still very fresh on their minds.

Professor Hatake on the other hand, was as menacing as his half-hidden face and scar and if the student body felt half as apprehensive about him as Sakura did, she wasn’t surprised about the reaction to him. Defense Against the Dark Arts wasn’t one of her strong subjects, though she had been placed in the Advanced class this year, and knowing she would have to face someone like him in her 7th year was already making her feel a bit nervous.

She watched him blink, and his dark eyes cut to the left…exactly where she was sitting. His gaze met hers and she felt warmth creep up the length of her neck. It was only a quick glance, the kind you give to someone when you can feel them staring at you, but it was enough to make her entire face turn scarlet. He looked away just as Tsunade ended her address and another round of applause erupted from the students.

Plates and bowls of food appeared on the tables, breaking through Sakura’s daze and she blinked down at the steam rising from the meal. Across from her, Shikamaru and Shino were digging into their food as if they hadn’t eaten in days and the prefect girl beside Sakura was reaching for a piece of bread in the middle of the table.

“You gonna eat tha’?” Shikamaru asked, pointing his fork to the bowl of chocolate pudding beside Sakura’s class of water. She shook her head as he relieved her of the dessert, and she knew if she didn’t eat now, she was going to have a stomach ache after all those sweets on the train. Her stomach was begging her to stuff her mouth, but she managed to keep her eating habits to that of a human and not pigs like the boys across from her.

And the whole time she ate, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

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The sun was shining in through the window of Sakura's private dormitory in the most annoying way. Just a small, sliver of a bright sunbeam fell across her left eye and she groaned up at the curtains that she thought she had pulled tight the night before. It was too early to be dealing with anything other than dreams and she rolled onto her side and pulled the covers up over her head.

 

With a sigh, Sakura closed her eyes and settled deeper into her pillows. Not a second later, her alarm was ringing from her nightstand. Her eyes snapped back open and for just a few extra seconds, she wondered if she could just sleep through it.

 

Surely it would stop ringing eventually.

 

But beyond the shrill alarm, she could hear the other students waking up and moving into the common room below. She may have her own, private quarters this year, but they weren't far enough away from the others in her opinion.

 

Sakura sat up with a groan and dropped a hand to the alarm, switching off the annoying sound. The silence that followed behind wasn't much better. It grated on her nerves until she had enough and noisily begun to get ready for the day.

 

The Head Girls and Boys of each house were expected to meet with both the Headmistress and Co-Headmistress as per usual. Every year, they would get a brief refresher course on what is expected, what duties they will have, and on what behavior they should always act. Sakura knew the spoiler to that one; their absolute best behavior. Madame Shizune made sure to drill that into their heads, inside her class and out.

 

Sakura slipped her grey, pleated skirt up around her hips and secured it in the back. She frowned down at the length, wondering if she had hit a growth spurt over the summer. The hem of the skirt fell just a bit short of where it had last year but she didn't have the time to adjust it at the moment. Her stockings came next and finally her shoes before she stepped to the long, rectangular mirror hanging on the back of her door. It was left by one of the previous Head Girls with notes of encouragement written across the top portion of the glass.

 

Apparently, they were magically charmed to change each day and today, Sakura scoffed at the words. ‘A positive attitude will lead to positive outcomes’ was written in scrawling, loopy script and they shimmered like iridescent scales each time the light hit them. Sakura tried to erase the words, even with a charm of her own, but it only resulted in the quote changing to a new one.

 

There was only so many motivational quotes she could take before she felt nauseous. The only solution was to ignore them. Sakura rolled her eyes at the quote and turned to make sure her uniform was neat and proper before she grabbed her robe, book bag, and wand.

 

The Ravenclaw common room was already bustling despite classes not starting for another two hours. But it wouldn't be characteristically Ravenclaw without the excitement of learning all that Hogwarts had to offer. Most of the students were first years, already breaking out into cliques of friends as they discussed possible classes, careers, and lore about the castle.

 

“I heard the Slytherin common room is beneath the lake!” One of the first-year boys said. “I wonder if they ever see the monster.”

 

“What monster?” A short, round boy asked with eyes as wide as saucers. He was more than likely muggle born. Sakura recognized the same kind of amazement in him that she felt in her first days of Hogwarts, hearing about the strange tales about this other world.

 

It almost put a smile on her face.

 

But not quite.

 

She crossed the common room to the hallway that led to the Head Boy dormitory. Though the magical charm wouldn't allow her to go inside, it didn't stop her from reaching the door. She raised a fist and beat it rapidly against the wood. Behind her, the common room fell into a quick silence and she ignored the feel of the stares from the First Years. “Get up, Shikamaru! We have a meeting in less than twenty minutes.”

 

From inside the dorm, she could hear a muffled groan followed by the creaking of bed springs. For good measure, she gave another round of beatings to the door.

 

“Alright! For Merlin's sake just stop!” Shikamaru cried from inside the room. This time, Sakura smiled and leaned back against the archway outside his dorm. She listened to the Head Boy move around the room as she continued to ignore the group of kids in the common room.

 

Most had started whispering, more than likely about her, but in that moment, Sakura didn't care. She had been whispered about before and it definitely wasn't going to stop this year. At least the younger ones didn't know about her and Sasuke, which was a small relief.

 

She turned to scowl at the door to her right, wondering if she needed to beat on it again to make Shikamaru move his ass into gear. Thankfully, he emerged half a second later with a scowl that made her smile stretch into a grin.

 

“Morning sunshine.”

 

He pushed past her, gathering the lengths of his dark hair into his hands as he did so. “Don't give me that bullshit, Sakura. It's too early for it.”

 

She chuckled to herself, following him through the expanse of the common room. Everyone knew Shikamaru was not a morning person. And most knew to stay away from him in the morning but a little bit of Ino had rubbed off on Sakura through the years and she couldn't help pestering him in his foul state. She joined up with him as he slipped through the door and stepped out into the main halls of the castle's 5th floor.

 

He secured his hair at the back of his head and turned to scowl down at her. “Why did I agree to do this?”

 

He was referring to being Head Boy and Sakura rolled her eyes at his dramatics. No one she knew put so much effort into being lazy quite like Shikamaru Nara. She brushed her hair over her shoulder and stepped in front of him to lead the way to the Headmistress’ office.

 

“Because,” Sakura started, glancing at him from over her shoulder. “It looks good on a resume and despite your lazy attitude, I know you actually care about your future.”

 

He waved her off but didn't argue. They walked the rest of the way in silence, meeting up with the Gryffindor Head Boy and Girl on the staircase. And, judging by the beaming grin on the Head Boy's face as he spotted Sakura, she could only guess that he had definitely heard the rumors about the ending of her relationship with Sasuke.

 

“Hello Sakura!” Lee bounced toward her, nearly knocking Shikamaru and Tenten over with his enthusiasm along the way. Inwardly, Sakura grimaced and thought up any excuse to turn down the date invitation she knew was coming. “I hope you had a good summer.”

 

“Not exactly,” she mumbled, turning to pick up her pace. Unfortunately, Lee fell in step beside her and shook the dark hair from his eyes. It seemed that Sakura wasn't the only one to hit a growth spurt either. She had to look up at Lee as he cleared his throat where just last year, they had nearly been the same height.

 

“I am sorry to hear that. Hopefully this year, you will have all the happiness you deserve.”

 

Shikamaru muttered something under his breath, too low for Sakura to hear, before stepping around them to the arch in the wall where a stone gargoyle sat, guarding the stairway to the Headmistress’ office. Forcing a polite smile, Sakura nodded to Lee.

 

“Thank you, that's very sweet.”

 

She turned away from him before he could say anything else and stepped up to the statue. Shikamaru hid a yawn behind his hand and Sakura sighed, leaning forward to whisper the password.

 

“Zinfandel.”

 

With a grind of stone against stone, the gargoyle slowly spun to reveal a staircase spiraling upward. Though she had never been to the Headmistress’ office on a bad note, it never failed to make her nervous to see the stairs. She took a deep breath and stepped forward. Before she could even put her foot onto the first step, a voice called from the hallway behind them.

 

“Wait for us!”

 

Sakura glanced back to see a tall, muscular boy dressed haphazardly in Hufflepuff colors barreling toward him. His hand was clasped around the Hufflepuff Head Girl's and Sakura felt a bit sick at the sight. Choji and Karui's relationship had become official right around the time she and Sasuke had become an item. It hurt to see that while their relationship had ended abruptly and without much of a valid reason, Choji and Karui's had not.

 

Not that Sakura wasn't happy for them. She was. It was just hard to see.

 

“Maybe if you two hadn't been trying to find a dark corner to snog, you wouldn't be late,” Shikamaru chuckled, though it was clear by the look on Karui's face that she didn't find it that funny. She pulled her hand free from Choji’s and brushed her hair away from her face.

 

“We stopped to help out some wandering first years, thank you very much,” Karui said with a sniff. It might have been a convincing argument had her lipstick not been just a bit smeared on her lips as well as on Choji's. Sakura let the girl pass, covering her giggle behind her palm. Together, three out of the four houses made their way up to the Headmistress’ office.

 

Inside the circular room, the sun was shining in through the stained-glass windows, making the whole place feel warm and inviting. Sakura's shoes sank into the plush, oriental rug beneath her feet and she quickly found one of the eight chairs to drop into. They were arranged in a half circle in front of the columns that separated the main office from Madame Tsunade's desk. Behind it, and a bit to the right, was a narrow door that Sakura knew lead to the woman's private quarters, though she had never seen them herself.

 

Mostly, she had seen Tsunade stumble through the door in the morning before their meetings last year, quickly smoothing her clothes and hair before stepping out to greet her.

 

Sakura turned to watch the rest of them file into the room. Before Shikamaru or Tenten could drop into the seat next to her, Lee made a beeline to it and dropped into the chair with a grin. He opened his mouth and Sakura quickly grabbed her bookbag, rifling through it to make it seem like she had something far more important to do than listen to whatever he had to say. Thankfully, he clamped his mouth shut and settled for watching her fake search through her things.  

 

“Good morning everyone,” Shizune called as she strolled in behind them, her dark robes billowing behind her. She turned to face them, clasping her hands in front of her. “And welcome to another year at Hogwarts.”

 

“So sorry we're late,” a girl said breathlessly as she collapsed into one of the last two chairs available. She flipped her long, red hair over her shoulder and Sakura forced herself to look away. The muscles along her jaw clenched tight and her ears burned hot at the sound of the girl’s voice. “I just couldn't get started this morning. It's so nice to be back!”

 

Sakura's hands clenched in her lap, begging to strangle that sugary, sweet voice right out of Karin's throat. The girl leaned forward and said hello to them all while Neji Hyuga grumbled in annoyance as he took a seat beside her. He didn't offer any sort of greeting to anyone else, but that wasn't very surprising. He was always quiet...intimidating, but quiet. A perfect example of Slytherin characteristics.

 

“No need to apologize, Miss Uzumaki. You're all early.” Shizune beamed proudly at them as the door behind Tsunade's desk opened quietly. The Headmistress emerged, her face stoic but soft as she turned to face them. “Madame Tsunade and I are very proud of this group sitting here. You've all worked hard to get where you are and I'm confident that every one of you will continue to make not only your houses proud, but Hogwarts as well.” With a small smattering of applause from the group of students, Shizune stepped to the side and let Tsunade take her place on the small platform in front of her desk.

 

Sakura tried to pay attention. She really did. But, the longer she sat there with the sun beaming down on her back, making sweat start to bubble right where the clasp of her skirt sat against her skin, she couldn't help glancing over to where Karin sat. Her legs were crossed at the knee, her skirt just a bit shorter than what was accepted, and Sakura glowered at the sight. Wasn't anyone going to say something to her?

 

“I know it probably hasn't sunk in yet that this is your final year at Hogwarts, and while it is a time to feel a bit sad about your days here are coming to an end, I want you all to think about what lies before you.” Tsunade looked at each of them as if she were a general, giving a last speech of encouragement to the troops on the battlefield. And what she was saying was probably important, words that Sakura would remember for the rest of her life if it weren't for the annoying, red headed twat sitting six chairs away from her at the moment.

 

Sakura bounced her foot and forced herself to look up at the Headmistress. Thankfully, the woman hadn't noticed how Sakura's gaze kept sliding to the Slytherin across the room. But honestly, how was she supposed to pay attention when there were so many uniform violations on one student. A Head Girl at that! Her tie was loose, the top button of her shirt open, and though she couldn't be too sure, Sakura was almost certain the hoop earrings she was wearing weren't allowed either.

 

“...your duty to guide the younger students. They will be looking up to you this year. Be sure to show them the same respect, kindness and camaraderie that the previous Heads showed you. Now, if there are no questions,” Tsunade pauses for a moment, but no questions were asked. “I'll let Shizune hand out your schedules and you can officially begin your last year at Hogwarts.”

 

Shizune started at the far end of the room, handing off Neji's schedule to him before making her way around the half circle of chairs. Lee got his and stood to his feet, thanking both the Headmistress and Co-headmistress with a short bow. He turned to smile down at Sakura, once again opening his mouth to say something and once again, being stopped short.

 

“Miss Haruno? Would you mind staying behind for a quick word, please?” Tsunade asked, peering around Shizune from her desk.

 

While she was thankful that she had managed to avoid Lee yet again, she was already dreading the words from the woman. Perhaps she had noticed Sakura's preoccupation with Karin Uzumaki after all. With a nod, she slipped her schedule into her bookbag and stood to her feet, following Shizune up to the wide, cluttered desk. Though it did seem like there was some sort of method to the madness of papers and books, Sakura always wondered how she kept things organized.

 

Shizune pulled a stack of books from the desk to make room and set them on a shelf to the side, arranging them neatly. As she stepped away to charm the chairs back into a stack in the corner of the room, Tsunade folded her hands in front of her. She didn't look upset, but she definitely didn't look happy either. Sakura shifted nervously in her chair.

 

“I won't pretend I don't know what happened with you and Mr. Uchiha, Sakura. You're an adult now and I'm going to continue treating you like the mature young woman that I know you are.” She reached for a cup and took a quick sip from it, smacking her lips once to savor the taste. A sick feeling settled low in Sakura's stomach and she resisted the urge to rub her hand across her tummy. “Now, that being said, I don't want this to interfere with your studies. I remember what it's like as a teenager. I remember the hormones and the crushes and the breakups.”

 

“Madame Tsunade, I'm not sure-”

 

“I'm just saying, boys will come and go. Don't lose yourself over someone who doesn't see your worth. You're in quite a few Advanced classes but if anyone can accomplish this, it’s you. Have you given any more thought to what we talked about last year?”

 

Sakura didn't know how to tell her that no, she hadn't thought about anything aside from how hurt she was the last few months. Swallowing, she shifted in her chair once more and ducked her head. “I'm still a bit undecided. I enjoy healing and I know I'm good at it, not to mention my parents would be much happier if I pick something safe.”

 

For a moment, Tsunade was quiet. She stared at Sakura, the look on her face a strange mix of disappointment and mild annoyance. Though it wasn't directed at her necessarily. With a sigh, the woman rubbed her fingers across her forehead. “I know your parents mean a lot to you and I know they don't have the best understanding of our world. But this is not their future we are discussing. I'm going to ask you the same thing I asked you last year, Sakura.”

 

From behind Sakura's chair, Shizune stepped to the desk and stood behind the Headmistress. Her hands were clasped in front of her and she gave a small, reassuring smile. Sakura took a deep breath, anticipating the words that she could still recall Tsunade asking her back in April.

 

“What do you want?”

 

She wanted to know that answer, wanted to be sure of it. She wanted the confidence to hold her head up and say exactly what she wanted. But her confidence had been shattered and all that was left was doubt and an uncertainty that made Sakura feel sick to her stomach. She hated this feeling, hated that she let herself come to this all because of a stupid boy who she couldn't get out of her head no matter how badly she tried.

 

“I don't know,” she finally admitted, her voice barely a whisper. For some reason, the thought of disappointing Tsunade was worse than disappointing her parents. But she couldn't lie to her. She truly didn't know what she wanted.

 

That's a lie, a voice in the back of her mind whispered. You're just afraid of what you want.

 

The sigh from Tsunade lifted Sakura's head and she frowned up at the two women. “Well, if you decide you want to be a healer, both Shizune and Hana Inuzuka are extremely knowledgeable in that field. Either one of them would be suitable for you to shadow.”

 

To emphasize the Headmistress’ point, Shizune nodded and took a step forward. “You know I would be more than happy to give you extra lessons that would secure you a career as a healer. We want you to succeed.”

 

Sakura nodded, looking down at her hands folded across her lap. She had been nervously twisting the hem of her skirt around her finger and now the material was wrinkled. Sighing, she smoothed her skirt out around her legs and reached for her backpack. “I appreciate your help, I really do. I just need to think about it a bit more.”

 

Before she could stand, Tsunade sat back in her chair and spoke. “However, if you think you want to pursue a career as an auror, we both think you would be an asset for the Ministry. Your skills are extraordinary, Sakura and I think with a bit of help, you would have what it takes.” She shifted through some loose parchment on her desk until she found a folded pamphlet. The Ministry's seal was printed in gold lettering on the front as well as a short, block of text. Tsunade slid it across the desk and put her fingers over to top of it. “Are you aware of our new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor?”

 

Sakura could recall the dark glance he had given her the night before with vivid details. A shiver ran across her spine at the thought of it and she swallowed back the urge to shudder. With a shake of her head, she reached up to take the pamphlet from her. The text across the top read Career Opportunities at The Ministry of Magic and the seal shimmered beneath the lights. Distracted by the folded parchment in her hands, Sakura shook her head. “No, I'm not.”

 

“Professor Hatake attended Hogwarts not too many years before you. He was one of the youngest graduates and one of the youngest Aurors for the Ministry. He is an exceptionally powerful wizard and a skilled Occlumens.”

 

At this, Sakura lifted her head and frowned. She had heard that word before, mostly in her studies but also from Ino. The Yamanaka family were naturally prone to Legillimens and it was something Ino was quite good at. The Ministry was already interested in recruiting her to be an Auror, just like her father. Occlumency was the opposite side of the coin that both it and Legillimency existed on.

 

But Sakura wasn't from a long line of pure blood families tracing back for centuries. She didn't have an innate ability to read minds or stop someone from reading her own. She shook her head and glanced between the two women standing behind the desk. “I don't understand.”

 

“I, along with a few other professors, have noticed your potential, Sakura.” Shizune's voice was soft as she leaned forward, putting a hand down on the desktop. “We think with a little guidance, you could learn to master Occlumency. You and Miss Yamanaka would be top choice for the Ministry.”

 

Sakura blinked down at the pamphlet in her hands, her heart racing. For the first time in months, it was racing because of excitement and not from pain. She felt herself nod, though she was still a bit dazed by what they were telling her. Being an Auror, working with Ino for the Ministry, and feeling like she was making a difference in the world she struggled to fit into was exactly what she wanted. It was what she was afraid to admit, afraid she would be laughed at for wanting.

 

“Think about it for a few days and I will speak to both Miss Inuzuka and Professor Hatake for whichever you decide.”

 


 

Kakashi stood at the front of his classroom, watching the last of the sixth years hurry out the door. Once he was alone once again, he let his head fall until his chin touched his chest and blew out a heavy sigh. It was bizarre to him, that he could chase down wizards through the countryside, pursue suspects for 18 hours straight and yet, he had never felt this exhausted before dinner.

 

He didn't know what was worse; chasing after criminals or dealing with teenagers all day. Even the younger ones were smart mouthed and insufferable. He was beginning to understand what Tsunade meant about drinking to get through the day.

 

Glancing back at the office door above him, Kakashi wondered if he should dip into his private stash of firewhisky to help him get through the next class. Deciding against it, he grabbed the class roster and looked at the list of classes under Monday. He only had fifteen minutes before the next group came in, but thankfully, they were all seventh years and it was an Advanced course. Hopefully they would be ready to learn and advanced enough that he wouldn't have to hold anyone's hand along the way.

 

After the group of second and third years, he didn't want to come into close proximity to any students. Maybe the Ministry should introduce a course on proper hygiene. Or at least how to use a stick of deodorant every morning.

 

With a sigh, he rubbed his hand across his face, pulling his mask down to his chin. He scratched along his jawline and pointed the tip of his wand to the blackboard. The eraser quickly swiped across the notes he had charmed across the surface and once the slate was clean, it settled back down on the ledge beneath the board. He hoped the lesson he had planned for the next class wasn't too advanced for them. There wasn't much in the way of guidance for him to plan his lessons out.

 

Both the Ministry and Tsunade had given him freedom to plan them all on his own. Which, he knew he should be grateful for. He just hoped he was properly preparing them for what was to come if they did succeed and become Aurors. The job wasn't pretty, but it wasn't always excitement and danger. Half of the time he was doing paperwork at a desk or arguing with the lawmakers to get them to turn a blind eye just once so they could have the upper hand against the criminals. It never worked, but it didn't stop Kakashi or any of his fellow Aurors from trying. There was always a proper way to do things when it came to Bureaucracy, and it usually meant a stack of paperwork.

 

He grabbed the chalk from the tray and began writing a few things before the next set of students came bustling in. He could hear a few come into the room, their banter immediately turning to hushed whispers. It had been happening all day. Whispered rumors about his exploits and triumphs spread like wildfire and though only a small portion of them had any truth. But he understood how intimidating a new professor could be. Especially one teaching subjects as intense as Defense Against the Dark Arts. He knew they'd be wary of him for weeks, possibly months if they believed the rumors and that was fine.

 

It wasn't like he was here to make friends with any of them anyway.

 

Once the tardy bell rang and the last student slipped into the classroom, Kakashi finished his notes, dropped the chalk back into the tray and turned to face them as he dusted his hands. They all stared at him with wide eyes, though a few Slytherins put on the infamous ‘I'm too wealthy to care’ facade. He recognized one Slytherin almost immediately as the youngest member of the Uchiha clan. It would seem that this one had mastered the cold, standoffish attitude already.

 

Kakashi scanned the rest of the class, taking a quick headcount to make sure he had exactly twenty students that his roster said he would have. In the front row, his eyes met another familiar face. Dark eyes and hair pulled up on top of his head. The boy was a spitting image of his father, Shikaku Nara. For a second, Kakashi almost let himself smile but knew it was better to intimidate them now and lighten up later on. No use trying to be friendly, even to the ones he was familiar with.

 

“Welcome to Defense Against the Dark Arts. I'm sure most of you have heard something about me by now and I'd like to address those rumors. Don't believe any of them. As of this moment, I'm not an Auror, I'm not the youngest student to ever graduate from Hogwarts and from this point up until May, I'm only Professor Hatake.” He paused to cross his arms over his chest, leaning a hip against the desk behind him. “I spent the last fifteen years working for the Ministry and now, I'm here to prepare you for a possible career defending other witches and wizards from those who want to do harm. How many of you are interested in being an Auror?”

 

The students surprised him by instantly raising their hands into the air. His eyebrows lifted and he scanned the students he could see. While most of them held their hands high in confidence, one in particular hesitantly lifted hers from the desk in front of her. Her eyes darted around to her peers before she raised her hand a bit higher in the air. Kakashi nodded, glancing quickly to her face surrounded by strands of pink that were falling from her ponytail. He recognized her as the girl from Ravenclaw who had looked a bit miserable at dinner the night before. She didn't look to be in much of a better mood today and he had to resist the urge to roll his eyes.

 

Ignoring the moody teenager, he gestured for them to lower their hands as he circled back behind his desk. He pulled the textbook out of the drawer and dropped it onto the table top with a soft thunk. “One of the most important skills an Auror can know is non-verbal magic. I know last year your professor had briefly touched on it. This year, it will be all we will use.”

 

Another round of whispering fluttered through the classroom and with a quick clear of his throat, the fell silent again. “For the remainder of the year,” Kakashi continued. “I don't want to hear a single incantation. If you're facing a dark wizard, you won’t be announcing what spells you'll be using. You want to act quickly and forcefully. Throughout the year, you'll learn how to master this ability and soon, you'll be able to conjure multiple spells in rapid succession. Until then, however, let's start simply.”

 

His eye drifted back to the left where the Ravenclaw girl was sitting. Her frown had turned into something that resembled nervous worry and she opened her textbook to scan the first few lessons, which Kakashi was skipping altogether. He wondered if she had read the first few chapters already and he fought the urge to smirk. “Although I will not follow your textbook exactly,” he paused to eye the girl. She looked up at him and realized he was directing his words to her, sending a blush creeping up her face. “I do expect you to read through it on your own and complete the questions at the end of each chapter. I'll collect them every other Friday which gives you plenty of time to finish them.”

 

The girl slowly closed the front cover of her textbook and slid it off her desk, glancing back at the rest of the class. Kakashi stopped himself from sighing and turned to a basket sitting beside his desk. He set it down on the surface and flicked the tip of his wand toward the wire rim. A bundle of sleek, black raven feathers all lifted from the basket and made their way to the students until everyone had a single feather in front of them. “I'm sure everyone remembers the lessons from your first year of Charms. Wingardium Leviosa. It's easy to master with nonverbal magic and I want you all to spend the rest of the hour making your feather float. If you find that to be a bit boring, move onto something heavier or help your neighbor.”

 

Unsurprisingly, Shikaku Nara’s son had no trouble and was sending his feather to circle the ceiling in less than five minutes. Satisfied that he had mastered the lesson, the Ravenclaw sat back in his chair and crossed his hands behind his head. Kakashi paused by his desk. “Good job, Mr. Nara. Now, you can help your neighbor do the same.”

 

The kid sighed and turned to face the boy sitting next to him as Kakashi moved on down the center aisle between the rows of desks. Every few seconds, he would stop and give guidance or comment on a job well done. He was pleased to see most of them getting the hang of it relatively easily. That is, until he turned to make his way back up the length of desks and caught sight of a head of pink drop down onto the desk in frustration.

 

Kakashi frowned and stood back, watching the girl’s partner lean over to help.

 

“Stop worrying so much, Sakura,” the blonde one said, rubbing a reassuring hand across her shoulders. “Sit up and try again.”

 

Taking a few more steps, Kakashi came up behind their shared table and watched the Ravenclaw point her wand to the feather. The tip of it fluttered off the desk and back down. He stood up straight and turned to face the class. “If you’re having trouble getting the hang of it, remember to speak the incantation clearly in your mind.”

 

The girl, apparently her name was Sakura, gave a small groan and glanced back at the others to see their progress. Kakashi watched as her eyes fell on the group of Slytherins in the back of the room, and on one Slytherin in particular. Mr. Uchiha was currently sending a group of feathers up to the ceiling to the delight of the girls around him and Kakashi sighed.

 

He had hoped that in such an advanced level class, he wouldn’t have to deal with hormones and teenage drama. But it would seem that teenage girls were the same no matter how advanced they were. He stepped around the desk and glanced down to the Ravenclaw girl, snatching her attention away from the boy she was staring so intensely at. “Focus, Miss…” He trailed off, waiting for her to offer her name.

 

“Haruno,” she mumbled, the tops of her ears and cheeks burning bright with embarrassment.

 

“Don’t pay attention to what the boys are doing, Miss Haruno. Focus on your task.” The look of shock on her face made him almost regret being so harsh with her, but it wasn’t his job to coax her into doing her lessons. If she wanted to pay more attention to boys, she could move into one of the lower level classes. He turned away from her and moved back to the front of the room, checking the watch around his wrist.

 

“Alright, it looks like mostly everyone has gotten the hang of it. Good job,” He snatched the basket off the desk behind him and used his wand to collect the stash of feathers, catching them all. “If you have any questions, feel free to stay behind after class. Other than that, you can have the rest of the period to work in the library on your first chapter questions.”

 

He dropped the basket of feathers back onto the floor and listened to the commotion of the students gathering their things to leave. A small part of him felt guilty for hoping that no one had questions. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to help…it was more due to the fact that he was tired of dealing with them for the day. Too much, too soon. He wanted to sit down in his office before dinner, maybe read a bit and—

 

“Professor Hatake?” A small voice said behind him, making him turn to see the Ravenclaw girl with pink hair. She held her text book to her chest and over her shoulder, Kakashi could see the blonde waiting for her at the door.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I just…I wanted to tell you that I wasn’t distracted by a boy during the lesson.” Kakashi’s eyebrow slowly arched as he blinked down at her. “I was trying focus. It’s just distracting when there are so many people talking loudly. It’s not very efficient to have a lesson dependent on concentration when everyone is loud and laughing.”

 

He didn’t know what to say. It was rare that someone left him speechless, and to be called out like this by a student…it almost made him laugh. Almost. He cleared his throat, crossed his arms over his chest and forced himself not to react too harshly to her. “No one else seemed to have an issue with the lesson, Miss Haruno.”

 

She held her chin a bit higher in the air and pursed her lips, obviously annoyed by him. Which was fitting, seeing as how he was annoyed by her as well. “I wasn’t speaking for anyone else but myself. I suppose I’ll just try harder next time.” With a forced, tight smile, the girl spun on her heel and stomped down the aisle between the desks.

 

At the door, her friend stared at her with wide eyes and despite her voice lowering into a whisper, Kakashi could hear what she said.

 

I told you not to open your big mouth! You’re going to get on his bad side.” The blonde looked over the top of Miss Haruno’s pink ponytail, spotted Kakashi staring at them and pulled the girl the rest of the way out the door. For several seconds, he didn’t know what to do, and so he stood rooted to the spot and stared at the space they had just occupied.

 

As annoying as Sakura Haruno seemed to be, it took some guts to stand up to a professor. And despite being annoyed by her, Kakashi couldn’t help the tug of a smile at the corner of his lips.


 

 

Chapter Text


 

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**NOTE**

 

THE lovely and amazing LindtLuirae drew
some fanart for this chapter that you can see
HERE

 

(the scene takes place at the end of the chapter)

 


 

 

Kakashi took a deep breath of the cool midnight air, letting it expand his lungs to their full capacity. He held it for several seconds as he stared up at the silver half moon peeking out from behind a few clouds. With a slow exhale through his nose, he stepped off the grounds of Hogwarts and headed right for the dark line of trees beside the lake.

He was no stranger to the Forbidden Forest. It was a place he had spent a considerable amount of time in his youth, though even then it had been off limits to any students. There were ways around those rules though.

As he crossed into the tree line, the moonlight completely disappearing behind the thick branches and leaves of the canopy above him, his form shivered and transformed. The next step he took was on all fours. His paws pressed lightly into the soft peat on the forest floor.

A million new scents reached his new canine nose and he took another deep breath, sorting through them all in his head. He could smell the lake and fish prominently behind him and a herd of centaurs about fifty yards deep into the trees on his right. Not wanting to deal with any questions from the herd, he headed the opposite direction where no overwhelming scent of creature could be found.

The human part of him grinned, though on his wolfish outside it was more like a snarl, and he took off deep into the woods. Running through the darkness was something that always helped calm his nerves if he was feeling a bit agitated. And his first week as Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor had definitely left him more than a bit agitated.

He had been dying to run for the past week, knowing it was the one thing that could soothe him. And oh, how it worked so well.

Kakashi ducked his head beneath a low hanging branch, catching a twig across the ears, though he barely felt the sting and pushed his legs harder. The scents of the forest burst through his senses, but they were nothing like what he experienced during his runs in the city. He’d take centaurs, fish and earth over the garbage and sweat he smelled back home.

To the east, back in the direction of the castle, he picked up the smell of deer moving over a small stream. He turned the opposite way and ran up along a ridge where the trees began to thin out. As he crested the hill, he slowed to a stop. The moonlight broke through the thinner branches here and illuminated his silver fur.

He turned back to the east and sat down on his haunches, panting a bit harder than usual. Over the past few months, he had been neglecting his late-night runs and was now suffering the consequences. He wouldn’t neglect them any longer.

From his perch on the hill side, he could see the lights of the castle twinkling through the leaves. It was bizarre to be back. No matter how many times his colleagues would assure him that he would get used to it, Kakashi wasn’t sure if he would.

He didn’t know why, didn’t even know if it meant anything or not, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to happen. Though, he wasn’t sure if it was going to be a bad thing or not. The feeling just lingered behind him like a shadow. He could feel it, even now in his other form and though he whirled around on his four paws, he could see nothing behind him but the vast forest stretching back down the hillside.

Kakashi lifted his nose to the air and breathed in another rainbow of scents. He paused to give one last glance back at the castle over the line of trees before taking off into the forest once more.

 .

 .

The noise in the Great Hall was far too loud on Monday morning for Kakashi’s preference. It was only the second week of the school year and already, he was tired of hearing the never-ending whirr of chattering adolescents. He wondered if he should just start wearing ear plugs, as a Muffliato charm might be frowned upon by the other Professors. Pursing his lips, he tried to concentrate on watching the students’ behavior instead of the racket but was failing miserably.

Beside him, a figure sat down and the gold plate on the table filled with a mound of foods. He glanced up to see Madame Shizune smile over at him before smoothing her robes across her lap. “I know that look,” she said with a short laugh. “You’re miserable, aren’t you?”

Miserable? No.

He was just perpetually grumpy for some reason. Though, that probably would be the exact definition of miserable. Kakashi sighed and shook his head. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“It takes a while to adjust.” Shizune opened up a buttery croissant and spread a layer of what looked like strawberry jam in the middle. “No one is giving you too much trouble, I hope.”

“No, nothing like that.” Kakashi looked out at the four long rows of tables, glancing around the cliques of friends grouped together on each one. “It’s just a bit loud in here.”

“Oh, you’ll never get used to that,” Shizune laughed, taking a bite of her croissant. She held a hand politely over her mouth as she continued. “Usually, if Madame Tsunade is eating in the Great Hall, they’re a bit quieter. But she rarely comes down for lunch. You’re on duty this month?”

Kakashi nodded, suddenly distracted by a flash of pink that caught the corner of his eye. His eyes darted back toward the Ravenclaw table, landing upon Miss Haruno’s brightly colored head. She was gathering her hair up into a ponytail while talking to two girls across from her who were not wearing the blue house colors. One was the blonde Slytherin that he recognized from class and the other was sporting red and gold robes.

He had to admit, it was nice to see the houses getting along much better than when he attended Hogwarts. Back then, it was rare to intermingle and for the five years he was there, he can’t remember speaking much to anyone outside Slytherin. He knew now how ridiculous that was.

It was only when he blinked, breaking the daze he had fallen under while looking at the Ravenclaw table, did he realize that Madame Shizune was speaking to him once more. He forced a smile she couldn’t see and glanced her way.

“Since you’re on lunch duty this month, you won’t have it again until January. Which, I’ll admit, are the roughest months. The students are awfully rowdy returning from the breaks.” Shizune sighed as she held a juicy piece of watermelon a few inches above her plate. She stared out at the congregation of students, pursing her lips.

Kakashi guessed it was for that reason that he was assigned those months. The Headmistress knew if it came down to it, he would do what it took to keep them in line. Though, he was pleased that none of the students seemed to be too rowdy. At least, not yet anyway. He cleared his throat and opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by another professor squeezing into the seat on his right. A firm hand clasped around his shoulder, making him whip his head around to see the familiar face of one of his oldest friends. Through the hectic first week, Kakashi hadn’t been able to see much of Gai since the first night and he chuckled.

“Hello, Gai—whoa!”

In a flash, he was lifted from his chair and enveloped in a tight, brotherly hug from Gai. With two claps to his back, the man released him and beamed a grin. “Can you believe we’re here? Teaching together at Hogwarts like we’re teenagers again!”

“Well, I think we’ve matured a bit since those days.” Kakashi straightened his robes and glanced out toward the crowd of students before the two men dropped into their chairs. Only a few students paying attention, but he couldn’t help feeling that the hug chipped away a bit at the hardened professor image he had worked hard on. “You know I saw you only a few days ago.”

Gai’s grin widened and he shook his head, wagging a finger toward Kakashi. “You’re always playing it so cool.” Thankfully, he left it at that and turned to the plate of food that appeared before him. For a few moments, Kakashi watched him load strips of ham, cheese, and various vegetables onto an enormous piece of toast to build a sandwich.

But, before he could witness Gai try to stuff the whole thing into his mouth, a sound from the Slytherin table pulled Kakashi’s attention away. There was a small group of five girls, sitting next to the youngest Uchiha and what appeared to be his girlfriend, if Kakashi had to guess. The redhead was sitting in his lap, arm draped over his shoulder as she laughed along with whatever the girls were saying. In unison, they all turned to peer through the Gryffindor table, looking straight to Ravenclaw.

Kakashi’s eyes narrowed as he followed their gaze to Haruno. It was clear by the way she bristled, that she had heard their peals of laughter. She had her back turned to them and her friends were scowling over her shoulder. Glancing back to the Slytherin side of the Great Hall, the pieces of the puzzle began to click into place in his head.

Ah, so it was teenage drama that had her distracted in class.

Still, he couldn’t help feeling bad for her. He knew first hand the kind of bullying that existed in his own house and could remember how brutal some Slytherins could be. He pursed his lips and glanced to the man at his side. Gai had been the Charms professor for the past few years and would know if there were still problems that existed between the houses. A little rivalry never hurt anyone, but this didn’t feel like something that innocent.

The sound of the giggles, the looks the group of girls gave Miss Haruno…it all felt a little too malicious to be ignored.

“Say, Gai,” Kakashi started, nodding toward the Slytherin table. “How are relations between the houses these days?”

Gai swallowed the bite he was working on, grabbed a napkin from beside his plate and wiped at his mouth as he glanced between the four rows of tables. “To be honest, this year has been the worst I’ve seen since I first started. There have always been rivalries.”

“Well, rivalry is a good thing,” Kakashi suggested, glancing back to where the Slytherins were now chanting something among themselves. He strained to hear it, but they were purposefully keeping their voices low to avoid being caught by the professors. For some reason, he knew it was aimed to Haruno and he felt a sense of irritation that he couldn’t explain. Getting caught up in their drama was something he wanted to avoid at all cost.

But he couldn’t help narrowing his eyes at the group of girls.

“True,” Shizune said, blocking her mouthful of food with her hand. Both Kakashi and Gai turned to look at her. “But I’m afraid this isn’t house rivalry.”

They followed her gaze to the same group Kakashi had been staring at moments ago and he felt his fingers tighten around the arm rests of his chair. The girls were now barking like dogs. Kakashi leaned forward in his chair, his muscles tense as he started to rise from the chair to put a stop to their stupidity. Not only because it was an embarrassment to his house, but because this was clearly bullying.

Another flash of pink from across the Great Hall caught his attention and the three professors all looked to where Haruno and her friends stood from the table. They left the Great Hall in a rush, chased out by the hyena-like laughter of the Slytherin girls.

Kakashi had seen enough.

He stood to his feet, knocking his chair along the stone floor. The sound echoed through the vast room and the remaining students all turned to stare up at their table. To his satisfaction, the laughter immediately ceased, and the girls all turned to stare at him as he made his way down the steps and toward their table.

Uchiha rolled his eyes, as if their behavior was nothing but an annoyance and crossed his arms. He kept his gaze fixed on the doors to the Great Hall.

Kakashi stopped by the table and stared at each of them one by one. “If you all want to behave like dogs, we could arrange for your rooms to be moved outside.”

The Head Girl glared icily at the girls in front of her. Kakashi felt no sympathy. If she had been doing her job, he wouldn’t have had to intervene. It was her job to set an example to the other students and all she had been showing them was carelessness.

When none of the group offered to say anything in response, Kakashi folded his arms over his chest. “I don’t want to hear anymore barking from anyone in Slytherin and if I do hear it, you’ll be in detention for a month. Do I make myself clear?”

They nodded. Well, all of them except Sasuke Uchiha and Kakashi resisted the urge to roll his own eyes at the insufferable boy. Knowing it was better to ignore him than to face the wrath of his family, Kakashi turned on his heel and made his way back to the professors table. He slid into the chair he had left behind, ignoring the whispers of the other students.

Shizune leaned toward him with a small smile. “Good job,” she whispered, quickly turning back to the last few bites of her breakfast.

Kakashi was grateful for her words but they did little to ease the knots that had formed in his stomach. He glanced once more to the Slytherin table, satisfied that the immature antics of teenagers who were old enough to know better had ceased. His eyes moved to the other side of the hall, where the now almost empty Ravenclaw table sat.

 

 


 

Sakura collapsed onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling. It was only lunch and she was ready for the day to be over and done with. Actually, scratch that, she was ready for the year to be over and done with already.

She ran through the growing list of assignments she should be starting instead of laying on her bed in misery. The more she added to the list, the more her stomach hurt, and she rolled over onto her side, hugging a pillow to her midsection.

A sunbeam stretched across her room, catching the dust and she watched them slowly float through the light. Lunch wouldn’t last forever, but she refused to even glance at the time at the moment. If she was late to Charms, then so be it. Professor Maito always favored her anyway. He wouldn’t be too hard on her for being tardy.

Which gave her at least an hour before she had to get out of bed again.

Sakura pushed a hand through her hair and turned her face to the pillow. She wanted to scream her frustrations into it but didn’t. What was the use anyway? It wouldn’t change anything or make her feel better about things. It was a waste of energy and if there was anything she felt like lately, it was a waste.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Ino’s words repeating like a chant. You’ve got to snap out of this, Sakura. You’re better than this! It was something she had been saying since June and though she didn’t want to admit it, Sakura knew she was right. She was better than this.

But it still hurt, goddammit.

And as long as it still hurt, she wasn’t going to snap out of it. Every time she walked through the halls and saw him, every time she had to sit on the other side of a classroom and watch him laugh and act like nothing ever happened, every time she thought of him, she felt like her heart was shattering all over again. She hated that she felt this way.

But how was she supposed to just snap out of it?

How was she supposed to forget and move on like nothing had ever happened?

Why was all the pain and frustration and misery left for her to feel all by herself?

It wasn’t fair.

Sakura pressed her face into the pillow, opened her mouth, and screamed as loud and as long as she possibly could into it. Her head ached and tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. She immediately felt silly after her screaming stopped and she rolled onto her back, swiping angrily at the tears.

She hated feeling this way, hated herself for letting it get this bad. With a sigh, she sat up and caught the reflection of herself in the mirror on the back of her door. The motivational words were written in curling script and there was a line of flowers drawn along the bottom of it. The words made Sakura sneer as she read them.

Falling down is an accident. Staying down is a choice.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” she growled, swinging her legs over the bed as she snatched her want from the table beside her. She stormed across the room and pointed the tip of her want to the word, going through every possible incantation she could think of to remove the charm from the mirror. It only managed to make the saying change to a different one.

A negative mind will never give you a positive life.

She gave up and grabbed the towel she had used that morning during her shower. She draped it over the mirror before turning to snatch her bookbag from the floor where she had deposited it only a little while earlier. So much for using her lunch hour to relax and be alone.

.

.

By the end of the day, Sakura was on the opposite end of the spectrum from where she was at lunch. She wasn’t happy, which was where she wanted to go to. But at least she wasn’t wallowing in her own self-pity. And with Sasuke being in the same class as her, she felt that was a step up.

However, her self-pity and misery from earlier in the day had completely transformed into dread. Defense Against the Dark Arts was steadily becoming her most dreaded class and she quietly made her way into the room at the end of the day.

Thankfully, it was relatively empty and the message on the blackboard made her breathe a sigh of relief.

Take a seat and practice what we have learned so far. I will be a few minutes late to class.
~ Prof. Hatake

Sakura opened her text book and shuffled through the pages to chapter three where they had left off on Friday. They were still using wordless magic, going through simple charms until the whole class caught up to speed at the same level. Of course, they were only being dragged behind by one person in particular.

Sakura sighed and glanced around behind her to make sure she had the room to herself for the next few minutes. She pointed her wand to her books and said the incantation in her mind. The pages fluttered and the book gave a small quiver, though it didn’t lift off the desk a single inch.

Ugh! She slammed the book shut and sat back in her chair, arms crossed tightly over her chest. Her eyes narrowed on the spine of the textbook and a little voice reminded her of that annoying little quote that she had seen on her mirror earlier. Falling down is an accident…staying down is a choice.

Sakura pursed her lips and sat back up, staring hard down at the book on the desk. She could hear the noises from the hallway growing and knew she would only be alone in the classroom for a few more minutes at best. With a deep breath, she spoke the incantation in her mind, gathering as much magic as she could and pointing her wand with a flick to the book.

It trembled in place and she narrowed her eyes, speaking Wingardium Leviosa louder in her mind. This time, the book lifted from the desk and hovered at eye level above the desk. Sakura stared with wide eyes, her lips parting in surprise. Oh, my god! I’m doing it!

Though the book didn’t raise up to the ceiling as smoothly as Shikamaru’s had last week, she wasn’t going to complain. A few feet off the desk was better than nothing.

Before she could send it floating higher, a loud burst of laughter from the hallway broke through her concentration and the book hit the desk before tumbling to the floor next to her chair. Sakura sighed, her shoulders slumping in defeat before she reached down to pick it up. From behind her, a few students were making their way into the classroom.

“Hey,” Ino breathed as she dropped into the seat next to Sakura. “You’re here early.”

“Yeah, Professor Yuhi let us go a bit early from Advanced Transfiguration.”

Ino nodded and took her quill and book out of her own backpack before leaning closer to Sakura. “Guess what I heard!” The sentence was something Sakura heard often from her best friend. She knew she shouldn’t be interested in gossip, having known what it feels like first hand to have someone talk about her behind her back. But she was dying to know the rumor mill was churning out someone else’s dirty laundry for a change.

“I couldn’t image,” Sakura said with a smile.

The look in her best friend’s eyes caught her attention instantly. There was a mischievous sparkle in the blue irises that Ino only held for particularly juicy gossip. Sakura’s eyebrow raised, suddenly interested more than she had been before.

“So, remember at breakfast? Those bitches being…well, bitches?”

Sakura nodded, not exactly wanting to be reminded of how they had barked at her like lunatics. Thankfully, Ino continued, a sly grin curling the corner of her lips up.

“Okay, I heard from Lee, who heard from a fifth year who had been in the Great Hall after we left that Professor Hatake absolutely ripped into those bitches! Told them that if they want to act like dogs, he’ll treat them like dogs!”

Sakura’s jaw dropped and she felt her heart rate pick up speed just a bit. She tried to picture him doing something like that, but had a hard time believing he was capable after the way he had embarrassed her in class last week. Was he actually capable of being a decent human being? Sakura glanced to the front of the room where his note was still written in dusty chalk letters on the board.

Behind them, Kiba leaned over his desk and nodded toward Ino. “You talkin’ about Hatake?”

“Yeah! Did you hear?”

“To be honest, it’s about time we had a Professor who will hold those Slytherin twats accountable. It’s even better that he was Slytherin when he was here.” Kiba winked, though neither girl appreciated him referring to Slytherin’s as twats.

Ino reached over and smacked the back of his head in retaliation. “You calling me a twat?”

“What?” He asked, eyes wide as he rubbed the spot on his head where she had hit. “Of course not!”

Sakura opened her mouth to tell him he was an idiot when a figure at the door caught her attention. Just like every other time she saw him, her stomach clenched tightly and the urge to vomit was rising up the back of her throat. This time, it was even worse. Karin was practically hanging off his arm, her head resting against his shoulder as they took a seat in the back of the classroom.

To make matters worse, she dropped into Sasuke’s lap and draped an arm around his neck. Sakura couldn’t help staring at the way his hands moved up the girl’s side and held tight to her midsection. The longer she stared, the worse she felt. Thankfully, Ino reached over and took Sakura’s hand in her own.

“Just ignore it, okay?”

“I can’t.” Her words stuck like glue in her throat and she turned in her seat to face the front of the classroom. A lump pressed hard against the back of her throat, one that she couldn’t seem to swallow down. Don’t cry in class, idiot. Just keep it together for the next hour

“Is there a problem with your seat, Miss Uzumaki?” A cool, dominating voice said over the noise and chatter of the classroom.

Nearly everyone spun in their seats to stare at Professor Hatake. Sakura managed to glance over her shoulder, lips pursed tightly and her stomach still aching. Seeing Karin and Sasuke stare up at him in surprise did help her feel a bit better though.

“No, sir,” Karin said quietly.

“Then why don’t you sit in it instead of on Mister Uchiha’s lap?” Without waiting for a response, Professor Hatake moved through the center aisle of the classroom. With a flick of his wand, the eraser quickly swiped through the note he had left for them and the door at the back of the room shut with a click that echoed through the suddenly quiet room.

The rest of the class turned to face the front, but Sakura hesitated, lingering her gaze behind her to watch Karin slink into her own chair beside a flushing and embarrassed Sasuke. The knots in her stomach unraveled a bit and she felt the corner of her lips lift into a smirk.

 Maybe he really isn’t so bad after all…

“Today, I think we should do something a little different,” Professor Hatake said, turning Sakura’s attention around to face him at the front of the classroom. He scanned the room of students, his face hidden behind the mask though the look in his eyes was unmistakable. It seemed that all Slytherins had that same mischievous twinkle. “It will be a little unorthodox, something no other class before you had the opportunity to learn. But I think it is a necessary skill for anyone interested in becoming an auror. Now, if you’ll break into pairs, I’ll show you a little hand-to-hand combat.”

The room stayed quiet and Sakura felt her eyebrows lift to her hairline. Fighting? He was going to teach them how to fight? Unorthodox was a bit of an understatement. Sakura shared an uneasy glance with Ino as the rest of the class stood to their feet.

Professor Hatake instructed them to push their desks to the side to clear out the middle of the room and suggested that the girls pair up with girls and vice versa. Ino cracked her knuckles and pointed to Shikamaru as he and Kiba fell in beside them. “Consider yourself lucky, Nara.”

The Ravenclaw rolled his eyes, making Sakura giggle beneath her breath. She had to admit that their dynamic was weird if not entertaining. The rivalry between the houses had nothing on the rivalry between the two of them. Ino was always up for proving she was better than him, though Shikamaru usually responded similarly to how he did now. A roll or his eyes, a scoff or a wave of his hand was all it took to infuriate the blonde.

Professor Hatake guided them into two lines in the middle of the room, each person facing their partner. He stepped behind one line and Sakura felt herself tense as he passed behind her, his voice loud beside her head. “I want you to get used to a defense stance. Hands up to protect your face, feet apart to keep you steady.”

He guided them through several moves. A basic block to the face, the proper way to throw a punch with the force coming from your body, not the shoulder. The side throwing the punches were given a wide berth and Sakura held her hands up to block the blows coming from her partner. He repeated twice the importance of paying attention and for them to always watch their partner’s movements.

Both Sakura and Ino did as instructed, though the Ravenclaw felt incredibly silly while doing it. She didn’t exactly see how this was necessary when they had an arsenal of magic to use. Did the Ministry approve this? As if reading her mind, Professor Hatake rounded the group and turned to address them again.

“I know you think you’ll have your wand and your magic to fight off an enemy but that isn’t always the case. Say you were disarmed and the one you’re up against is twice your size. They might use their size to incapacitate you before you could get to your wand.” His eyes scanned the crowd again and as he came up behind Ino, Sakura lifted her gaze to meet his. For just a brief moment, she felt him study her stance, his eyes falling to her fists in front of her before moving on.

As he stepped away from behind Ino, Sakura only managed to catch the sight of the fist coming her way. Ino’s knuckles connected with her mouth, pinching her bottom lip between her teeth and the fist. Sakura stumbled back with a gasp, her hands flying to her face. She had never been punched before and after the initial shock started to fade, pain spread fast over her chin and jaw.

Something warm and wet trickled between her fingers and Ino was by her side in an instant. “Oh, my god! I’m so sorry!”

The crowd parted and Professor Hatake was suddenly there, towering over her with a scowl narrowing his eyes. It almost hurt to see as much as being punched in the face did. His disappointment was evident in an instant and he pulled Sakura’s hands away from her face to inspect the wound. She glanced down to see blood along her fingertips.

He sighed heavily, his fingers circling around her jaw to turn her head up toward him. Before he even asked if she was alright, he stood up to his full height and looked at the students gathered in a circle around them. Sakura winced, hating that the rumor mill would make a field day out of this incident.

“Let Miss Haruno be an example of just how important it is to pay attention. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t let yourself get distracted by anything.” He turned back to look down at Sakura’s face and she whimpered, totally and completely humiliated. “I’ll write you a pass to the nurse. Miss Yamanaka, will you be able to accompany her?”

Ino nodded, her blue eyes still wide with worry as she looped an arm around Sakura’s waist. She tried to fight off the girl’s help, but it was no use. With shoulders slumping in defeat, she let Ino lead her out of the classroom. She ignored the endless apologies and stared straight ahead as they moved through the halls.

A part of her was furious at herself for not doing as Professor Hatake had instructed and pay attention. But mostly, she was furious at him for even making them do something as stupid as hand-to-hand combat. It was because of him that she had been so distracted in the first place with his stupid eyes on her and that silly mask he wore.

And what kind of Auror had hands as warm and soft as his anyway? Shouldn’t they be calloused and rough and missing a few fingers?

“I knew I should have been paired with Shikamaru. I don’t know my own strength sometimes,” Ino muttered, shaking her head with remorse.

Sakura started to tell her that it was alright, that she wasn’t even in pain anymore, but her words wouldn’t come out. Her mind, it would seem, was still a bit preoccupied with the way it felt having Professor Hatake’s fingers touch her face.


 

Chapter Text


 

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.


 

 

September was drawing to a close and though the sun still brought warmth through the day, the breeze had a chill that called for sweaters and stockings to be added to Sakura’s uniform. She wasn’t a fan of the cold and living through most of the year in a very old, drafty castle didn’t help things. Thankfully, her private dormitory came with a small fireplace and she was already looking forward to sitting in front of it during the winter months.

But, on the last Tuesday of the month it was unseasonably warm day and Sakura was pleased to have a few of her classes outside. Herbology with Professor Tenzou had been nice, despite the morning being a bit colder than she would have liked. Sitting in the greenhouses with the sunshine beaming through the glass panes, surrounded by the exotic smell of plants and the soil was one of her favorite things.

Despite having the exact opposite of a green thumb, it didn’t stop her from appreciating the flora that Professor Tenzou usually kept in the classroom. She was a bit jealous of his abilities to make anything grow from just a seed, a little bit of water, and soil. Even without the magic aspect, she just wanted to keep something alive.

Herbology ended at 11 and the day was turning back to the warmth she had been trying to hold onto the last few weeks. From beside her, Hinata stepped up and took her attention away from the sunshine. “You have Care of Magical Creatures next, don’t you?”

“I’m supposed to, but it’s mostly been a study hour since they haven’t found a professor yet.” Sakura shrugged and held her books to her chest, letting the rest of the seventh years from class move ahead of them. She was thankful that her Tuesday and Thursday schedule took her no where near a single Slytherin.

“Oh, I heard that they hired someone. We’re supposed to find out today.”

Sakura stopped and turned to face her shy friend, eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Wait, are you in that class as well?”

When Hinata gave a small nod, Sakura blinked and tried to recall ever seeing the girl. And then she remembered that there was someone else in that class as well. Naruto. Sakura groaned and turned back to the path that lead up to the castle courtyard. “Don’t tell me you’ve been hiding from Naruto again.”

Hinata squeaked in response and the blush on her face could have lit a dark room. “I’m not hiding, I just don’t have anything to say.”

“Hinata, you don’t have to say anything. He likes you, he thinks you’re cute. You could just stand there, and he would be thrilled.” It wasn’t lost on Sakura how bizarre it was that she was giving relationship advice. The one time she had managed to snag a boyfriend, she lost him to a girl who probably couldn’t even spell Slytherin.

Sakura frowned at herself for being so bitter, knowing that wasn’t true at all. Karin was one of the top students in their class and she impressed professors enough to be made Head Girl. If there was one thing Sakura hated more than the girls who talked about her behind her back, it was stooping to their level. There was no use in putting someone else down just to make herself feel better.

Thankfully, Hinata’s little squeak distracted her from her thoughts and made Sakura lift her head. On the slope leading up to the courtyard, both Naruto and Sasuke stood in the grass. A tight clench to her stomach made her steps falter and she cursed her luck.

As much as it annoyed her that Naruto still talked to him, she knew they had been friends for far longer than she and Sasuke were together. It wasn’t right for her to ask him to give up their friendship just because she was jilted.

Instead, she gave the pair a wide berth and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Ino lounging on one of the stone benches that sat along edge of the grass. Her bright blue eyes lifted to the two girls and she grinned. “Hey! Did you hear the news?”

“That we actually have a Magical Creatures professor? Yup.”

“Aw,” Ino frowned, her shoulders slumping in disappointment. “You know I like sharing gossip.”

Sakura rolled her eyes and joined her on the bench, glancing up at Hinata who was having a difficult time not staring at the blonde Gryffindor standing on the opposite side of the courtyard. “Want me to pretend like I don’t know so you can tell me?” Sakura asked, turning to Ino.

The blonde nodded enthusiastically and crossed her legs, waiting patiently for Sakura to sigh. “Fine. No, Ino, I haven’t heard any news at all. What could you possibly have to tell me?”

Hinata giggled behind her textbook as Ino sat up straight and flipped her ponytail over her shoulder the same way she usually did when she had juicy stories to tell. “Okay, I heard from Kiba who heard from Shino who overheard Madame Shizune discussing the arrival of our new Care of Magical Creatures professor!”

Sakura faked a dramatic gasp, putting a hand to her chest. Over Ino’s shoulder she unfortunately caught sight of Sasuke and Naruto and swallowed as her friend discussed why this was a particularly juicy piece of gossip. Unfortunately, she ignored every word and focused instead on the two boys across the courtyard. The Gryffindor made exaggerated windmill gestures with his arms and acted like he was falling, to which the other threw his head back and laughed. The sound reached Sakura’s ears and she ducked her head, wishing she had just stayed in bed that morning.

From beside her, Ino nudged her with an elbow. “Hey, at least he won’t be in the next class with us. We can judge the new professor the way we were meant to.”

One either side of the pair of girls, two more students dropped onto the bench. To Ino’s right, Tenten threw her arm around her shoulder and leaned forward to greet Sakura with a grin. “You guys talking about the new professor?”

Unfortunately, on Sakura’s left was the other person she had been trying to avoid all month. Lee beamed down at her like a perpetually cheerful puppy and Sakura swallowed down a groan. He lifted a hand in an awkward wave. “Good morning, Sakura!”

“Morning, Lee.”

“Are you excited to see who the Ministry has appointed to teach our class?” Ugh, he was always so perky. How could he have this much energy on a Tuesday? It was unnatural.

Sakura forced a smile and hoped he didn’t notice how she inched closer to Ino on the bench. If he did, he showed no sign and made up for the space by leaning toward her, waiting for her answer with a bright smile. “I suppose. I just hope whoever it is, isn’t a total hard ass like Professor Hatake. It’s only the first month and I’m already sick of him. I mean, making us fight each other is just so barbaric—”

“Good morning girls, Lee.” The voice behind Sakura made her blood run a bit colder and she flinched, mouth hanging open on the last word she had been saying. She didn’t even have to turn around to know who had addressed them. Judging by the wide-eyed gaze on Hinata’s face, staring over the top of Sakura’s head, she had a pretty good idea it was exactly who she had been talking about only seconds before.

It seemed that the only luck she had today was bad luck.

Didn’t this kind of thing only happen in cheesy movies?

Ugh, she was mortified and if Ino didn’t stop giggling, she was going to show her what it felt like to be punched in the mouth. Turning to glance over her shoulder, Sakura offered a weak smile up at Professor Hatake. He stood a few steps away, but close enough to have been able to hear everything she had said, with his hands stuffed in the pocket of his dark slacks. And while he glanced at each of them, his eyes narrowed just enough for Sakura to notice when they fell on her, telling her he had definitely heard it all. “Miss Haruno, if you feel that my teaching methods are barbaric, then you’re more than welcome to take it up with the Headmistress.”

On the other side of the bench, Tenten gave a low whistle and turned away to hide her snickering. Yet another person that Sakura would have to punch as soon as Professor Hatake’s back was turned. Fighting the blood rushing to her face, she sighed and looked up at the man. “That won’t be necessary,” she mumbled.

“Good. Have a nice day,” he addressed the lot of them before turning to continue on his way through the courtyard, leaving three out of the four girls giggling like crazy. Lee waved after the man before turning back to face Sakura with a soft giggle.

She ignored him and whirled around to face Hinata. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

She threw her hands up in defense, stammering over her words. “I-I’m sorry! He came up so suddenly…I didn’t have much time to react.”

Tenten leaned forward to grin at Sakura from around the girl between them. “Oh, come on, Sakura! I don’t think he even heard you,” she teased.

“Shut up, Tenten,” Sakura grumbled into the palms of her hands. The two girls to her right howled with laughter, causing Sakura to sink further into humiliation. Was she doomed to say and do the wrong things around that man for the rest of the year?

On the bright side, the brief, embarrassing encounter with Professor Hatake had completely taken her mind off of seeing Sasuke.

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After lunch, half of the seventh years made their way down to the lawn that stretched from the castle to the lake. Though they had been meeting for the past few weeks in a spare classroom on the second floor, Sakura was glad to be outside and enjoying the sunshine again. If only her good mood from earlier that morning hadn’t been rudely interrupted by an encounter with Professor Hatake.

Of course, her friends weren’t dwelling on it any longer. At lunch, the topic turned to the fact that some Slytherin seventh year was dating a fourth year which was, in their opinion, total social suicide. Ino had listed numerous reasons why dating someone so much younger was disgusting, to which Sakura agreed with. A three-year age gap was a bit strange.

But this quickly turned into a discussion that Sakura hadn’t been expecting.

As the three girls, with Hinata trailing behind them, made their way down the slope of the hill to where the rest of the class was already gathered, Ino pulled the lollipop out of her mouth with a pop. “What’s the oldest you’d ever be with?” She asked the other girls.

Sakura looked up at her, eyebrows pinched and her head shaking. “Why are we discussing this?”

“I’m curious! I know my number, but I don’t want to be the only one who would go this high.” The blonde put a hand to her chest, glancing back at Hinata. “What about you?”

Her lilac eyes widened suddenly, and Sakura frowned. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”

To Sakura’s dismay, she did. “I think twenty is the oldest I would…be with.”

All three girls stopped in their tracks and turned to stare at the bashful Hufflepuff. For one, they never expected her to actually answer and two, they were all a little surprised it was such a low number. Sakura frowned, wondering if her number was strange since it was a considerable amount higher than Hinata’s. She decided to wait for the other girls to answer before she gave up the information.

“Twenty? Really?” Tenten scoffed and glanced to Ino. “Well, now I feel weird about mine.”

“Mine’s forty-five,” Ino offered, making the other’s eyes go wide in surprise.

“Okay, now I don’t feel very weird about my number.” The Gryffindor shook a strand of hair that had fallen from her trademark buns from her eyes and shrugged. “I’m thinking maybe late twenties. What about you Sakura?”

She blinked, pulling herself out of a momentary daze as she considered each of their numbers. Hers was between Tenten and Ino’s thankfully. Forty-five was a bit concerning but she didn’t address it, knowing Ino was probably saying it for the shock factor. Sakura shrugged and turned back toward the group waiting near the lake. “I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do,” Ino said, pointing the sticky end of her purple lollipop toward the girl. “I saw the look on your face when I said mine. We don’t judge our friends, Sakura.”

“I wasn’t judging!” She threw her hands up in surrender, looking to the others for help. Neither Tenten nor Hinata seemed as if they were going to come to her rescue. With a defeated sigh, she gave another shrug in defeat. “Fine. Maybe thirty-two. But I couldn’t just sleep with them. I’d have to get to know him first.”

“Thirty-two is such a specific number.”

Thankfully, Ino’s astute observation was cut off by a rather tall, broad man stepping out of the shadow of a large oak tree as they joined the rest of the class. It was clear that he was their new professor, but Sakura felt her eyebrow raising in suspicion anyway. He didn’t look like a professor.

His unruly, white hair was long enough to reach the middle of his back and was kept loosely tied at the nape of his neck. Across his forehead, he wore a metal headband with what looked like small horns bent into the top. And while that would have been strange for any professor to wear, it wasn’t even the strangest on him.

Sakura stared at the man’s feet. “He’s wearing sandals.”

“Uh, he’s wearing horns,” Ino muttered beneath her breath, surely not wanting to be caught talking about a professor. She had learned from Sakura’s earlier mistake.

The man put his hands on his hips as he scanned the crowd of suddenly quiet students. As they all tried to figure this man out, his face broke out into a wide grin. “So, you lot are my students, huh? Not bad,” he put a hand to his chin, and slowly walked in front of the group. “How about we all get to know one another before we jump into any work?”

Oh, great, Sakura thought with a quick roll of her eyes. He’s going to be one of those professors. Maybe we don’t want to talk about ourselves, buddy!

“My name is Jiraiya and I don’t want any of that Professor Jiraiya mess. I’m not a formal person and I don’t expect anyone to be formal around me. For some reason that I can’t begin to fathom, the Ministry asked me to come teach you kids some interesting things about magical creatures. Can’t say I know much about the subject, but I’ll do my best.” Again, he grinned and a few of the students let out soft laughter.

His friendly demeaner was infectious and Sakura took back her earlier thoughts. Maybe he wasn’t going to be one of those lame kinds of professors who pretend that they’re everyone’s friends. This guy genuinely seemed…nice.

Sakura figured she should just stop being a judgmental twat before it got her into more trouble. She and Ino shared a quick glance out of the corner of their eyes before Jiraiya spoke up again.

“Let’s start here,” he said, pointing to the student on the far left of the first row. Which just happened to be Naruto. “Stand up and say a few things about yourself.”

“Everyone already knows me,” the blonde said stubbornly.

Jiraiya put his hands on his hips and stared down at him. “Well, I don’t. So, stand up and tell me a few things about yourself.”

Groaning lazily, Naruto pushed himself up from the grass and shook his head, as if the very effort of standing was too much. Sometimes, Sakura wondered who was lazier between him or Shikamaru. With a sigh, he turned to face the rest of the group. “I’m Naruto. I’m a seeker on the Gryffindor quidditch team…like you all don’t know that already.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, Jiraiya gave him a quick clap on the back with enough force to make him stumble a few steps. Whether the white-haired man noticed his strength or not, Sakura couldn’t tell. Maybe he just didn’t care. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Let’s keep it going!” He pointed to another student who stood and gave a brief introduction to himself.

It continued until every last person had a turn. Jiraiya clapped his hands together before rubbing his palms and smiled at them. “I’m just going to tell you now, not to bother with the textbooks. The only way to learn these things is a hands-on approach and you’re not going to learn what yeti fur feels like from a book.”

Sakura frowned. Why were so many professors this year deviating from the suggested course lessons? First Professor Hatake felt the need to teach them how to fight physically, and now they wouldn’t even be using textbooks? Things like this seriously annoyed the Ravenclaw inside her.

“But let’s not mention that to Madame Tsunade, alright? She’d hex me across the lake and back if she found out. And trust me, she’s done it before.” He paused as the group laughed. “Well, we already wasted a month so what’s one more hour? You’re free to go for the day.”

Sakura picked up her books and stood from her seat on the grass as the students around her did the same. She dusted the back of her skirt off and turned to Ino with a scowl. “It would have been nice to know about the textbooks before I bought one.”

“Don’t complain,” Ino warned, her eyes narrowing slyly. “We’re getting credit for minimal work.” The two girls caught up with the rest of their group of friends and as they all broke into friendly chatter, Sakura couldn’t help sighing.

It wasn’t like she would go complain to Tsunade about having too lenient a professor. The only thing she would complain about was the fact that she had spent the last month reading ahead in the first chapters of their text and doing the end of the chapter questions all for nothing.

At least she would be able to concentrate more on her other studies. Merlin knew she was going to need all the help she could get if she wanted to survive Professor Hatake’s class.

 


 

Kakashi’s office was still a mess. He had unpacked maybe two boxes since the start of the school year, and every day he had to meander through the labyrinth of junk to get around. Currently, he was stacking several boxes marked ‘books’ into the corner, nearly blocking the slender, stained glass window completely.

As he dumped the last of them on top of the stack, a small knock sounded at his office door. He spun on his heel, eyebrows raised in surprise. Both Tsunade and Shizune stood at the threshold of his office. The taller woman had a soft, if not a bit of a playful smile on her face. Tsunade glanced around the space with an eyebrow raised. “Still unpacking?”

“Yeah, well, you know how it is when you’re lazy.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his slacks and smiled warmly to the two women. He had to admit, seeing them both in his office was rather intimidating. Tsunade alone could bring a man down to his knees with a glance, but she became a whole other level of authoritative when Shizune was in tow. “To what do I owe the pleasure this evening?”

Shizune stepped into his office, taking a seat in one of he chairs in front of his desk as he gestured toward them. “Well, we’d like to talk to you about one of your students.”

Immediately, he thought of Sakura Haruno and for a brief moment, he felt anger flare against the inside of his chest. His steps slowed as he moved toward his desk. Had she actually gone to them to complain about his teaching methods? He almost couldn’t believe it. He knew he had embarrassed her that morning, but he honestly thought that would have been the end of it. It seems, he was wrong. That little—

“She’s in your advanced class,” Tsunade said as she lowered herself into the seat next to the Co-Headmistress. She crossed her long legs at the knee and tilted her head, watching him closely through an intense, amber gaze. “Sakura Haruno. Do you know her?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t meant to say it through clenched teeth, but he was inching into furious territory at the moment. His hands clenched into fists beneath his desk as he leaned forward. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Oh, there is no problem,” Shizune said with a reassuring smile. “Madame Tsunade and I feel that Miss Haruno would benefit from your guidance. We had the chance to work with her last year, helping her choose a career path and, honestly, I feel as though she had immense potential in Occlumency.”

Kakashi’s eyebrows pinched together in confusion. Had he heard them right? Were there two Sakura Haruno’s attending Hogwarts? Surely, they had to be talking about someone else. The Miss Haruno he knew could barely get the hang of unspoken magic. He seriously doubted she had the ability to master Occlumency, even under his guidance.

He shifted in his chair and moved his gaze to his desk, not sure how to approach this delicately. The two women were clearly fond of Miss Haruno, but he was having a hard time wrapping his head around what they were telling him. With a quick clear of his throat, he spoke. “Occlumency is a very complicated magic. I do plan to touch briefly on it this year, but I’m not certain Miss Haruno is…disciplined enough for what you’re suggesting.”

“And why do you think that?” It was Tsunade who spoke now, and he turned his gaze toward the headmistress.

“Well, I’ve noticed she has been having trouble focusing on the lessons. She seems to pay more attention to what her peers are doing than what she should be doing.”

The look on Tsunade’s face was one he had never seen before on her. She almost seemed offended by what he was saying. She scoffed and shook her head in disappointment. “And what if we came here to suggest you teach someone like Sasuke Uchiha?”

“He’s shown some promise over the last month. I don’t think he would have any problem with Occlumency if—”

“So,” Tsunade said, cutting him off with a tight smile. “Either you don’t trust our judgement about Sakura, or you don’t think someone like her could become a skilled Occlumens. Which is it?”

Someone like her? Surely the Headmistress wasn’t accusing him of being sexist, or worst, classist. He couldn’t care less what wealthy family his students came from. What mattered to him was their ability to learn and take his class as seriously as they needed to. Which, in his opinion, Sakura Haruno was falling a bit behind in.

“Madame Tsunade,” he began, “it’s not your judgement that I don’t trust. I’m just being cautious. Occlumency takes a great amount of focus and if Miss Haruno is not ready for that kind of thing, there could be serious consequences.”

Thankfully, it was not the Headmistress who spoke, but the woman at her side. Kakashi’s gaze lingered on the blonde for several seconds, noting her narrowed gaze on him, before turning to Shizune. “We admit, she has been having a bit of trouble focusing this year. I’ve noticed it in my class as well. But, believe me when I say, Sakura is capable of great things. She’s just dealing with some personal issues, which is why we think it would be prudent to start her with Occlumency lessons as soon as you’re available.”

Knowing there was no use in arguing the matter any longer, he sat back in his chair and glanced between the two women. They had certainly put him in a difficult position. Refusing their request would certainly make him sound sexist and classist. He suspected that was why she had brought it up in the first place, to corner him in case he wanted to turn the offer down.

What he was having the most trouble with was trying to wrap his head around actually getting Sakura Haruno to focus. She could barely keep her eyes off of the back corner of the class room where Uchiha sat. How was she ever going to keep her concentration long enough to block out even a basic Legillimens like himself?

His lips pursed behind his mask and he took a deep breath through his nose. No one could say Hatake Kakashi ever backed down from a challenge, no matter how much he had been hoping to have a peaceful, uneventful year. With a soft hum, he crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’ll have to look at my schedule.”

Tsunade’s lips curled into a smile and she stood from the chair in one, satisfied motion. She nodded to him. “That’s all we can ask,” she said, her tone curt.

Kakashi watched them stand, not joining them. As they moved to his office door, Shizune lingered for a moment while the other woman descended the stairs to the classroom. Once she seemed to be a considerably amount of distance away, the Co-Headmistress sighed and looked back at him.

“I understand your reservations about Miss Haruno and Madame Tsunade means no offense. They became very close over the last year and the Headmistress just wants to give Sakura a fair chance.” Shizune sighed and put a hand to the door frame. “With the tensions between the Purebloods and muggle-borns being so high this year, I think she’s concerned that someone like Sakura won’t be given the same attention as those from the Pureblood families.”

Offering him a soft smile, Shizune turned to make her leave, following behind the Headmistress who Kakashi suspected was already halfway to her office by now.

Though she had already gone, he nodded, offering nothing in response. What else was there to say? He didn’t make it a habit knowing the lineage of his students and didn’t care whether they were muggle-born or otherwise. But he couldn’t deny that their words didn’t affect him.

For so long, he had put things like purity on a pedestal. Being from Slytherin, it was almost guaranteed that the house would be made up of nothing but Pureblood witches and wizards. The idea that it had anything to do with merit was something that had been ingrained in him, repeated among his peers through his years at Hogwarts. And yet, he had been proved wrong time and again.

One of his best friends, and by far a damn good wizard, had been born to muggle parents. What would Gai think of him if he turned Sakura Haruno away because he didn’t feel confident in her abilities? More important, what would Kakashi think of himself?

Kakashi sighed and massaged his fingers into the sides of his forehead, hoping to ease the sudden ache that had began to press against his skull. What concerned him most, was that the feeling he had been trying to fight all month long, had returned in full force. It sat heavy in his gut, and though he knew he shouldn’t ignore feelings like these, he didn’t have a choice.

He would take on Sakura Haruno and teach her Occlumency. He just hoped he wouldn’t regret it.

.

.

For some reason, Kakashi was nervous come Wednesday afternoon. It was like it was the first day of class all over again and he was jittery. The last group of sixth years made their way out of the classroom, leaving him to stand at the front near his desk.

He leaned back on it, arms crossed as he drummed his fingers against his bicep. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what was making him so jumpy. All day long he had been curt to his students, not tolerating any kind of goofing off. That wasn’t so unusual. He hardly ever let them get away with that kind of thing.

But today, even he noticed how quick he was to snap at them.

For the first part of the day, he assumed the conversation he had with Madame Tsunade and Shizune the previous night had been the reason behind his strange mood. It had certainly put a damper on his night, though he figured that was mostly because he sulked around his office until the early hours of the morning.

It could have been a lack of sleep. Even the two cups of coffee he had consumed during his first break hadn’t been able to crack through his exhaustion. Each time the bell rang, he would be thanking the stars that the day was drawing closer to an end.

He had been tired before, far more tired than he was today. And never had he felt like…this.

Half of him wanted to send the seventh years away, to give them some busy work assignment so he could sit in his office and figure his mood out. But that wouldn’t work. There was a particular someone in the next class who he had to meet with.

With a snarl, he pushed off of the desk and pushed a hand through his hair. He didn’t want to admit it, but it was obvious why he so jumpy. And though it wasn’t because he was still sulking over the conversation that he had last night, it definitely didn’t help.

Kakashi didn’t know why he was bothered so much by the girl. There was just something about her that rubbed him the wrong way. He had no patience for hormonal girls with their heads in the clouds and their mind on nothing but boys. And for some reason, that’s exactly what he pegged Sakura Haruno as from day one.

Maybe he was being too quick to judge.

It wouldn’t be his first time. Kakashi was notoriously guilty for judging someone too harshly, though he had hoped he would have grown out of that way of thinking. Wanting to put that kind of thing behind him was one of the driving forces as to why he agreed to this in the first place.

After consulting his schedule the night before, looking for any conflict it might have and finding none, Kakashi had given up trying to resist. In his mind, he would give her one month to prove to him that she wasn’t the girl that he thought she was.

One month was all she had, and if by Halloween she hadn’t shown a single bit of improvement, he would explain to Tsunade and end their lessons. That is, if Miss Haruno even agreed to them in the first place. He was kind of hoping that their brief history spanning the past month would deter her, even though he knew that kind of thinking was awful of him as well.

He ascended the curving staircase that lead from the classroom to his office and leaned against the railing to look down on the students slowly making their way into the room. The Ravenclaws were usually the first to make it to class, but it seemed today, they were taking their time.

Conversations grew quiet at the door and each student that made their way inside, cast him a wary glance before finding their seats. When nearly half the desks were filled, he caught sight of a familiar flash of pink and blonde hair. The two girls who sat together, Yamanaka and Haruno, ducked into the classroom and hid their giggles behind their hands.

Kakashi resisted the urge to sneer.

“Miss Haruno,” he called, his voice silencing the whispering in an instant.

Both she and her friend stopped in their tracks, lifting their heads to stare up at him. While the blonde looked more like a deer caught in headlights, eyebrows raised to her hairline, it was Sakura whose face nearly made him laugh. She was petrified to the spot.

“I need to speak with you in my office.”

A round of ‘Ooohs’ filtered around the classroom, mostly from the back corner where the other Slytherins sat. Before he turned to make his way inside the door, he noticed how Sakura’s shoulders fell and she glanced nervously to her friend. He ignored the whispers, though caught one. “Someone’s in trouble.” It was a female voice, one that grated on his nerves that he usually heard from the back corner of the classroom.

He made his way into the office and stood by the door, waiting for Sakura to make her way up the stairs. She still had her books clutched tightly to her chest and her face was pale as she stepped inside. Kakashi pushed the door closed behind her and pointed to the chair in front of his desk. “Sit,” he commanded, circling his desk to take his own.

“You’re interested in becoming an Auror, correct?”

She nodded and Kakashi wondered if she could even find her voice. He would never admit it, but he rather liked how intimidating he could be sometimes. He pulled his chair closer to the desk and folded his hands over the surface.

“Is there any particular area of magic that interests you? Aurors usually have their strengths. For example, transfiguration is a skill that an Auror has to be efficient at. You’re in the Advanced Transfiguration class, yes?”

Again, she nodded, her brow pinching in the middle of her forehead. “Yes, sir.”

“Madame Tsunade and Shizune suggested that you might be interested in Occlumency. Do you have any experience in that area?”

She frowned and glanced down at her lap. “No. I spent some time last year discussing possible career choices with both Tsunade and Shizune. They seem more confident in my abilities than I am.”

Kakashi pursed his lips, eyes narrowing on her. Another thing he disliked about girls, was their self-deprivation, as if they were waiting for others to assure them that they were good at something. He sighed, telling himself not to be so quick to judge. She may truly have horrible self-esteem.

With a sigh, he searched for the words. “Well, they certainly are confident and suggested I be the one to teach you. I’ve looked at my schedule and figure I can spare an hour on Wednesday and Friday nights, possibly Saturdays at seven.” He straightened a few pens on his desk, avoiding the look she was giving him.

Genuine surprise was behind her wide eyes and Kakashi realized he had been right about his previous assumption of her self-esteem. He swallowed, feeling a bit remorseful for judging her wrongly. For a moment, she stammered and shook her head. He tilted his head to the side and lifted his eyebrows. “That is, if you’re interested.”

“Yes!” She leaned forward, putting her hands out against the edge of his desk. “I mean, yes. I’m interested.” He watched her tuck her hair behind her ears and duck her head slightly, trying to hide the flush of color to the tops of her cheeks.

For a moment, Kakashi sat still, staring at the pink tint that matched her hair. He blinked himself free of his daze and stood, clearing his throat. He moved to one of the boxes of books he had stacked into a cardboard column the night before. Thankfully, the book he was looking for was in the box on top and he popped the flaps open.

He turned, book in hand, to face the Ravenclaw once more. “This will be a good starting place for you and as soon as you’ve finished it, we can begin.”

She reached up to take the books, careful not to let her fingers come too close to his. Kakashi caught himself staring at her hands and leaned around her to open the door to his office. “Join the class and I’ll be down soon.”

Sakura gathered her textbooks and hugged them, and the book he had loaned her, against her chest before standing to her feet. “Thank you, Professor,” she said quietly, moving past him to make her way down the stairs.

Kakashi shut the door behind her and held it closed with a palm against the wood. He took a deep breath and stared at the chair she had been sitting in. It had gone smoother than he had expected, but he was still bothered by the thought of having to be the one to do this.

It wasn’t exactly in his job description to help students find their confidence, and he highly doubted the best way to do that was through private Occlumency lessons. Though it didn’t exactly matter anymore. There was no taking it back and he would just have to get through the next month and reevaluate things.

Although, if she showed the same kind of enthusiasm as the tiny snippet that she had shown him in her answer, this might not be a disaster. Kakashi knew, though, that if she continued to be reserved and unfocused, she was going to have a horrible time.

 

 


 

AN- OKAY! The basis for the rest of the story is set! Phew...Now the real fun can begin. 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

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“Ugh!” Sakura collapsed onto the grass beneath one of the enormous ash trees that stood towering on the lawn of the castle. “I officially give up,” she mumbled, angrily picking at a few blades of grass that poked up between her legs. At her side, Ino dropped to the grass and nudged her knee with her own.

“Not on my watch, you’re not. It just takes practice.”

“No, riding a bike takes practice. Painting a picture takes practice. This is just ridiculous.” Sakura kicked at the grass, digging the heel of her tennis shoe into the dirt. Across the lawn, just on the other side of the shade of the tree, she could see some of her other classmates practicing still.

Tenten had her fists positioned around her face, her heels bouncing along the ground beneath her as she dodged a slow punch from Choji’s fist. The girl was lithe and quick on her feet, countering his punch with one of her own that connected with his shoulder. Turning back to face Ino, Sakura held her hand toward the pair and pursed her lips. “See? That’s not practice. That’s all natural.”

Ino rolled her eyes and leaned back on her palms. “Okay, she may be a natural, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the hang of it. Hey, Ten!”

Throwing a quick punch, followed by a kick that connected with Choji’s stomach and sent him doubling over in surprise, Tenten whirled around, beaming a grin at the girls on the ground. “Yeah?” She put her hands on her hips and strolled to them, looking down at them with a proud smile. “What’s up?”

“Think you can help our dear pacifist find her inner fighter?” Ino rose to her feet, dusting the grass and dirt from the seat of her pants. She reached a hand down for Sakura, but the girl ignored it, standing to her feet on her own.

With a sigh, Sakura gathered her hair into a ponytail and secured it, frowning to the space between her friends. She wasn’t a pacifist. It wasn’t like she didn’t believe in fighting. She just didn’t see the point in teaching students to fight when it was a class about magical defense. This wasn’t after school karate lessons or something.

If the situation called for a physical fight, she knew more than a few spells that could be used to protect her. And that was something she kind of expected Professor Hatake to know as a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Why in the world he thought they had to learn something so barbaric was—

Ino’s fingers snapped in front of her face and Sakura reared back, blinking up at her friend. “Focus, Sakura!”

“I am!”

The blonde put her hands on her hips and scowled. “Then what did I just say?”

Okay, so maybe she had gotten a bit distracted in her thoughts, but that didn’t mean Sakura hadn’t been focusing before. Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms over her chest and averted her gaze to the castle, not even bothering to answer her.

At the base of the tree trunk, a voice spoke up for her. “Busted…” Shikamaru smirked, folding his arms lazily behind his head. For the duration of the afternoon, he had done nothing physical whatsoever. They had all came out onto the lawn to practice together since it was one of the last warm, sunny days that they could be outside without their coats on and the entire time, he had don’t nothing but lounge against the roots of the tree.

Sakura kicked the bottom of his foot hard enough for his legs to uncross, but Shikamaru sighed and crossed them back, completely unphased by her. “You can nap inside, you know?”

He lifted his face toward the sky, though his eyes remained closed. “And miss this beautiful day?”

Again, Sakura pulled her leg back, intent on kicking him where she knew it would hurt but was stopped by an arm linking around her elbow. Ino pulled her up the lawn until they were out of the shade of the tree and in the warm sunshine.

Glancing back, she could see Tenten with her hands on her hips, saying something to the lazy Ravenclaw in their absence. Sakura hoped she would challenge him to a fight and would make him regret ever opening his mouth.

Once they were far enough away from the others, Ino pulled Sakura back to the ground and sat across from her. They folded their legs and the blonde shook her ponytail over her shoulder.

“You have to stop thinking so much,” Ino sighed. Sakura rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to retort. Before she could say anything, the girl reached over and lightly thumped the middle of her forehead. “And stop rolling your eyes! They’re going to get stuck up in that massive forehead of yours.”

She rubbed the spot between her eyebrows and frowned down at the grass between their knees. She decided to ignore the last bit of what Ino had said, not much in the mood to have a forehead/pig insult match today. “How can I just stop thinking? It’s all I do.”

“Yeah, no shit,” she said with a laugh that made Sakura scowl up at her. “You’re in your head more than anyone should be. It’s not healthy. You’re so focused on your insecurities that you’re letting them get in the way of your magic. And your life, too.”

Sakura wanted to deny it, wanted to tell her that she was wrong, but there was no use in denying it anymore. Her insecurities were exactly the problem. They were always in her mind and every day that she had to see the people who made her feel them, only made things worse. How was she supposed to ignore something like this when it seemed there were certain people who were hellbent on making it apparent to her every chance they could get?

“I can’t just turn off my thoughts, Ino,” Sakura mumbled, once again pulling at the blades of grass beneath her legs. Turning her thoughts off was something she had been trying to do for months, to no avail. Her life would be a thousand times easier if she could.

With a sigh, the Slytherin grabbed a leaf from the ground beside her and set it into Sakura’s palm. “I want you to levitate this—without the attitude, please.” Ino quickly squashed any sarcastic protest that could make its way out of Sakura’s open mouth.

She quickly clamped her lips shut and stared down at the enormous, yellowed leaf resting across her palm. With her free hand, she pulled her wand from her jean’s pocket and pointed the tip toward the leaf. She said the incantation in her mind, narrowing her eyes on the target and willing the magic to make the damn thing float.

The stem lifted off of her hand, fluttered and fell back against her. Frustrated, Sakura closed her fist around the leave and crumbled it into pieces. “I’m so sick of this!” She threw the remnants of the leaf to the ground and started to stand.

Ino was quicker and she snatched her around the wrists, pulling her back to the ground. She sat back down with a heavy sigh, refusing to look at the girl across from her. “Sakura, you have to stop getting so upset. All you’re focusing on is the bad.” Pushing her hair back, Ino moved a bit closer until their knees were touching and she took Sakura’s hands in her own. “Look, just close your eyes.”

After a quick sigh, Sakura did as she was told and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath to calm herself down, resisting the urge to stand back up and stomp off toward the castle like she had previously planned to do. Instead, she stayed on the ground and listened to her friend.

“Okay, think about all of the things in your mind that are giving you problems. All of the insecurities and doubts about yourself. Can you see them?”

Sakura nodded, her lips pursing into a frown.

“Now, imagine yourself sweeping them aside to make a clear path.”

Again, she did as she was told and pictured herself pushing the thoughts away with a broom like she was sweeping the floor of her kitchen back home. A path was made down the middle but occasionally, a few thoughts would make their way back up to the surface and she found herself having to double back to take care of them once again. The frustration from earlier was starting to rear its ugly head once more and she felt her fingers clench around Ino’s.

“I’m not asking you to clean your mind of everything, Sakura. Just focus on a making a clear path.”

Sakura’s eyes snapped open and she met Ino’s gaze. “Are you in my head?”

“How else am I going to make sure you’re doing what I’m telling you to do?” She shook her head with a chuckle. “It’s messy in there, Haruno.”

Sakura tried to jerk her hands away, but they were held tightly in place and Ino laughed. “Relax,” she said, closing her own eyes. “I didn’t see anything. I just wanted to take a peek and see how you were coming along.”

“Well, ask next time,” Sakura snapped, hesitating a moment before her eyes slid closed again. She returned to her previous task of sweeping away the dusty thoughts of her mind, ignoring the presence of her best friend that she couldn’t exactly feel. She wasn’t sure if she should be afraid of how easy Ino could slip into her mind or be thankful for it. At the moment, she was glad for the extra help and once she had cleared a small space in her mind, she heard Ino chuckle softly.

“See? That wasn’t so hard. Now, stay in that circle and this time,” she paused and placed another fallen leaf into Sakura’s palms. “Concentrate on the spell.”

Keeping her eyes closed, Sakura pointed the tip of her wand to the feather light leaf in her hand and said the incantation to herself. Wingardium Leviosa

For a moment, she could feel the light touch of the feather in her palm and she frowned, struggling against the dam holding her thoughts back. She said the incantation once more, seeing nothing behind her eyelids but the words and the leaf lifting from her palm.

She opened her eyes and the sight of Ino’s grin made her lips part in surprise. The leaf fluttered through the air, twisting and soaring like a kite until it was back amongst the branches of the tree it had fallen from. She let her hand fall to her side and stared up at the tree above her as Ino clapped happily.

“See how much easier that was when you had a clear mind?”

She hated to admit that Ino was right. It didn’t happen often and she usually got a big head about it, but Sakura was mature enough to admit that she had learned a thing or two from the Slytherin. With a playful scowl, she nudged her knee with her own. “Well, I suppose you were right, but don’t let it go to your head.”

Ino grinned and hopped to her feet, once again reaching down to offer her hand to Sakura. This time, she took it and let her friend lift her off the ground. She smiled and dusted the bits of grass off of the seat of her pants.

It was strange, feeling so proud of herself for something so small. But it had been so long since she felt any shred of confidence that even the smallest amount felt great. She even let Ino sling her arm around her shoulder as they headed back toward the group of friends still sparring in the shade. “If you can focus like that in class, I know you’ll be back at the top of the class in no time.”

“Ready for a little hand to hand?” Tenten asked as she turned to face them, her fists raising to block her face. She bounced from foot to foot and while Sakura was feeling the small rays of confidence inside her, she was also extremely hungry. Her stomach rumbled in response and she put a hand to her belly, glancing back at the castle.

“Maybe after lunch.”

At the mention of food, Choji and Shikamaru were racing up the hill to the castle, leaving the girls to trail behind them, shaking their heads. Tenten fell in beside Sakura, reaching over to grab her fists in her own hands.

“Here, make a fist like this.” She positioned Sakura’s fingers in a proper fist and positioned them up to her chin. “Keeping them up like this will help you block any punches thrown your way.”

“No,” Ino said with a heavy sigh. “Professor Hatake said it’s better to use the flat of your palm. You can’t do that if you’re making a fist.” She grabbed Sakura’s other hand and tapped her fingers against the hell of it.

“Can I have my hands back, please?”

They fell into a fit of giggles as they hurried into the castle. Saturdays were more loosely scheduled than the other days of the week and the students had a few hours to make it down to the Great Hall for lunch. Sakura was thankful that they had missed the majority of the crowd that usually lingered around noon.

They found an empty space at the end of the Gryffindor table and slid into the benches, Tenten and Ino on one side and Sakura on the other. Fortunately, the boys had found their friends. They all grouped up on the opposite end of the table and were currently chowing down on food like animals.

Sakura wrinkled her nose and watched Naruto reach into one of the bread baskets with his bare hands, his bite of noodles slurping into his mouth. “For Merlin’s sake,” she muttered with a shake of her head. “You’d think they were starving with the way they eat sometimes.”

Tenten paused, her mouth full of whatever sandwich had appeared on the plate before her. “Hrm?” She asked, eyebrows lifting to her hairline before chomping down on the corner of the bread.

She and the blonde were digging into their food as well, though they did manage to keep their eating more civilized than the boys and Sakura gave a shrug. She spread her napkin across her lap and reached for the bowl of mushroom soup.

“You know,” Ino said, pointing the tip of a breadstick toward Sakura. “If you want to practice focusing a bit more this afternoon, I’ll help you.”

“Yeah, and I’ll show you some more stances and moves,” Tenten offered. The two of them nodded to one another and Sakura smiled in thanks.

“That would be nice. Thank you.”

“And who knows, maybe Monday, you’ll be able to show Professor Hatake how talented you really are.” Ino’s words made Sakura pause, her spoon halfway to her mouth. She had tried all weekend not to think about Professor Hatake, his class, or the one person in that class that was always a distraction to her.

She swallowed and dropped the spoon back into the bowl, glancing to her friends as the conversation shifted to something else. Sakura’s thoughts, however, were not easy to push away this time. She let the two girls gossip, thankful that their attention was off of her for the moment. It gave her time to worry about the upcoming lessons she would face with Professor Hatake.

Having him hover over her in class was one thing, a very distracting one thing, but to actually be alone with him and have him read her mind? That was enough to give even the most skilled witches and wizards anxiety. And just thinking about what he might be able to see in her mind…

Sakura pushed her bowl away, her hunger suddenly forgotten behind the knots already twisting their way through her stomach. There was no way she could stomach food now. Not when there was a good chance that Professor Hatake could see things in her mind that no one should ever see.

“Oh, gosh!” She put a hand to her forehead and looked to her friends. “I just remembered I have an Arithmancy essay due on Monday. I’ll see you guys later.”

Sakura ignored their protests, even when Tenten reminded her that they were in the same class and had no such assignment due. She hurried out of the Great Hall, feeling a bit bad for leaving her friends without a better explanation. But, the more she sat there, the more she would worry and Ino always had a way of reading her like a book.

This was something she wouldn’t be able to tell her friends.

Hurrying up to the Ravenclaw common room, Sakura was thankful that the only person she did meet in the halls or on the stairs, were people who didn’t pay much attention to her. She didn’t stop to chat, or even so much as smile politely to anyone and by the time she made it to her private dorm, she was breathless.

She kicked her shoes off by the door and put her forehead to the frame, taking slow, deep breaths to calm herself down. Was it too late to back out of the Occlumency lessons? The last thing she wanted to do was upset Tsunade or Shizune, especially after they had done so much for her through the years. But the chance of Professor Hatake seeing this was something she could barely think about.

It was something she hadn’t even told her best friend, a secret she would take to the grave alone…Well, she and Sasuke. If he even remembered or cared anymore. Which, it was pretty clear he didn’t and if he remembered, he probably had scrubbed his body so many times that he had rid himself of any trace of her.

But she remembered.

She could see it all so clearly in her mind. And if she could still see him and could still feel the ghost of his fingertips across her body in places no one else had ever touched, she was sure that anyone poking around in her mind would be able to as well. The last thing she ever wanted Professor Hatake to know is that she lost her virginity to Sasuke Uchiha in the prefect’s bathroom a week before he dumped her.

 


 

October was one of Kakashi’s favorite months. Long gone was the humidity and heat and the days were growing shorter and cooler. He took a deep breath of the afternoon air and crossed his arms over his chest as he scanned the students scattered around the lawn.

Because it was an absolutely beautiful fall day, and because he was a bit sick of being cooped up in the castle all day, he had let his 7th years combine their class with the Care of Magical Creatures class. Thankfully, Jiraiya had no issues with this, not that Kakashi thought he would. The guy was easier to please than most and any excuse to discuss his latest novel, he would surely take.

Both professors stood on the hillside, watching the advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts students apply the lessons they had learned so far on a few Blast-End Skrewts. Of course, the skrewts were only babies and Jiraiya had assured them all that they had been transfigured from regular beetles, but the threats were still the same.

So far, a few eyebrows had been singed off and after three students were sent to the Infirmary, Kakashi wondered if he should wrap the day up early. Before he could, Jiraiya put his hands on his hips and chuckled at the sight. “This teaching gig isn’t so hard, you know?”

“It’s not hard, but it’s not been very rewarding.” Kakashi frowned and watched the Slytherin Hyuga launch one of the skrewts so high, it splattered as soon as it hit the ground. “You think you like it enough to come back next year?”

Jiraiya shrugged and glanced to the man at his left, a cheeky grin across his face. “Maybe. Though, I think I’d like to try out a University position. These girls are cute, but I prefer ones I could really have fun with.” With his elbow, he nudged Kakashi in the ribs and gestured with a nod toward where a group of girls stood on the hillside, just below them beside a tree.

The four of them, Kakashi had come to realize, were all friends and among them was one student in particular that he had been trying to avoid for the past hour. Sakura’s wand was pointed out in front of her and she had raised the skrewt she and Miss Yamanaka were sharing above their head. Kakashi scowled up at his friend, pulling his gaze away from the girl. “I think you’ve been writing too much adult material lately. How did they ever approve you for this job anyway? Surely the Ministry knows about your other career?”

“Oh, I’m sure they do. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Look at that,” Jiraiya said with a chuckle, pointing to the opposite side of the group. Kakashi followed his gaze and found Mr. Uzumaki and Nara. The baby skrewt they were paired with had backed them up against a tree, its claws poised and ready to deliver a hell of a pinch to either of them.

Mr. Uzumaki raised his foot from the ground and slammed it down on top of the skrewt, sending the guts shooting across the lawn to where one of the Slytherin girls were sitting, watching. A streak of green and brown muck launched across her lap and she shrieked in disgust.

Beside Kakashi, Jiraiya trembled with laughter that he barely hid behind his fist. “Priceless! That Uzumaki kid is a riot. You think he’ll ever amount to anything?”

Just beyond them at the bottom of the hillside, the sound of someone else’s laughter pulled Kakashi’s attention away from the man at his right. Miss Haruno and her friends were laughing at the skrewt they had in the air. She was keeping it afloat near the branches of the tree, showing much improvement from where she had been last week in class.

The blonde Slytherin used her wand to send the skrewt spinning around and around and the sound of her laughter lifted the corner of his lips into a smile he struggled to hold back. Just as he pursed his lips to keep it back, Miss Haruno’s concentration slipped and the skrewt fell to the ground at her feet, blasting her stockings with sparks and singing the fabric. For a moment, the urge to go check on the group popped up and he felt his body take a small step forward.

But he caught sight of the look on Jiraiya’s face, cleared his throat, and quickly turned back to the rest of the students. He barely realized that they had been talking about something and tried to force his brain to concentrate on the question Jiraiya had asked him. Crossing his arms over his chest, Kakashi shrugged and found Mr. Uzumaki in the crowd once more. He and Mr. Nara were apologizing to the girl who still had skrewt guts covering her skirt.

“His scores were barely passing for NEWT level, but he’s got passion…if nothing else. I’ve heard him talking about wanting to become Headmaster a few times.”

“Oi!” Jiraiya’s shouts made Kakashi start and he turned to see a few of the boys crushing the skrewts beneath the heel of their shoes. “Don’t go stomping on them all!” He dropped his hands to his sides and marched across the lawn. “I don’t have an endless supply of beetles, you know?”

In his absence, Kakashi sighed and brought his hand to his face, pinching the bridge of his nose. He had no idea if Jiraiya had noticed him staring at Sakura, and to be honest, he shouldn’t really care. She was his student after all, and it was his responsibility to gauge her progress. To do that, he had to look at her. That wasn’t a crime or inappropriate, but Kakashi couldn’t help but wonder what the hell that look on his face had been about.

Now that he wasn’t alone, he couldn’t help glancing out of the corner of his eye to where the group of girls still stood at the bottom of the hill. They had gotten control of their creature once more and this time, it was Sakura’s turn to spin the skrewt on its side. She shook the hair from her face and laughed at whatever the other was saying.

He tried not to notice, tried to turn his attention back to the other students, but it was no use. It was the first time he had ever seen her smile.


 

AN- Very short chapter, I know. Which is why I'm making it up to you by posting the next one as well! Enjoy!

Chapter Text


 

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The only sounds that could be heard in the library were the occasional sniffles from the few students scattered around and the books being slid back onto the shelves by the librarian. She was an older woman, not very nice and seemed more concerned with keeping the books in as pristine condition as humanly possible than she was with anything else.

She and Sakura had never gotten along, but by the Ravenclaw’s seventh year, they were on tolerable terms. And that was only because each time she checked out a book, she made sure to return it exactly on time and in the exact same manner it had been prior to her possession of it. Sakura was sure that their strained, yet manageable relationship would take a turn for the worse if she ever returned a book with a page dog-eared. Not that she would.

She was a bookmark kind of girl.

But, because she had spent most of her time at Hogwarts in the library, Sakura was able to spend her spare hours there without the occasional glares and shushes from the old librarian. These days, she would barely hear a peep from the woman, and she was thankful that when she needed quiet to finish her assignments, the library was a place she could disappear to.

Sure, other students came and went, spending only enough time among the stacks to finish the assignment or check out a book. They hardly ever stayed as long as Sakura. She could spend hours among the shelves, finishing everything she had been assigned and getting a head start on the things that would be coming up.

Which was exactly where she was now, her Astronomy charts for the next few weeks laid out across the table toward the back of the library. Only two, enormous shelves away was the restricted section where the librarian currently had herself planted.

Tapping her quill across the finished chart showing the winter constellations, Sakura glanced back to where the locked gate was and frowned. The book that Professor Hatake had given her to read had referenced a few others that were currently chained to the shelves in the restricted section. Sakura had been given permission to check out books from there before, but a professor had to sign off on them and she didn’t know if she was ready to ask him for any favors yet.

But she couldn’t help but be a little curious about the other books and while she only had a few chapters to go before she finished the first, she was eager to learn more. Occlumency was much more fascinating than she had previously thought. She could see why Madame Tsunade suggested this path for her to follow.

Sakura stood from her chair, making sure the legs didn’t scrape across the floor and turned to the locked gate in front of the shelves along the back of the cavernous room. She could see the rolling cart between two stacks, and it was nearly empty. “Excuse me,” she whispered as loudly as she could get away with. Luckily, the old woman had heard her and poked her head around the shelf she was working on. A frown was already twisting her wrinkled lips downward. “Could I come back there to see if one of the books I’m looking for is available.”

“Do you have a pass from your professor?” Madame Utatane asked, narrowing her eyes over the half moon glasses that sat on her nose.

Sakura pursed her lips and shook her head. “Well, no, but I’m not looking to check out a book just yet. I only want to make sure it’s available to—”

“No access to the restricted section without a pass. You should know the rules by now.” The woman grabbed a large tome from the rolling cart, wrestling with it for a moment before finally shoving it back onto the shelf.

Sakura sighed and dropped her arms to her side, not wanting to leave without a fight but knowing it was best not to press her luck. With a final scowl to the stacks beyond the gate, she turned away and let the woman continue her task. She slid back into her chair as the door to the library creaked open and a few voices could be heard echoing all the way to the back of the room.

It was barely a breath later and the librarian issued a large shush that echoed around the shelves. Sakura shook her head and picked her quill back up, turning to the rest of her charts. She had managed to plot the constellation of Eridanus in the Northern hemisphere, but the shadow that fell over her table prevented her from continuing.

Sakura lifted her head and nearly sucked in a breath at the sight of the three students, dressed in robes of black and green, surrounding her table. The tallest girl was someone Sakura immediately recognized. It was the same twat who had started barking at her in the Great Hall a few weeks back. She had long, black hair that was slicked back and tied at the nape of her neck. Her long, slender nose was just begging to be punched and Sakura wished she had paid more attention to the pointers Tenten had been trying to give her over the weekend.

“I didn’t know they let dogs in the library, did you, Emi?” The girl said, folding her arms over her chest as she shared a glance with the shorter girl to her left.

This one had a round face, covered in freckles and brown hair tied in braids that hung down on either side of her head. She pushed one plait over her shoulder and let her gaze fall over Sakura’s body with a sneer twisting the top lip of her mouth. “Gross,” she spat. “Don’t they know they’ll only get things dirty with their muddy paws.”

Sakura rolled her eyes and turned back to her charts, knowing it was best to ignore them. Fighting back would only provoke them further and the last thing she wanted was detention for causing a disturbance in the library. But it seemed that today, they had other plans. One of them shoved Sakura’s shoulder and she dropped her quill, nearly spilling her charts onto the floor as well.

“We’re talking to you, bitch.”

Before any rational thought could pop up into her head, Sakura was on her feet and though the middle girl towered over her, she refused to back down. “You expect me to be afraid of your pathetic attempts to insult me?”

“The only pathetic one here is you, Mudblood.” It was Emi who spoke up, poking her chubby finger into Sakura’s chest. “It’s a good thing that Sasuke came to his senses when he did before you could taint him anymore.”

Slowly, Sakura shifted her glare to the other girl. At the back of her tongue, the words she knew could make them furious were threatening to spill. How would they react if they knew that Sasuke had been tainted? Would they still worship him the same way?

“What in Merlin’s name is going on here?” The familiar snap of Madame Utatane’s voice echoed off the shelves and the three Slytherins backed away from Sakura. “I know the lot of you aren’t trying to cause a ruckus in my library. If you were, I’d have to report you all to the Headmistress.”

The girls took a step back, following their leader in the middle. She kept her dark eyes trained on Sakura, not paying a bit of attention to the old librarian’s threats. “Let’s go, girls. It’s starting to smell foul in here.” The two at her side giggled and turned on their heel.

Sakura stood by her work table and watched them leave, wondering if they came in here for the sole purpose of harassing her. She wouldn’t put it past them. As soon as the library doors were swinging shut behind them, she sighed and turned to the woman still standing in the center aisle. “I’m sorry, Madame Uta—”

“I expect more from you. You’re in here enough to know the rules.” With a huff of annoyance, she pushed her rolling cart toward the front of the room, leaving Sakura to stare after her with wide eyes.

Slowly, she lowered herself back into the uncomfortable, wooden chair and glanced around at her unfinished work. The charts she had been working on began to blur beneath the tears that stung at her eyes. Sakura wiped them away quickly and rolled her work back up, stuffing it into her book bag before slinging it around her shoulder.

She didn’t bother turning the table lamp off or pushing in the chair. After what the woman had just said to her, she could march her old ass back here and do it herself. Sakura kept her eyes fixed on the length of the rug beneath her feet as she passed the circular front desk. Thankfully, the librarian was busy sorting through a stack of periodicals to even notice her.

Sakura shoved the swinging door open, using a bit too much force than necessary. The door swung back and hit the wall behind it, the sound echoing around the hall and startling both the Ravenclaw and the man making his way toward the library.

All Sakura saw was the lower half of his body, but she knew who it was before he even spoke. “Miss Haruno?” She could feel Professor Hatake’s eyes on her and she winced, hoping the tears that had been welling up in her eyes wouldn’t be noticeable.

With a sigh, she lifted her head and glanced back to the door that was slowly returning to its former position. “Sorry if I startled you, Professor.” She took a step to the left and screamed inwardly as he took one to his right, blocking her from fleeing away.

“Are you alright?” He asked, making her lift her head. She kept her gaze fixed on one of the lit sconces on the wall, refusing to look at him.

“Yes, I’m fine.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t convinced.

“You don’t seem fine. Did something happen?”

This time, Sakura allowed herself to look at him but not his face. She focused on the three books he held against his side with his right arm. She stared at the leather covers, forcing herself not to meet his gaze. With a sigh, she adjusted the strap of her bookbag and briefly lifted her eyes to his. It was a mistake.

He looked concerned, which was the last thing she wanted. Couldn’t he just leave it alone and let her go to her room? She wanted to tell him that he didn’t have to play the worried professor part to her. She really didn’t care if he was concerned about her or not.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” she finally answered him. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some homework I need to finish.”

He let her step around him, but if she thought she would be free, she was wrong. Before she could get far enough away, he spoke again. “Did you get a chance to start the book I lent you?”

Her steps slowed to a stop and she took a breath, lifting her eyes to the ceiling in frustration. She turned back to face him. “I did. I’m nearly finished, actually.”

The look of surprise on her face was almost enough to make her forget about what was making her upset and she nearly laughed. He shifted his armful of books and studied her for a moment. “That’s quite impressive. Do you think you’ll feel comfortable starting your lessons in the next couple of weeks?”

Sakura nodded and glanced back to the library doors. “I was actually wanting to check to see if another book was available in the restricted section. But I have to have a professor’s signature to even look for it.”

Professor Hatake followed her gaze to the doors before facing her once more. There was a look across his eyes, one she had never seen on him before and couldn’t quite define. It was almost…mischievous. It instantly sent a strange warmth through her stomach and she swallowed.

He took a step toward the library and held the door open with one hand as he nodded toward the entrance. “Come on,” he instructed. “I’ll sign off on your permission slip and see which one you’re interested in.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa…

Alarms were going off in her mind and she tried to keep her face as passive as possible, but it was a bit difficult doing that. She was going into the restricted section with the one professor in Hogwarts that intimidated the hell out of her. The thought alone was enough to make her shudder…Actually doing it?

He lifted an eyebrow as he waited for her to make a move and she blinked herself out of her stupor. Sakura ducked her head and hurried past him, making her way back into the library. As she passed by his outstretched arm, she couldn’t help noticing the sleeves of his white button-up shirt were rolled up to his elbows. Along the back of his forearm, a single vein stretched from beneath the muscles of his hand to disappear beneath the fabric of his shirt.

Nope, Sakura snapped her attention to the front, refusing to accept the fact that she just checked out his forearm. Not going to check any part of my professor out.

She came to a stop on the carpet in front of the front desk and Professor Hatake moved around her, dropping the three books he had onto it. The noise made the old librarian poke her head around one of the shelves and she scowled at the sight of Sakura one again.

“I need to return these, Madame Utatane.” He glanced down at Sakura and she caught a brief second’s glance at the corner of his mask. It seemed to lift up his cheek, a fraction of an inch, but enough for her to notice and—was that a smile? “Also, Miss Haruno needs access to the restricted section, so I’ll sign off on her permission slip while I’m here.”

Madame Utatane’s scowl deepened as she took the books he had returned, dropped them on the rolling cart, and snatched a ledger book off the desk. She opened it toward the middle and grabbed a quill for him to write with. “Students who start fights in the library should lose privileges like these, if you ask me.”

Sakura’s eyes widened and she glanced nervously up at the man beside her. His hand slowed, the quill coming to a stop on the page. He lifted his gaze to the woman and again the mask across his face rose a smidge up the bridge of his nose. If he was smiling now, it didn’t show in his eyes at all. He dropped the quill into the center of the ledger book.

“I didn’t.” He ignored the look of indignation on the woman’s face and turned to Sakura. “Now, what books were you interested in?”

She took a step back to let him walk past her, not sure whether to apologize to the librarian or follow him. In the end, she chose the latter, chalking it up to karma for being so rude to Sakura earlier. She situated the strap of her bag on her shoulder and hurried to catch up to him. “I, erm, can’t remember the title right now. I think it was—”

“Were you starting fights in the library?” He asked once they had put enough distance between them and the front desk. He didn’t look down at her as he led the way and Sakura had to pick up the speed to keep up.

“Of course not,” she said with a frown, not wanting to explain this all to him. She didn’t exactly have much of a choice, though. “A few girls were being obnoxious and didn’t like when I stood up for myself. I’m not much of a fighter, if you haven’t noticed.”

This time, he made a sound that resembled a chuckle, but Sakura had never heard him laugh, so she couldn’t be too sure. It sounded strange coming from him, almost alien. As they rounded the shelves leading to the restricted section, Professor Hatake glanced down at her and a touch of warm met her cheeks.

“I think you’re more of a fighter than you think.”

Her steps slowed and she let him walk ahead of her for a moment, his words sinking into her mind. She didn’t know how he could be sure of that. They didn’t know one another enough to make those kinds of assumptions, but she couldn’t deny that it felt…good? That wasn’t right. She wasn’t sure how it made her feel to have him think of her in that way.

At least he didn’t see her as pathetic, like she had suspected.

Professor Hatake pulled his wand out of his pocket and pointed the tip to the gate. He pushed the door open and held it back, once again letting her inside in front of him. She ducked inside the section of shelves and frowned as she looked up at the call numbers written at the top of each of them.

“One of the titles was The Mind and I, but I can’t remember the author.”

The gate shut behind them and she turned to find him far closer to her than he had been before. He looked over her shoulder and shook his head, obviously not at all phased by being close to her.

“That one is rubbish. Three hundred pages of the guy boasting about how talented he is and only about fifty that actually has Occumency.” He moved along the shelves, tilting his head to the side to read the titles of the books he passed. Sakura swallowed and fell in step behind him. “You could check out My Thoughts, Your Thoughts, but it’s mostly theory. A good read, once you’ve learned the basics.”

“And you’ve read all of these?” Sakura followed behind him as they turned the corner and moved between another set of shelves. The stacks towered around them like a labyrinth and she wasn’t sure how she felt about getting lose in them with her professor.

Sure, there were all sorts of rumors about sneaking into the restricted section at night. It was the gossip when anyone was caught trying to sneak into the stacks for a good make out session. It didn’t happen often, but there were always rumors of this person or that doing things they definitely shouldn’t.

“I wouldn’t make you read something that I haven’t read myself.” Professor Hatake’s voice cut through her thoughts and she hurried to catch up to him around the shelf. He ran his fingers over the spines of a row on the top shelf. Two things immediately stood out to Sakura; one, he had no trouble reaching up that high whereas she would definitely have to fetch a step-ladder, and two, his fingers were as attractive as his forearm.

Damnit, what did we talk about? No thoughts about the attractive features of your professors!

He plucked a book out, the chain attached around the cover rattling noisily as he did so before he checked the title. “This one should be useful for you.”

Sakura watched him tap his wand to the metal binding around it and the lock fell away, banging against the shelf as he presented it to her. Her fingers curled around the edges, careful to stay far from his, and she looked down at the faded, red blue cover. The title was written in gold letters that had lost a bit of their luster but still managed to catch the light of the candles floating above them.

Mind Over Matter: Mastering the Art of Occlumency

“The titles are a bit cheesy, and it was written nearly two centuries ago, so the descriptions can get a bit lengthy, but I think it’ll be better for you than the others around here.” He pushed his hands into his pockets and glanced up from the book in her hands, meeting her gaze. “I have a few more in my office but those can wait. I don’t want you to overload on information, although being a Ravenclaw, I’m sure you’re used to doing that.”

She smiled, ducking her head with a soft laugh as she hugged the book closer to her chest. “I’ll try not to,” she said, looking back up at him. “Thank you, Professor.”

“Anytime.” He held out a hand, gesturing for her to take the lead as they made their way out of the labyrinth of bookshelves. They stepped back into the regular part of the library and he pulled the gate shut behind them. “I’ll see you in class on Wednesday. Just try not to start anymore fights before then, Miss Haruno.”

The mask shifted up the bridge of his nose, but unlike the smile he gave the librarian, this one was written clearly across his eyes. Again, warmth touched her face and she quickly ducked her head and hoped her hair covered any trace of it. It was so bizarre to hear him make a joke, if that was even what he was doing. It was hard to tell with him.

“Goodnight, Professor,” she managed to mumble before hurrying toward the front of the library. She left him standing in front of the reference section, and despite how badly she wanted to turn around to see if he was looking her way, she didn’t.

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Thursday night, Sakura was thankful for the free period at the end of her school day. She usually used the free hour before her Head Girl duties began to catch up on homework, but tonight, she was catching up on something else that was just as vital; gossip.

Well, she and Ino were gossiping. Tenten was trying to hurry through her Transfiguration essay, using her friend’s as examples. Sakura stepped over the girl’s workspace on her way to the bed and sat down on the mattress. They were using her private dormitory because…well, why wouldn’t they?

It was the perfect place to gossip as loudly as possible.

“So, go through it all again. I want to know exactly what was said so I know who to punch first.” Ino popped a piece of candy into her mouth and leaned back against the wall just to the left of the desk beneath the window. For the past half hour, Sakura had been telling them about the fight that had broke out in the library.

Of course, nothing happened, but the Slytherin bitches had definitely let the rumors slip that they had beaten Sakura up. How they explained her lack of bruises, she wasn’t too sure. Not even the best jinxes and potions could clear up bruises that fast.

Rolling her eyes, the Ravenclaw pulled her legs up onto the bed underneath her and hugged a pillow against her stomach. “I’ve already been through it twice. I don’t want you punching anyone.”

“Yeah, well, if they keep running their mouths,” Tenten said from the floor, not lifting her head from the parchment she was halfway finished with. “I’ll break their jaws.”

“And get expelled? Don’t even stoop to their level. Everyone knows they’re full of shit anyway.” Sakura stared down in to the corner of her pillow, twisting a loose string around her middle finger. She bit her lip, debating on whether or not to tell them what had happened after the nonexistent fight. For the past two days, she had kept the secret of her and Professor Hatake’s little trip through the restricted section a secret. It wasn’t like anything had happened, not that she even wanted it to, but it still felt like something…juicy. “Besides, I had a little help taking my mind off of it.”

From the floor, Ten’s quill slowed to a stop and she and Ino both slowly looked up at Sakura with their eyebrows arched. It was the blonde who spoke up first, pushing off the wall to lean closer. “What does that mean?”

Oh, Merlin, why did she have to say anything?

Rolling her eyes, she shrugged and forced her face to remain passive and expressionless. “Well, I ran into Professor Hatake and he took me to the restricted section—”

Ino fell back against the wall, eyes wide as she reached desperately for something to hold onto. She found the desk and hauled herself up onto her feet. “Forehead! How could you keep this in for two days? What were you thinking?”

Sakura laughed and grabbed her pillow, tossing it to Ino’s face. “Calm down, you pervert! He helped me find a book that he wants me to read for our Occlumency lessons. That’s all.”

“Wait, Professor Hatake? The same professor who you’re practically terrified of?” Tenten asked, shaking her head in disbelief.

“I’m not terrified—”

“The same professor who nearly made you piss your pants last week?”

“Yes! The same professor,” Sakura threw her hands up in defeat before pointing her finger to Ino. “And I didn’t almost piss my pants! I said, I would have pissed my pants if I had been in trouble with him.”

The two girls fell silent, the Transfiguration essay laying forgotten on the floor. Sakura felt nervous in the quiet and she worried if she should have even told them the truth. If there was any two people in the entire castle she could trust, it was the both of them, but this wasn’t the usual gossip. Of course, it was hardly gossip at all.

So, he had taken her to the restricted section? It’s not like it was a date! He was being a professor, something Shizune or Professor Umino would have done as well. But, the longer the three of them sat together in silence, the more worried she grew, and she chewed the nail on her thumb.

Tenten finally broke the silence. “I wouldn’t mind spending a few minutes alone with him in the restricted section, if you know what I mean?”

Ugh, they were such perverts!

Sakura grabbed another pillow and chunked it at her head. “You can’t even look at Neji without drooling and stammering.”

Despite trying to hold it back, laughter burst out of Ino’s mouth and she quickly caught a pillow to the face as well. “Hey! I’m not the one who said it!” She tossed the pillow back to Sakura and wiggled her eyebrows. “But, I’m totally with Ten on this one. I wouldn’t mind being alone with Professor Hatake and catching a peek of what’s behind his mask.”

“Ugh!” Sakura gave up, collapsing back on her bed with a small bounce. The two girls fell into a fit of giggles and she wanted to remind Tenten about the essay that was due in the morning, but she stayed quiet.

She wasn’t sure if she shared the same sentiments for their professor as the two of them did, but she was sure of one thing; she definitely shouldn’t have told them about her trip to the restricted section with the man.

 


 

The week ended as hectic as it had begun for Kakashi and he was practically itching for another run. It had been a few weeks since he had been in his other form and a nice, long run was exactly what he needed to properly unwind. All of the stresses and tension sat heavily on the space between his shoulders and no matter how much he tried to work them free, they remained.

But now that it was Friday night, he figured he could put off his lesson plans until Sunday and enjoy a night to himself, chasing scents deep in the forest. He switched his lamp off and stood from his desk, reaching for his jacket draped over the back of his chair.

Pulling his office door shut behind him, Kakashi slipped his arms into the jacket and twisted his head to the side. The bones in his neck popped but did little to relieve the ache of tension at the base of his skull, unfortunately.

He pointed his wand to the over-head lights, and they switched off, plunging the classroom into darkness. That did more to help his headache than anything else and he sighed as his eyes relaxed from the lack of light.

Just a trip down the stairs and out the door, and he would be free for the night. Of course, he would have been had it not been for the two figures standing on either side of his classroom door, waiting for him. The sight of Gai and Iruka made him start in surprise but he quickly recognized what the gleam in their eyes meant as they grinned at him. Ah, they were wanting to have a bit of fun.

“Care for a pint at the pub?” Iruka held up a galleon and let it tumble over his fingers. “I’m buying.”

“Is that your way of getting me out of the castle?”

“Would you come along otherwise?” He asked with a grin, falling in beside Kakashi. “You’ve been here over a month and haven’t come out with us once. It’s our Friday night ritual, you know?”

Of course, he knew it was. It seemed that the Friday night ritual they had started during their days at Hogwarts had come along into adulthood as well. Iruka, Gai, and occasionally Yamato would spend the evening, drinking themselves into a stupor while trading tall tales or filthy jokes. And Kakashi could sometimes be conned into joining them, usually by a heavy guilt trip laid on thick.

Which seemed to be their tactic tonight.

“I suppose you’re too cool for us, now, eh?” Gai clapped him on the back and Kakashi resisted the need to flinch. Sometimes, the man didn’t know his own strength, and it was usually when he decided to smack Kakashi on the back or shoulder.

“A man is only as cool as the company he keeps, Gai.” He sighed and rubbed his hands across his forehead. “I think I can spare the time for one drink, especially if Umino is buying.”

By the time they made it down to the Hog’s Head in the little town of Hogsmeade, they were joined by another professor who sought a night away from the castle. Jiraiya lifted a hand in a friendly wave, his grin hidden behind the enormous tankard of ale he was gulping down. He dropped it onto the bar with a satisfied sigh and greeted the three men making their way inside.

“Was starting to wonder if you boys were going to cheap out on me. You promised me a pint, Umino.”

Iruka rolled his eyes, shrugged off his jacket and slid into the stool next to the man. “Yeah, yeah, why is it always me buying the pints?”

The four of them settled into their stools and ordered a round of beer from the grizzled, old bartender. As the tankards were set in front of them one by one, Kakashi glanced to his friends lined up to his right. He was the only one who kept his jacket on. He had been serious about that one drink, after all.

Walking down to the village had only made his previous itch grow worse and he nearly backed out of the evening twice. But they were right. He had been putting them off for far too long and what kind of friend would he be to turn down a free drink?

He pulled his glass to him, hooking his fingers around the handle. The head on the beer was frothy and took up half the glass. He frowned over the top of it and took a drink the best he could without getting an enormous beer foam mustache. At least it was decent beer.

He left his mask around his chin and sighed, staring down at the worn wood of the bar. To his right, the three professors had already started discussing classes and students they were having trouble with in their classes. That was one thing Kakashi wasn’t interested in talking about. He wanted to take his mind off of all that.

“These kids are so much different than we were,” Iruka mused before taking another drink of his beer. “All they’re concerned with is one another, who they’re dating, and who they could shag next.”

Jiraiya snorted and slapped his hand down on the bar. “Are you kidding? That’s all any sixteen or seventeen-year-old is concerned with! The problem isn’t the kids. The problem is you all forgot what it’s like to be young and filled to the brim with hormones.”

“Maybe that’s all you were concerned with, but I know Kakashi and I were more focused on our future than our love life.”

Kakashi lifted his eyebrows at Iruka’s statement and leaned forward to stare at the man. It was true, of course. They had barely looked at girls while they were at Hogwarts, but that didn’t mean he wanted to reminisce about those days. He was a completely different person than the hyper-focused, never had time to care about anyone else, kid he had been.

“Speaking of love life,” Jiraiya muttered as he downed the rest of his beer. He had his eye on two witches that had made their way into the pub, wiping their boots on the rug. They were rather plain looking, but well endowed in the right area and Kakashi shook his head with a laugh. “I’ll be back.”

He met the women at the front of the bar and guided them to a rounded booth near the front window, positioning himself right between them as they slid into it. Kakashi, Iruka and Gai all stared after him in dubious amazement.

“I had hoped that this job change would have matured him a little,” Iruka said, turning back around.

“You do remember who you’re talking about, right?”

Gai leaned forward and caught Kakashi’s gaze, his eyebrows bouncing up and down his forehead. “We haven’t heard much about your love life since you started. Still dating that brunette? Hanare, was it?”

The ball of tension that had been nestled deep in Kakashi’s muscles tightened more and he tried not to flinch at the mention of his ex-girlfriend. It had been nearly seven months since he ended things with her, and it still felt a bit bitter in the back of his mouth to think about. He shook his head and stared at the bubbles floating along the top of the amber liquid in the glass. “Not since March.”

“Oh,” Gai and Iruka shared a quick glance, one that hadn’t gone unnoticed by Kakashi. “Sorry, friend. Didn’t mean to bring up old wounds.”

“No, it’s fine.” He took a deep breath. Truthfully, he wasn’t hurt over it. They had only been dating out of convenience. The two of them had been Aurors in the same department for the Ministry and Kakashi knew she had a crush on him for a while. He finally broke down against his better judgment, asked her out and for a few months, things had been great.

But as time went by, it became clear that she wanted something Kakashi didn’t want to give her; a family. After giving him an ultimatum, marry her or leave, he chose the latter and she had moved departments by the following week.

It was a bit unnerving how little he felt about it all. He had cared about Hanare, even before they had started dating. But he had never been in love with her and she wanted much more than he could give her.

“You know,” Iruka started with a sympathetic smile. “Toward the holidays, there are some rather cute witches who come shopping and stay for a few weeks. I’m sure you could find someone to take your mind off of things.”

Kakashi scoffed and shook his head. He turned his glass up and poured the rest of his beer down his throat. “Thanks,” he said, standing from his stool. “But I’m not exactly looking to date anyone. Thanks for the drink.”

He patted Iruka on the back and did the same to Gai. “You’re leaving already?”

“I did say one drink. I’ve got some work to finish that I’ve been meaning to do for the past few weeks. Maybe next Friday, I’ll join you again.” Kakashi turned toward the door, ignoring the protests from his friends and the sight of Jiraiya drunkenly flirting with the two witches in the booth. The man barely even noticed him leaving, lifting a distracted hand to wave goodbye.

Outside, Kakashi took a deep breath and tried stretching his neck again, hoping to relieve the tension. It hadn’t worked and he sighed, knowing there was only one thing that would. He crossed the street and hurried between the buildings, heading toward the little haunted shack just outside the village. It was the perfect place to change into his animagus form.

No one ever went to the shack.

Kakashi stuffed his hands in his pockets and picked up the pace, crossing between the shack and the woods to it’s right. Once in the shadows, he pushed his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. The incantation was in his mind, but he couldn’t concentrate enough to get the spell off.

A dark figure, making its way up the hillside caught his attention and Kakashi narrowed his eyes. He ducked down behind a few trees and blinked up at the figure. They were short in stature and the cloak and hood around them blocked him from seeing any discernible features. But they were making their way toward Hogwarts and instantly, he bristled.

Shit,” he cursed quietly to himself, glancing back toward the village at his back. If he went back for Iruka and Gai, he could lose sight of the figure. He crept out from behind the trees and followed far enough behind not to raise suspicions.

They moved up the hill side and toward a narrow path that Kakashi could remember from his days at Hogwarts. It was the path some of the students used to take to sneak down to the Shrieking Shack for whatever purpose. That was something he had been too focused on his future to worry about. He was sure it involved either sex or alcohol, maybe both.

But if this person was a student, why were they alone?

Of course, he didn’t think they were anything particularly dangerous either. Several times on the way up the hill, the figure seemed to trip on the edge of their cloak or a fallen branch and after the last stumble, they lit the way with light from their wand and a quick curse. They definitely weren’t trying to be stealthy.

Kakashi shook his head. He could follow them back up to the castle, slap them with detention to scare them out of sneaking out again, but he was still wanting to take that run. And honestly, detention wouldn’t deter students from breaking the rules.

He figured he would follow them to the castle, just to make sure they got there safely, and then he would double back through the forest. But, as they neared the lake and the little streams that flowed through the trees, Kakashi nearly stumbled himself. The figure cursed again and pushed the hood away from their face.

Pink hair caught the light of the moon above them and he felt as if he were suddenly petrified to the spot. Why on earth was Sakura Haruno out past curfew, strolling back to the castle from the shrieking shack? Had she been meeting someone?

He turned to glance over his shoulder but could see or hear no trace of anyone following. He faced her again and found her hurrying up the path. She extinguished her light now that the castle was enough to light the way.

The further she got away from him, the more he felt frozen. Every instinct inside him was telling him to turn back, take his run and forget about her. He hadn’t figured her out yet after a month of teaching her. Trying to figure her out now was impossible. He finally managed to move but not in the direction he had been wanting to go.

His feet took him forward, one foot after another, until he was back at the same pace as she moved, maybe a bit faster. The slope of the hillside slowed her down and by the time she reached the top, where the greenhouses lined the back of the castle, he was close enough to see the frown on her face as she glanced out toward the lake, nearly catching sight of him. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to notice his presence.

Kakashi rolled his eyes. She wasn’t going to make the best Auror if she could nearly look right at him and not notice she was being followed. As she moved toward the courtyard, he jogged up the rest of the hill. He was directly behind her as she rounded the stone walls and passed beneath the archway leading toward the west entrance.

“Miss Haruno,” he said, probably a bit too loud and sharp.

She whirled around, cloak swirling around her as she brought her hands to her chest and stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes. “Professor! You scared me half to death!”

He crossed his arms over his chest and lifted an eyebrow. “Care to explain why you’re sneaking around at nearly midnight?”

Her eyes darted to the shadows beyond the courtyard, in the direction they had just came from. She stammered for a moment, swallowed and forced a smile. “I-I thought I saw some students sneaking out while making my rounds. I was trying to catch them.”

“And did you?”

He could tell she was trying to figure out how long he had been following her. Taking a stroll around the grounds at night didn’t call for the same kind of punishment as sneaking off halfway to Hogsmeade did. He wasn’t going to give her detention, but he didn’t want her to know that just yet.

“No, Professor.” She looked down at the ground in defeat.

Kakashi nodded. “Because there weren’t any student sneaking out, correct?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“So, let’s try this again,” he said, shifting on his feet as he tilted his head to look down at her. “Why were you sneaking around so late, Miss Haruno?”

She lifted her head to him, and their eyes met. For a moment, Kakashi felt a bit stunned by the look she gave him. There was anger and hurt behind her gaze, only a brief flash but enough that he had noticed. Her face softened and she sighed, shrugging her shoulders helplessly.

“I just wanted to be alone.”

Slowly, he dropped his arms to his sides and studied her face. He could tell she was being sincere. In fact, he was certain that he had looked exactly like that when trying to convince Iruka and Gai that he had to end their Friday night ritual early.

He could understand the need to be alone, and he sighed, glancing around the empty courtyard. “I understand,” he said quietly. Her eyebrows lifted in surprise and he wasn’t sure why she was surprised that he could show a bit of compassion. “It’s just not safe to go off alone. Try to stay inside the castle at night, alright?”

She nodded but said nothing as the two of them continued to stare at one another. Kakashi cleared his throat and for the life of him, couldn’t stop himself from saying more. How hard was it to say goodnight, Miss Haruno and let her be on her way?

“But if you want to be alone in the future, you should try taking a walk on the seventh floor. It’s usually quiet and empty, especially around the Barnabas tapestry.” He gave her a smile though it was hidden and pushed his hands into his pockets.

This time, her head tilted to the side and her lips parted. He kept his eyes on her own and refused to let himself look at her mouth. That is, until a small smile tilted the corner and he couldn’t help himself. He quickly looked away and nodded. “Goodnight, Miss Haruno.”

He turned on his heel and left her standing beside the west entrance to the castle. It was probably wrong of him to leave her there but being in her presence was starting to feel a bit suffocating. He drew in a deep breath and hurried through the shadows, needing his run more than ever before.

 


 

AN- Hopefully, this additional chapter made up for the shortness of the last :) 

 

Chapter Text


 

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“Alright, students!” Shizune’s voice echoed through the courtyard and Sakura lifted her head as she wiped the sleep from the corner of her eyes. The woman waved her hand above her head, ushering the small group of head students toward her. “Gather round!”

Together, the eight seventh year students formed a half circle around her. It was a Saturday, the first Hogsmeade Saturday to be exact, and they had been called to the front of the castle for a quick meeting before the other students made their way down. Something Sakura’s fellow Ravenclaw did not seem to be happy about.

Shikamaru stifled his tenth yawn behind his elbow and let his head fall forward until his chin was touching his chest. His eyes were closed and though she knew he couldn’t possibly be asleep, Sakura could have sworn she heard him snoring softly. With a sigh, she elbowed him in the ribs before he could be caught by Shizune. He gave a grunt and shook his head before facing the front once more.

“As you know, it’s time again for our trips to Hogsmeade and I’m counting on the lot of you to not only collect the permission forms but also keep an eye on your younger classmates. They look to you for guidance…”

Sakura glanced out of the corner of her eye to where the tall, red haired Slytherin stood on the other side of the half circle. Her first instinct was to quickly look away and pretend she had never been looking in the first place, but the sight of Karin’s outfit choice for the day kept her attention glued to her. She was wearing a purple top that showed a bit too much midriff for Sakura’s taste, with tight black pants and boots that reached above her knees.

It was highly inappropriate and broke so many rules of the dress code!

So why was Shizune not addressing the matter? Sakura turned away from the girl with a roll of her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. If the students could wear whatever they wanted, maybe she’d start wearing her uniform skirt rolled up a few inches or leave the top few buttons of her shirt opened. But of course, if she did that, she wouldn’t make it to lunch before she had been handed a dress code violation or worse, detention.

The only reason Karin Uzumaki got away with so much was because of her family name.

“If you’ll all help collect the permission slips we can get started,” Shizune said with a quick smile, breaking through Sakura’s thoughts. Behind her, several other students were beginning to make their way down to the courtyard. Sakura took her place beside Shikamaru, her eyes still glancing back to Karin.

“Can you believe what she’s wearing?”

With a lazy peek out from behind one eye, Shikamaru spotted her and scoffed. “Is that why you look as if you sat on a venomous tentacula?

“She’s showing too much of her stomach!” Sakura hissed, snatching one of the permission forms from a third year student. “We have a dress code for a reason.”

The Ravenclaw Head Boy took a seat on the stone bench beside them and sighed, stuffing his hands into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. “Stop worrying so much about what everyone else is doing. Relax, go with the flow.” He folded his hands behind his head and leaned back to grin lazily up at her. “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

Sakura scowled down at him and collected another third year permission form. She noticed that no one had seemed to even notice the head boy yet, and more than likely wouldn’t. Shikamaru was far too busy lazing about to do any of his Head Boy duties. There was no point in even trying to get him to help her and she settled for standing beside him, holding her hands out in waiting.

Only once did she let herself look back at Karin happily greeting her fellow students. Sakura didn’t understand how she was one of the most liked and most popular girls in school. There was nothing going on behind her eyes when she looked at you, like a gold retriever puppy. But the girl definitely had set high sights for herself. She and Sakura had been in competition since their first year for the top of the class, though it was clearly more important to the latter.

Throwing Shikamaru into the mix, who was infuriatingly smart for someone so unbelievably lazy, and Sakura had to fight for every grade she ever made. And that was exhausting enough as it was! How could someone find the time to make nearly perfect grades, have a boyfriend, and keep their appearances up like Karin Uzumaki? Sakura considered it a good week if she managed to slap makeup on once. Doing it every day? That was ridiculous.

As the last third year placed their forms into the stack in Sakura’s hand, she glanced down at her oversized, navy sweater and frowned. Her figure practically drowned in the fabric and though she couldn’t be too sure, she suspected it was a hand-me-down from her father’s college days. Sure, she had paired it with a nice, pleated gray skirt and leggings, but the entire outfit made what little curves she had turn to straight lines.

No wonder Sasuke preferred Karin’s tight clothes and ample hips.

“What’s kickin’ little chicken?” A happy voice sounded at her ear as an arm slung around her shoulders. The stack of papers in her hands nearly slipped out but she managed to press them to her chest to keep them from flying away.

Sakura scowled up at her best friend and shook her head. “You’re in an awfully good mood today.”

“Of course, I am! We get to go shopping!” The blonde pulled her closer and together, they walked to turn in the permission forms to Shizune. “We’re definitely going to go in Gladrags and I’m thinking I can sneak some dungbombs into those nasty bitches’ dorm while they’re sleeping so we’ll need to hit up Zonko’s and—”

“You know I can’t let you do that, right?” Sakura shook her head with a laugh, handing the forms off to a, thankfully, distracted Shizune who was currently handling a squabble between a few third years. As the older witch grabbed the two boys by their earlobes to haul them off to the Headmistress’ office, Sakura turned to a pouting Ino. “The best revenge is letting them see they don’t bother me.”

“Well, they bother me,” The blonde retorted, crossing her arms over her emerald green sweater. At least Sakura wasn’t the only one sporting house colors today.

“Who doesn’t bother you? You’re the easiest person in Hogwarts to annoy.” By now, Shikamaru had rose from his seat on the bench and stepped between the two girls. He glanced to the Slytherin on his left and shook his head.

“It’s not my fault so many people give me a reason to be annoyed.” Ino swept her hand toward him. “Exhibit A.”

“I could be as quiet as a mouse, and you’d still find a way to be annoyed.”

“Yeah,” Ino said, nudging Sakura with her elbow. “Because it’s your face that annoys me.”

Shikamaru opened his mouth to fire back a response but Sakura had had enough of their bickering for the day. She stepped between the two and held her hands up to shut them up. “Enough with the squabbling. Shikamaru, I think I see Choji by the bridge waving at you.”

The Ravenclaw boy mumbled something too low for the girls to hear before turning to make his way to his own friends. Once he was far enough away, Sakura rolled her eyes. “I swear, you two have so much pent up sexual tension.”

Ino’s eyes blazed with furious disgust and she swiped a hand across Sakura’s shoulders for even mentioning something so horrible. It only made her giggle and she rubbed at the spot on her arm that had been attacked.

“You’re sick, Forehead. You know that, right?”

An hour later, the two girls made their way out of the post office, peering down into the box of goodies Sakura’s mother had sent her. Her parents had never gotten the hang of using owls to send their correspondence, especially with her father’s slight fear of birds. Though he’d never admit it, Mrs. Haruno had told Sakura in strict confidence that the first time an owl pecked at their front window, he had jumped so far off the sofa, he nearly touched the ceiling.

To be honest, Sakura didn’t mind using the old fashioned way of delivering letters to her parents. She never had to worry about cleaning up owl droppings at the post office.

“Oh, look! She got our photos developed!” Ino dipped her hand into the box to pull out a few photos from their holiday last Christmas in Suna. The Yamanaka family invited Sakura along with them to the magical resort near the southern coast of the wizarding village. It had been her first trip to a magical place that wasn’t Hogwarts and she had filled three disposable cameras full of pictures.

These were from the last of the cameras and the two girls bent their heads together as they cycled through each one. “Wow,” Sakura said, looking closely at one of the photos. “I look so tan!”

“Yeah, this must have been the day before you laid in the sun out for two hours and burnt to a crisp!” Ino giggled.

With a roll of her eyes, Sakura snatched the picture out of her hands and slid it back into the box, tying the string back around the lid. She knew there’d be a letter from her parents, but she preferred to read that when she was alone. Besides, she didn’t want to share any of her muggle treats.

Thankfully, Ino didn’t ask for any and glanced around the street around them. The little village was filled with students. The younger ones had been packed inside either Zonko’s or Honeyduke’s and the older students mingled in their cliques.

“Okay, I need some new stockings,” Ino looped her arm around Sakura’s and steered her to the right. “And maybe a new scarf for this winter. Oh! And maybe a few—”

Her words stopped abruptly, along with her steps, and Sakura looked up in confusion. At first, she had no idea what made the ever-talkative blonde stop talking about shopping. Across the lane, several groups of students were zipping past, firing their trick wands at one another. And between a stream of blue and yellow sparks, Sakura saw exactly what shut Ino up.

Sasuke stood near the steps outside Gladrag’s, his arm tight around his new girlfriend’s waist as they chatted to a few other Slytherins. He was smirking at something, his chin resting on Karin’s shoulder. She was talking animatedly with her hands on her hips, but she looked back at Sasuke and smiled up at him.

Sakura recognized that smile. It was the same one she used to look at him with. It was a smile of happiness.

“Come on, let’s go to The Three Broomsticks.” Ino turned her away from the scene, quickly rushing them back past the post office. “I’m thirsty anyway.”

She hadn’t been before, but Sakura was feeling a bit thirsty herself. Her tongue sat heavy and dry inside her mouth and she hugged her parcel closer to her chest. Having something from her home, a little piece of her parents, near to her made her heart ache for home.

Maybe it was seeing Sasuke so happy with his new life, she couldn’t tell for sure.

She just knew she wanted to go home.

“Hello Ino, Sakura.” The soft voice at their left made both girls stop on the sidewalk, turning to find a fellow seventh year smiling to them. Instantly, Ino’s hands gripped a bit tighter at Sakura’s elbow and she made a small squeak in the back of her throat.

“Oh, hey,” Ino rasped, pressing a hand to her chest as she cleared her throat. “How are you, Sai?”

The Slytherin boy glanced between them and tilted his head to the side, staring at the box clutched beneath Sakura’s arm. “I saw you coming out of the post office earlier, but you looked a bit preoccupied with your package. I’m doing well, how about yourself?”

“We’re good. Ah, actually—” Ino looked at Sakura, lifting her eyebrows. “We’re heading to The Three Broomsticks for some tea. Would you want to join us?”

Sakura hid her sigh and looked away, pursing her lips in annoyance. Well, this was just lovely. She had to witness pure happiness between Sasuke and his new fling only to follow it up with being the third wheel.

Just lovely.

But she knew Ino had been eyeing Sai for the past year and had been uncharacteristically shy about approaching him. This was her chance to finally click with the boy and Sakura would never stand in her way or make her feel bad about inviting him along.

“I would love to,” he said. His answer immediately made Ino’s lips spread into a wide smile. “But I was on my way to the Quill shop.”

“Oh, okay, well—”

Before Ino could stammer her way into a missed opportunity, Sakura stepped up and smiled sweetly to Sai. “Why don’t you go with Sai and I’ll go get us a table. You two can join me when you’re finished.” She quickly winked at her best friend and pulled her arm out from around Ino’s.

The blonde stared in surprise, blue eyes wide and sparkling at the idea of being alone with her crush of over a year. She mouthed thank you and the two of them turned back to head to Scrivenshaft’s. For a moment, Sakura stayed on the sidewalk, watching Ino stare up at the boy next to her.

Well, if she couldn’t have the romance she wanted, she definitely wanted Ino to have the one she wanted. Sakura would just live vicariously through her until she could graduate, get out in the real world and find a better man than Sasuke Uchiha.

She sighed and turned back toward the pub, wishing she could truly want that path for herself. It was definitely the one Ino and Tenten kept shoving her toward, but she had been on the path she thought she wanted. What were you supposed to do when you were shoved violently off your path and had no way back?

A group of third years raced past Sakura, nearly shoving her into the street and she quickly dodged them. She glared after them as she leaned against the wrought iron railing leading up a few steps into a bookstore. It was a narrow building wedged between the post office and a wizarding law office. Books were stacked against the windows, but Sakura could see around them enough to know that the place was relatively empty.

A hunched, old man sat on a stool at an ancient looking cash register, the book in his hands drooping lower and lower as he nodded off. Sakura smiled, wondering if this was what Shikamaru would look like in his old age.

She tucked her package beneath her elbow and hopped up the steps, opening the heavy door with a bit of a struggle. The two bells above her chimed happily and the old man on the stool jumped awake, his book tumbling to the floor.

“Oh, a student,” He grumbled, stooping down to retrieve his book with a bit of a struggle. Sakura smiled apologetically and turned to make her way through the maze of shelves.

The way the books were shelved, it was hard to find anything in particular. Little cards floating near the shelves displayed what genre she could expect, but the muggle fiction shelves had what looked like physics and mathematics textbooks. She leaned forward and blew a thin layer of dust from the top of one of the aging textbooks before squeezing into the muggle crime genre.

There was only enough space to shuffle side to side and she made her way to the back, right corner, finding a small section of humor and comic books. Most looked as if they hadn’t been touched in decades and as she lifted one of the covers, the corner of the paper crumbled in her fingers.

She quickly dropped it and glanced around the shelf to make sure the old man wasn’t watching her. He seemed to have nodded off once more.

“How can anyone find what they want in this place?” She mumbled, looking up at the books towering above her, nearly touching the ceiling.

At the other corner of the store, she heard a small giggle and her eyebrow arched. She slid a few books out of the shelf at eye level and peeked through the opening. Two shelves down, near a large barrel overflowing with paperbacks, was a man. From her position, she could tell he was tall and nicely dressed in a pair of dark slacks and suspenders that stood out against the crisp, white shirt.

Actually, it looked a lot like—

Sakura pressed a hand to her mouth to hide the gasp. She quickly freed two more books from the shelf so she could get a better look at Professor Hatake. He stood with a book in his hands and his back to her in what looked like the romance section?

She frowned and glanced back to the old man behind the counter. He had to have made a mistake labeling the sections. There was no way her mean, strict Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was reading romance. He had to have been reading ‘101 Wicked Wizarding Murders’ or something similar.

But if that were true, why was he giggling like a teenage girl reading a love scene for the first time?

Sakura leaned closer to the shelf and stood on her tiptoes, trying to position herself to get a good look at the book. His shoulder was in the way and she frowned, blowing out a sigh that stirred the dust up around her. She jumped back but it had already began tickling her nose.

She couldn’t avoid it.

She was going to sneeze.

Pressing her face into the bend of her elbow, Sakura tried to make it a quiet sneeze but failed. The sound echoed around the near silent bookstore and once again, the man at the front counter dropped his book.

Professor Hatake cleared his throat and Sakura ducked behind a stack of thick books that she felt could hide her well enough. She held her breath, waiting for the horrible moment he’d walk around the shelf and catch her spying on him. Her eyes squeezed shut as his footsteps grew closer, making the loose floorboards creak beneath him.

He turned toward the center aisle and made his way toward the front counter. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief and peeked around the shelf. Sure enough, he stood at the register and set down an orange book with bright red letters on the cover. From so far away, she couldn’t quite make out what it said but she knew for sure that if she saw another one, she’d recognize it.

She glanced over her shoulder to the romance section and waited for the bell to ring over the door. Once he had left the store she hurried to the corner where he had been standing and scanned the spines of the books. It was fairly easy picking it out.

While most romance books chose soft pinks, or pastel colors, the one he had been giggling about was like a bright, orange beacon. Sakura plucked the book out and stared down at the two people on the cover; a man running after a woman who didn’t seem to want the attention.

She raised an eyebrow and flipped through the pages, finding a section toward the middle. Right away, the words made her blush and she snapped the book shut with a soft thump. The blush creeping up her throat could have lit a dark room.

Not only did the infamously strict Professor Hatake read romance but he read romance that would make most people blush. Sakura whirled on her heel and tossed the book onto the overflowing barrel. She hurried to the front door and pressed her forehead to the glass, trying to see which way he had disappeared to.

Just before he turned at the post office, Sakura caught sight of the brown, paper bag swinging at his side. It would seem he was going to the Hog’s Head.

“You’re getting finger prints all over my door!” The curmudgeonly man at the register grumbled at her, shaking the book in his hands.

Sakura rolled her eyes and pushed through the door, staring the same direction Professor Hatake had disappeared. She wondered how long she could follow him. Not that she truly cared what he was getting up to, but after finding out his little secret, she was far too curious to ignore it. A part of her was aware that she was playing with fire and that if he knew she was spying on him, he probably wouldn’t be too happy about it.

But she owed him a little payback for scaring the hell out of her the other night and whatever juicy little information she could find out, it was worth the risk.

Besides, he looked a bit preoccupied with his books about men who liked to stick their heads under women’s skirts to taste between their legs. The passage from the page she had briefly read made another round of heat flare up her face and she squared her shoulders, following after him.

The Hog’s Head sat at the end of a side lane, and though she was fairly sure students were allowed inside, Sakura had never ventured that far. It wasn’t exactly the type of place she would care to go and had heard that the place had so much dirt on the floor, it would dirty up your shoes.

The closer she walked to the building, she could barely make out a figure that resembled Professor Hatake sitting at the bar. It was a bit difficult to see through the dusty windows, but there was no mistaking that silver hair that seemed to defy gravity.

Thankfully, he seemed to be preoccupied with whoever was sitting next to him at the bar and Sakura quickly slipped in the front door behind a large fellow wearing a long, black trench coat. She fell into the first booth in the pub and slid across the hard, weathered wooden plank. A splinter snagged her leggings and she frowned down at the tiny hole opened up behind her knee.

She grabbed a sticky menu from the table and opened it up, ducking behind it before Professor Hatake could turn and catch her there. The pages of the menu were water damaged so badly, she could hardly make out a single item for sale. Not that anyone cared about the food served here.

It was quite clear that anyone in the establishment came to get drunk.

Sakura leaned to her left and peered around the flap of the menu, staring at the back of Hatake’s head. He talked to the man next to him and she recognized it as her Charm’s professor. The guy was so nice and cheerful. She would have never pictured the two of them as being friends, but it was clear from the way the two men laughed and clinked their beer mugs together that they were.

It was so bizarre.

Could she have been wrong about him this whole time? Why did he have to be so mean to them in class, her specifically? She wondered if it was some sort of defense mechanism or maybe he just didn’t know how to act toward his students. Whichever the reason, she hoped he’d start to lighten up a little on them and maybe dissolve this strange, sparring club he forced upon them.

Professor Gai slid off of his stool and announced that he has to use the men’s room before stomping off toward the back of the bar. His steps were a bit more sluggish than normal and Sakura wondered how much he had to drink before Professor Hatake had joined him.

Alone at the bar, he looked down into the mug in front of him and did something that made Sakura’s eyes go wide in surprise. He pulled his mask to his chin and brought the beer up to take a sip. Though she couldn’t see him straight on, she could see the side of his face and the slight curve of his cheek. It was just a fraction of a shade paler than the rest of his face and Sakura was transfixed on it.

After taking another sip, he replaced the mask back over his nose and the trance he had placed on her was broken. She blinked and ducked back behind the menu. What was she doing? Spying on her professor, following him through the streets and hiding all to get a look at his face. She was being absolutely ridiculous, and it was time she left before he noticed her there.

Before Professor Gai could make his way back from the bathroom, Sakura slipped quietly along the bench, avoiding the splinter this time. She slid the menu along the table as she went, using it to shield him from seeing her.

With a quick peek out from behind it, she caught him looking the opposite way and knew now was her chance. She stood up from the seat and spun on her heel, slamming right into the bartender who happened to be balancing a large, circular tray filled with beer mugs on top. He stumbled back and the tray tipped, each glass falling over and raining down to the floor with a loud splatter.

Sakura’s hands covered her mouth and she tried to wedge herself between the wall and the booth but couldn’t fit in the six inch space. Her eyes lifted from the now muddy, filthy floor to the rest of the patrons of the pub, all staring at the scene.

And one particular pair of dark eyes fixed directly on her bright, red face.

“Oh, god bloody damnit!” The bartender shouted, slamming the tray down on the table as he snatched a rather dirty looking rag out from his back pocket. “This is the last year I allow students in this place. I swear on Merlin’s grave they bring nothing but trouble…”

Sakura stared at the old man as he shuffled back behind the bar to snatch his wand out from beneath it. He glared daggers at her and flicked his wand toward the shattered glass. They hopped back onto the tray and he tossed them into a large trash bin in the corner of the bar, leaving the spilled mess at her feet.

A part of her wanted to run as fast and far away from the pub as she could, but she had been caught in the splatter and the front of her sweater was covered in beer. The wet fabric clung to her skin and she swiped at it.

Across the room, she was faintly aware that the one person she had hoped would ignore the whole thing was making his way toward her. She tried not to look directly at him, but it was a bit hard now that she had an inkling of what he was hiding behind his mask.

There was a slight gleam in his eyes as he made his way toward her and she wondered if he was smiling. “Are you alright, Miss Haruno?” The tone of his words told her that he was indeed smiling.

Great, he had caught her and was laughing at her misfortune.

Sakura sighed and accepted the napkin he handed her, mortified that most of the beer on her was across her chest, pressing the material into the curve of her breasts. She turned away from him slightly, hoping he didn’t notice how embarrassed she was. With the help of the napkin and a quick Scourgify charm, her sweater was back to its previous state.

“I’m fine,” she finally answered, shaking the hair from her eyes as she handed the napkin back to him. “Just a bit embarrassed.”

From around Professor Hatake, she could see the other Hogwarts professor in the pub make his way back. He stepped up to them, hands on his hips as he eyed the muddy floors beneath them. “I heard a crash. Did something happen while I was in the restroom?”

Professor Hatake cleared his throat and gestured toward Sakura. “Just a small spill. I don’t think anyone was physically harmed.”

Just my pride, Sakura thought to herself, glancing between the two men. She took a deep breath, opened her mouth to tell them both she was going to leave and crawl in a hole to die, but was cut off by Professor Gai. He grinned down at her. “Ah, Miss Haruno. Ravenclaw’s top student for the past seven years. It’ll be a dark day at Hogwarts when we no longer have your bright mind in our classes.”

Both she and Professor Hatake turned to him and shared the same look of incredulous curiosity. She had been complimented by professor countless times through the years, but it was always Gai who never failed to give her the strangest ones.

She couldn’t help noticing that Professor Hatake didn’t seem to share the same opinion as his friend. He cleared his throat once more and turned back to her, forcing a smile that she noticed behind a shift of his mask.

“I should go,” she mumbled, turning toward the door. “Sorry for bothering you.”

She was out the door before they could even bid her farewell and outside in the air, she took a much needed, deep breath. The inside of the pub had gotten far too stifling with Professor Hatake close to her and she preferred it when he wasn’t staring at her.

Behind her, the door opened once more. “Miss Haruno,” a familiar voice called, making her stop and whirl around.

Professor Hatake made his way toward her, hands stuffed in his pockets, and the smile was present in his gaze still. Suddenly, she felt as if she were having trouble catching her breath and she couldn’t help remembering that beneath his mask, his face was pale.

“Yes, Professor?” She managed to croak, hoping he didn’t notice the catch in her voice.

“I just wanted to tell you that I’ve managed to shift some things around on my schedule and found some time for us to start our lessons.”

“Oh, okay.” Sakura swallowed, waiting for him to continue.

“I’m afraid next Saturday is the only day I’ll be available, around three in the afternoon.”

She quickly ran through her mind, trying to find any excuse though she wasn’t sure why. Quidditch flashed in her head and she looked up at him. “Next Saturday is the first Quidditch game. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff.”

Professor Hatake arched an eyebrow and the look in his eyes felt rather teasing. “I didn’t peg you to be much of a Quidditch fan.”

“Well, I’m not,” she started, folding her arms over her chest. “But I do have friends who play, and it is the first game…” Her words trailed off as she realized that he didn’t seem to care. The infuriating look never left his gaze and she was almost sure that he was teasing her now. With a sigh, she continued, “But I guess I can miss it.”

“Good.” The mask shifted again, and she pursed her lips as she stared up at it. “I’ll see you in class, Miss Haruno.”

Not waiting for her to respond, Professor Hatake turned and made his way back into the pub, letting the door shut with a soft rattle behind him. For a few seconds, Sakura stared after him. It’s true, she wasn’t much of a Quidditch fan and usually tried to use any excuse to get out of attending the games.

But this was one time she didn’t think she’d prefer to miss it.

In one week, she would have to face her fears and get far too up close and personal with a man who both terrified her and sparked her curiosity in ways she had never imagined. She just hoped he would abandon the strict, hard-ass Professor for the one who giggled at romance novels in the back of a bookstore.


 

 

AN- Well, next chapter will be fun to write :)

Chapter Text


 

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Ten minutes past the hour, Kakashi took a deep breath and stood from the chair in his office. Outside the door, he could already hear the noisy 7th years waiting for class to start. Oh, what he wouldn’t give for the ability to clone himself. He’d spend his day lazing around his office, reading his books, while the clone dealt with the messy headache of teaching.

Kakashi sighed and raked his fingers through his hair, hoping the hour would pass quickly. He was definitely not in the mood to hear their whining and griping today.

He pulled the door shut behind him and made his way down the stairs. It seemed that his presence no longer brought the same quick, hush as it did the first few days of the year. A few students, mostly Naruto Uzumaki who was sitting on the desk, facing the students, continued giving a detailed preview of what the weekend’s Quidditch match would bring.

“Ole Akimichi might be one of the best beaters, but he won’t stand a chance Saturday. Gryffindor beat them the last three years and that ain’t gonna change any time—” Naruto’s words were cut short by the hand falling on his shoulder, pinching tight enough to make him shut up and Kakashi smiled down at him.

“Let’s concentrate on classwork and save the trash talk for the Quidditch pitch, hmm?” He stepped back to let the kid drop into his seat and as he did, he scanned the rest of the room. Something was different. No, someone was missing.

Kakashi turned to where the two girls usually sat in the front row, left side and found only one today. Miss Haruno sat with her hands clasped in her lap, eyes wide as she met his gaze and for the smallest, fraction of a second, Kakashi forgot how to breathe. He recovered quickly and pointed to the empty seat next to her.

“Where’s Miss Yamanaka?”

“She went to the hospital wing during lunch with a bad stomach ache,” she said quietly, ducking her head to avoid his stare.

Toward the back of the room, another girl spoke. “It was probably cramping. That always makes her really moody and she was being a total—”

“Alright,” Kakashi held up his hands and shook his head, cutting her off before he could hear anymore details. “We’ll just have to put you with another pair.” He addressed the Ravenclaw and again she looked up at with her eyes wide. “Push your desks to the side and partner up. Miss Haruno, you can come to the front.”

As the rest of the students stood and noisily moved their desks across the cobblestone floor, he couldn’t help noticing her glancing warily to her peers. She stood and pushed her desk to the side before making her way to where he had directed her. In the light, he could see that the color had drained from her face and he cursed to himself.

She probably wouldn’t do very well working with another pair of students, especially being a bit behind the others. Shit, he thought, tapping his chin before glancing around. He could pair her with Mr. Nara or Mr. Aburame since they were both Ravenclaw. They would go easy on her but then they would fall behind.

Kakashi resisted the urge to roll his eyes before stepping into the line, directly across from Miss Haruno. She arched an eyebrow and stared up at him. He wanted to tell her to stop it but turned to address the class instead.

“How about a demonstration to start the lesson? Miss Haruno,” He bowed politely before her. “If you’ll please try to hit me.”

Immediately, whispers broke out through the rest of the students and he could feel everyone’s eyes on the two of them. The girl across from him stammered, shaking her head.

“I can’t hit you. You’re a-a teacher.”

He laughed and crossed his arms over his chest, narrowing his eyes playfully on her. “Trust me, I’ve taken harder hits than what you could give me.”

A flash of anger widened her eyes and he noticed her fists clenching at her side. She pursed her lips and took a step back with her right foot, using it to propel herself forward and throw her punch. She had decent form, but he immediately noticed her clenching her thumb in her fist.

Kakashi caught it in the center of his palm without so much as a flinch before it could connect with his face. Surprisingly, his hand stung a bit from the hit. He didn’t show it on his face, though. The class gave a sharp gasp and watched as he turned her fist over in his hand and opened her fingers. “Remember rule number one. Never hold your thumb while throwing a punch. You’ll snap your tendons and possibly break the bone.”

He closed his hand back over her fingers and positioned her thumb on the outside of her fist and held her hand up as an example to the rest of the students. A few corrected their own fists and he let her hand fall back to her side. He absolutely refused to acknowledge how soft her hand was.

“Unless you know how to throw a proper punch, try to avoid it. The best and safest way to hit someone is with the heel of your hand.” He tapped his palm. “Aim for the nose or eyes. Physical fighting is a last resort and you’re wanting to incapacitate your opponent. Hitting the nose will make them see stars long enough for you to make a get-away. Go ahead and practice, just be careful not to actually make contact with your partner.”

For a few minutes, he circled the room, studying each of them throw their punches and block their opponents the way they had been shown in the previous week. The only student not doing anything was the one he had placed at the front of the classroom. A Gryffindor group beside Miss Haruno invited her into practice with them and Kakashi watched her hesitantly try the techniques he had showed them.

Just as she stepped back to throw a punch, the pair of Slytherin girls toward the middle of the line began to giggle. He wasn’t sure if it was meant for Miss Haruno or not, but nevertheless, she was distracted. Her eyes darted to them and she frowned, dropping her hands to the side.

She stepped back to her previous spot, leaving the pair of Gryffindors with a tight smile. She shook her hands at her sides and took a step back to try again. Just as before, their giggling interrupted her concentration and Kakashi scowled at them from the other side of the room. They instantly shut their mouths and he moved toward the front.

He stepped behind Mr. Inuzuka and opened his mouth, intent on telling the class to not lose their focus. But as he circled around the Gryffindor, his words never had a chance to make it out of his mouth. He caught sight of a pair of green eyes, absolutely blazing with anger. They met his mere seconds before the heel of her hand made contact with his chin. The punch was surprisingly strong and had forced his head to the side. He could feel the sharp sting of a cut where his teeth had pinched his bottom lip.

The entire class fell into a shocked hush and he blinked down at his attacker. Miss Haruno stood with her hands covering her mouth, eyes as wide as saucers. Despite the pain in his lip, and the slight taste of blood on the tip of his tongue, he couldn’t help but laugh at her look of horror.

“Professor, I am so sorry! I didn’t see you come around and I was just practicing—”

Kakashi held up his hands and nodded. “It’s fine. I’m alright. Though, you do punch a bit harder than I had been expecting.” He rubbed his chin and could tell he’d be bruised by morning. It seems he underestimated her.

The other students stood as still as statues, glancing back and forth between them and he straightened, clearing his throat. “Perhaps we should stop the hand-to-hand here today. Friday, we will pick it back up. For now, let’s move on to chapter four.”

Slowly and a bit hesitantly, the class fell back to their desks and began to push them back into place. Again, Miss Haruno held back and stepped up to him with a shake of her head. “I know you said it’s fine, but I really am sorry. I’m not a violent person and—”

“Are you kidding me?” Uzumaki called from the middle of the classroom. “You’ve hit me way harder than that last week for skipping class!”

She spun to glare at him from over her shoulder and Kakashi chuckled. “I promise, Miss Haruno. I’m fine. You can take your seat.” As she turned to make her way back to her seat, he looked pointedly at the Gryffindor who made the outburst. “And maybe you shouldn’t announce to your professor that you skipped class, Mr. Uzumaki. I’m sure you can dwell on your mistakes during detention tonight.”

The blonde dropped his head to this desk with a thump and a groan as the class around him snickered at his misfortune. Kakashi took his place behind his desk and instructed them to take out their textbooks. He was more of a hands-on teacher, but sometimes, reading from the chapter was unavoidable. And counter-jinxes was something he was going to focus on for the next few weeks.

He waited while the class cycled through their pages to chapter four and while he waited, he couldn’t help noticing how the inside of his lip was still stinging. His eyes slid back to the girl sitting alone at the front of the class. She had her forehead in her hands and her eyes were shut tight, obviously trying not to die of embarrassment.

She was already so paranoid about her peers. Something like this would undoubtedly make it worse for her. Kakashi swallowed and looked down at his textbook. He stared at the words, but all he could see in his mind was that quick flash of green eyes.

 


 

“I can’t believe you’re missing the game,” Tenten pouted, leaning over the breakfast table and making the three strips of her hair slip out of Ino’s fingers. The Slytherin sighed and jerked her head back to finish her braids. Wincing, she asked, “can you at least make it to the after party?”

Sakura sighed and pulled her legs up onto the bench and hugged her arms around them. She rest her chin on top of her knees and watched as Ino twisted Tenten’s hair into two, braided lines down her head. “I’m not sure how long it’ll take. It’s our first lesson.”

“Yeah,” Ino said, her teeth clenching around the rubber band. “But you’re excited about it right?”

Excited? No.

Scared to death of a man who had no business poking around in her memories? Oh, yes.

Instead of letting her friends know that, she shrugged a shoulder. “I guess. I just hope all this fuss isn’t for nothing. What if I’m bad at it like I’m bad at everything else?”

Risking the wrath of the Slytherin behind her head, Tenten reached over and lightly smacked Sakura on the side of the head. Ino gave her the slack to do so and grinned from over her head as she continued the braid. “You’re not bad at anything, Sakura. You’re just getting in your head again.”

Sakura rolled her eyes and rubbed the spot on the side of her head that had been attacked. So what if she was in her head? Wasn’t that where she was supposed to be? With a frown, she looked up at her two closest friends, but didn’t bother to defend herself.

What was the point?

They didn’t understand why she was acting like this and probably never would. She definitely didn’t have any plans to tell them why her confidence had been obliterated. If they wanted to think a breakup was all it took to drag her down to this level, then she was going to let them. It was better than them ever knowing the truth.

Ino secured the band around the end of both the braids and stepped out from behind Tenten, letting the Gryffindor admire the sleek hairstyle. She took a seat between the two and smiled at Sakura. “Last year, this would have never been an issue for you. You would have been so excited to do something like this, you know?”

“I know,” she whispered, unable to stop herself from cutting her eyes to the long table beneath the green and silver flags. It was relatively empty, and she was thankful. “That just makes me feel worse.”

“Well, snap out it!” Tenten said, standing to her feet to make her way to the other side of Sakura. “We miss the old you. Now, I’m feeling rather confident with my new hairstyle, so I think you need to make a little change to feel better about yourself.”

Sakura gathered the ends of her hair and held them protectively against her chest. “I’m not cutting my hair.”

“I could braid it,” Ino chimed in with a beaming smile. “It’ll look adorable!”

Before she could protest, the blonde was standing from the bench and moving around behind her. She combed her fingers through Sakura’s pink locks and began parting them down the middle. While she wasn’t sure a new hairstyle would give her the confidence that she was looking for, Tenten did look rather adorable.

Sakura hadn’t deviated much from a ponytail for the past two months. Maybe it was time for a change. As Ino’s fingers pulled and twisted her hair, she stared at the giant doors of the Great Hall, wondering if anyone would even notice if she did make a change.

.

.

By midafternoon, the entire school had gathered at the Quidditch pitch to cheer on Gryffindor and Hufflepuff during the first game of the year. Though it was suspected that Gryffindor would remain the victor, the game was promised to be exciting. Everyone would be talking about it for the next few weeks.

Everyone except the only student who was still stuck in the castle, staring at the Quidditch pitch through the windows of the hallway on the third floor. Sakura squinted, trying to make out anything visible. The players looked like little red and yellow flies buzzing around and she sighed, stepping away from the window.

Despite the fresh style Ino had braided into her hair, the confidence she had been desperately trying to conjure up was doing a damn good job at hiding. Her stomach clenched as she turned to the door to the Defense Against Dark Arts classroom at the end of the hallway. It was shut and the lights were off inside, but she knew it wouldn’t be long before she was inside the room, facing her fears.

She took a deep breath and exhaled through her nose, not allowing herself to dredge up any thought of losing her virginity or with whom she lost it to. Instead, she focused on thinking about her schoolwork and upcoming assignments. She outlined her entire essay for Ancient Runes in her head by the time she had reached the classroom door and moved on to Advanced Arithmancy.

Ten minutes passed and she sighed, switching the book she had borrowed from Professor Hatake from one hand to the other. He had said three hadn’t he? She thought back to Saturday, standing out in front of the old pub hidden in the backstreets of Hogsmeade. Even through her mortification of being caught spying and having beer dumped on her, she was certain he had told her three o’clock.

All week she had been far too nervous to double check with him, fleeing from the classroom mere seconds after the bell rang. She should have just confirmed the time instead of being a miserable coward. With a roll of her eyes, she blew a strand of hair that had slipped from her braids away from her eyes.

It was already fifteen past three.

If he didn’t show up in ten minutes, she was going to leave. At least she’d be able to catch some of the game that way.

Of course, those ten minutes ticked by a lot faster than she thought they would and at nearly 3:30, she sighed and let her head fall back against the door. She dropped to the floor, crossing her legs at the ankle with a sigh as she smoothed her skirt around her legs.

From beyond the wall of windows, she could hear the faint cheering from the crowd, and she closed her eyes. Okay, she thought, ten more minutes and that’s all I’m waiting. If he doesn’t show up before then, well, it’s his own fault.

Another cheer rang out from the Quidditch pitch and she clenched her jaw at the sound. Professor Hatake better have a damn good excuse for being this late. Because if he was holed up in his dormitory, losing track of time while giggling like a school girl over a romance novel, she was going to be pissed.

More so than she already was.

With another exasperated sigh, Sakura pushed off the floor and dusted her skirt off. If he couldn’t put the effort into being on time, then she wasn’t going to wait around for him. Her friends were playing the first Quidditch game of the season and she’d much rather be there for them than be anywhere near someone who arrogant and careless and downright—

Her thoughts were quickly cut off by the distant whistling at the end of the hall. She cut her narrowed stare toward the corner just as Professor Hatake made his way around it, twirling a ring of keys around his fingers. The other hand was stuffed in his pockets and even after noticing her waiting, he kept up his lazy pace.

“Ah, Miss Haruno,” he greeted her with a hint of a smile behind his eyes. “Have you been waiting long?”

Her eyes narrowed into slits as he stepped up to the door and busied himself with sliding the key into the lock. She wanted to tell him that she’d been here for forty-five bloody minutes, but she didn’t need him being annoyed with her before their lesson.

“Only for about ten minutes,” she grumbled, hugging the book closer to her chest.

The key twisted in the lock and he paused, his hand hesitating. Slowly, he turned toward her and raised a slender eyebrow. “I thought we had agreed to meet at three?”

Sakura blinked up at him in confusion. Was he seriously upset with her? He was the one strolling in nearly an hour late! How dare he be angry with her!

“I-I was here at three—you’re over half an hour late!”

Professor Hatake’s expression softened and he chuckled, holding up his hand in surrender. “I’m just kidding, Miss Haruno.” With a gentle laugh, he pushed the door open and stepped inside, reaching to the wall to turn the lights on.

For a few seconds, Sakura could only stare after him, quite stunned. He had made a joke? Did he even have a funny bone in his body? She turned toward the door and stepped inside. By the time she had crossed the threshold, he was at the front of the room and stacking a few books that were laid out on his desk. With a quick flick of his wand, the stack lifted from the table and ducked into the office at the top of the staircase.

Sakura followed them with her eyes before she slowly moved into the room, coming to stop awkwardly between the two rows of desks. Glancing over his shoulder, Professor Hatake gestured to one of the chairs.

“Have a seat,” he instructed, rolling the sleeves of his grey shirt up to his elbows. Sakura noticed he was wearing a green vest, darker than what Slytherin’s usually wore, and a pair of khaki slacks that looked almost tailored to fit his ass—

Sakura dropped into the seat to her left before she could finish the thought, keeping her eyes focused on the thick, wooden beams across the ceiling. She definitely did not need to be thinking about anything remotely close to her professor’s ass right now. If he somehow saw in her mind that she had admired the fit of his pants, she’d die of embarrassment.

Even now, she was kind of hoping the floor would open up and swallow her whole.

“I brought your book back,” she said quietly, handing it out for him to take.

Professor Hatake set it beside him and leaned back against his desk, tilting his head. “Thank you and I hope you were able to learn some things from it. You’re quite close with Ino Yamanaka, aren’t you?”

Sakura frowned, shifted in her seat, and gave a quick nod. “Yes, we’re best friends.”

“Her clan is skilled in Legilimens and have been for centuries. I’d think it would be difficult to find anyone who could come close to their abilities.” He paused to clear his throat and his eyes met hers. “The reason I bring it up is to see if you and Ms. Yamanaka have ever discussed Legilimens or Occlumency with one another.”

“Somewhat. She knows I’m shadowing you and she showed me a few techniques to use.” Sakura folded her hands in her lap, wishing she could ignore how strange it was to have an actual conversation with him. Even after their encounter in the restricted section, she couldn’t help feeling as intimidated by him as she was in the very beginning of the year.

Each time he looked at her, it was like the first night back at Hogwarts, after the welcome ceremony. She could feel his gaze burning into her and it left her feeling…well, she didn’t quite know. Flustered was a good word, though it felt a bit more than that.

Professor Hatake nodded and crossed his arms over his chest. “Alright, what kind of techniques?”

“Just how to clear my mind and focus.” She didn’t want to admit that it was more to help with the mental block she was having in his class and not for Occlumency. “She looked into my mind and told me to sweep my thoughts and emotions to the side.”

“I’ll admit, I’m not as skilled as she is, so you’ll definitely feel me penetrating your mind.” He pushed off the desk and turned away from her for a brief moment.

As his back was turned, she took the half a second of privacy to blanch at his use of words. Why did he have to use that word? She had been so good up until now, ignoring the thoughts that she had hoped to keep hidden. But if he kept using that kind of wording, she was going to have a difficult time.

“What I am skilled at though, is Occlumency.” His words snapped her attention back to him. “What makes me a good Auror is the ability to block others from my mind, and even plant false information if they do happen to get through. Someone who is good at Occlumens can keep secret information and plans for the Ministry and I suspect this is why Tsunade wants you to learn it.” He flashed his gaze back to her, the same one she was never prepared for, and she felt it sink into her.

The knots in her stomach slowly twisted their way back around her insides and sat heavy and nauseating. Her fingers played nervously with the hem of her skirt, twisting the fabric around until it was full of wrinkles. She smoothed it back around her knees and nodded, hoping he couldn’t tell how anxious she was.

“Now,” he said, making her jump slightly. If he noticed it, he made no mention. “Like I said, I’m not a skilled Legilimens as Ms. Yamanaka is, so for today, I just want you to get a feel for what it will be like. I’ll go slow.”

She clamped her teeth around her bottom lip and wished he would stop saying things like that. It instantly brought up memories of Sasuke whispering similar reassurances to her on the floor of the prefect’s bathroom. She shook the thoughts from her head and quickly thought about Arithmancy, or her grandmother’s toy poodle named Pixie, anything but losing her virginity.

Professor Hatake pulled his wand from his pocket and studied her. “Are you ready?”

“Wait!” She flinched at her outburst but took a deep breath to steady herself. “Are you going to see my thoughts and memories? Because I don’t—”

He held up his hands and shook his head. “I just want you to get used to the way it feels for now. It can be a little jarring, so I don’t want to overwhelm you for your first time.”

Why did everything he said remind her of sex? Was he doing it on purpose? She looked down at the table in front of her and recalled Ino’s words from the day on the lawn. Sweep your thoughts to the side, clear a path. With a nod, she lifted her gaze back to Professor Hatake.

“Okay, I’m ready.”

“I’ll count down from three so you’ll be ready. Three…”

Sakura wedged her hands beneath her thighs to keep them trembling in her lap. Her breath was fast and she could feel her heartbeat pounding at the pulse points across her body.

“Two…”

Oh, fuck. This was it.

“One. Legilimens,” he spoke the incantation quick and quiet but there was no mistaking the sudden rush of pressure at her forehead. Invisible fingers pried at her mind, making her gasp and grip the seat beneath her tightly. She could feel him holding back but even so, a flood of emotions and thoughts poured into her mind in rapid fire.

Thankfully, he pulled away before any of them could become clear. Sakura sat back in her chair and put a hand to her forehead, wincing from the dull throb that appeared in his wake.

“Are you alright?” His voice was much closer than before, and she peeked out from behind her hand to see him leaning over her desk. Concern was etched across his eyes and she forced a smile to reassure him.

“I think so. I’m just nervous,” She admitted, hoping he wouldn’t make her feel like an idiot.

Instead, he stood up straighter and nodded. “I understand. I’m not going to push you into something you’re not comfortable with. Are you alright to continue?” After a nod, Professor Hatake returned to his position, leaning back against his desk. He took a breath and studied her for a moment. “This time, I want to push a bit further so concentrate on completely blanking your thoughts.”

Sakura nodded, wishing he could give her just another minute to shake the feeling of him prying into her head. The invisible touch was still pressing into her forehead and she rubbed at it with the back of her hand.

“Three…”

She frowned and imagined herself in her own mind, sweeping frantically at the thoughts crowding around her. Every time she pushed them back, two tumbled in to take their place. She moved faster, closing her eyes to block him out of her mind.

“Two…”

She was making progress inside her head, creating a small circle around her where she could stay, free from any embarrassing memory or thought. She took a deep breath and nodded, feeling better about this time. Except…Like a flash of lightening through her head, she could see Sasuke above her, could feel the black, terry cloth towel at her back and heard her own moans echo through her head.

Oh, gods, no.

“One.”

He was in her mind before she had time to stop him and she gasped, feeling the sudden rush of emotions flood to the surface. It all happened in slow motion behind her eyelids. With each second, she could feel him at the front of her mind pushing deeper into her thoughts while behind her was a tidal wave of memories rushing forward. Everything she had been trying to suppress for the past four months was suddenly there for Professor Hatake to see and she did the only thing she knew to do.

Sakura stood from her chair and threw her hands in front of her face, stumbling back into the desk behind her. The legs scraped loudly across the cobblestone floor and the link between their minds severed, leaving her breathless and trembling. They stared at one another for a second that stretched far too long. Where he had a look of utter confusion on his face, Sakura could feel hers was one of pure horror. She had to get out of the room, had to get away from him. Now.

She shook her head and stepped around her chair. Her foot caught around the leg and she put her hand out to quickly catch herself.

“Are you alright—” He took a step closer and she turned away from him, keeping her eyes on the door. Just a few short steps and she would be free to run back to her dorm and drown in her mortification.

“I-I’m sorry. I need to go.”

“Wait, Miss Haruno,” he called out to her and she winced, her feet slowing to a stop in between the last two desks. She couldn’t help glance to the one to her right, exactly where Sasuke sat. Around to her left, Professor Hatake stepped and ducked his head to meet her eyes. “I can’t let you leave without knowing you’re alright.”

She could tell by his tone that he was still completely confused as to what happened. Had he not seen anything? It was hard to tell how far he had gotten into her mind, but she didn’t want to even think about him seeing a single second of it.

“I’m fine,” she said, ducking her head. “I just…”

He brought a hand up to her shoulder and she felt her entire body tense beneath it. “I didn’t see anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.” His words were soft and reassuring but she could still feel the warmth rise up the length of her neck to her face. “Come sit back down.”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t think I can do anymore today.”

“Just to talk, then.”

Sakura took a deep breath and looked up at his face, wishing he wouldn’t stare at her that way, like he could still see inside her head. For a moment, panic bubbled but she recalled what he had said. There was no way he could get into her head without her feeling it. He wasn’t like Ino.

With a sigh, she nodded, and he dropped his hand from her shoulder, letting her turn to take her seat at the desk once again. She sank into it, staring at the patterns of wood grain on the table. From the corner of her eye she could see him take his spot in front of her at his desk, arms crossed over his chest. And though she didn’t look up to his face, she knew he was looking at her with that intense gaze. She could feel it.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Yes,” she said tentatively, lifting her eyes to meet his.

“Why do you want to be an Auror?” Instantly, her heart sank in her chest. This was the part where he tried to gently guide her toward some other path. He didn’t think she could do it. He had no more faith in her than she had in herself, but it wasn’t surprising. It’s not like she had been very impressive the last few months.

If only he had known her last year.

Ino’s words from earlier in the morning rang through her mind again. ‘Last year, this wouldn’t be an issue for you’. She had to get out of this mentality and show him and herself that she could do this.

Taking a deep breath, she gave a slight shake of her head. “I want to make the world a better place for people like me.”

His eyebrows lifted in momentary surprise and he shifted against the edge of the desk. “That’s a good reason. But what do you want out of it?”

“I guess,” she started with a small shrug of her shoulders. “I want to prove people wrong. Everyone expects someone like me to take the easy way out and become a healer. I don’t want to settle.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a medic. It’s a noble profession.”

And here was the part where he would try to convince her to take that path, instead of becoming an Auror. Annoyance surged through her and she averted her eyes from him, trying to cool some of the anger and frustration bubbling to the surface. Knowing there was a small possibility that he had seen a glimpse into some of her most buried secrets on top of his lack of confidence in her abilities infuriated her more than she had expected.

“You don’t think I can do this, do you?”

Again, a look of surprise passed over the small portion of his face she could see but he quickly masked it. He dropped his arms to his sides and gripped the edge of his desk, tilting his head to the side as he looked at her. “I didn’t say that. You were making it seem like being a medic was easy, or less of a profession than being an Auror.”

Sakura crossed her arms over her chest and scoffed, not believing him for a second. After a moment of hesitation, she blinked up at him. “Did you know that most muggle-born witches and wizards pursue careers as healers or teachers?”

“I wasn’t aware of that.” Of course, he wasn’t.

“It’s expected of us. Do you know how many muggle-born Aurors there have been in the past thirty years?” He shook his head and Sakura continued, “Four. I don’t think being a medic or a teacher is the easy way. I think it’s just what’s expected of me and I refuse to fall into that category without at least trying for something more.”

He stayed quiet for far too long and the momentary spark of fire she had felt earlier was starting to dwindle. Before she could get too nervous about it, Professor Hatake nodded and took a deep breath. “I understand. And for the record, I knew you were more of a fighter than you were letting on, especially after taking one of your punches the other day. Shall we continue our lesson next Monday night after dinner?”

Sakura was stunned. How had they gone from her trying to flee from the room not even ten minutes ago to this? Not that she was complaining. It was just strange knowing he was at least somewhat confident in her. She was having a bit of trouble forming a coherent response in her head. She nodded, though she was fighting the blush creeping up her cheeks. “Monday night is fine.”


 

AN - See? All Sakura needs is someone like Kakashi to have a bit of confidence in her.
Next chapter we will see Kakashi's thoughts on their lessons and whether or not he truly did see inside her thoughts ;)
Also, those statistics about muggle-borns I totally pulled out of my ass.
Don't fact check with Mrs. Rowling please.

 

Chapter Text


 

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Kakashi couldn’t concentrate on anything. For the past hour, he had been trying, and failing, to prepare lesson plans for the nest couple of weeks. But no matter how hard he tried to force himself to concentrate on creating a proper lesson on the Revulsion Jinx for his third year classes, it seemed that his mind would rather drift elsewhere.

And particularly, to what had happened just outside his office the day before.

With a grunt, he flicked his wand to the door and was satisfied by the heavy thump it made. Hopefully he wouldn’t be tempted to think about things he shouldn’t dwell on if he couldn’t see out into the classroom. Of course, things never worked out that way.

He picked up his quill and scribbled over the parchment, describing ways to recognize the jinx. Pink sparks appear from the wand—The quill stilled over the page, making a little dot of ink pool at the end of the last word. He stared at the line with narrowed eyes, wondering why he had written pink instead of purple. He had an idea as to why, but he refused to accept it.

With a quick charm, the ink disappeared on the parchment and he scratched the correct word onto it. Why was he letting something as silly as this affect him so much? The lesson he had shared with Miss Haruno had been eventful, yes, but nothing he hadn’t been prepared to handle, and Merlin knew he had handled far worse situations in his life than that.

Then again, most people couldn’t have prepared for the glimpse into the thoughts he could tell she was struggling to hide away. And though it had been brief, lasting only long enough for him to feel a few emotions, they were unmistakable. He had recovered quickly and successfully convinced her he hadn’t seen anything, even managing to take her mind off of it. And after she left, he decided it was best to put what he had felt out of his mind and chalk it up to normal teenage hormones.

No matter what he told himself though, he knew it had been more than that though.

Even with such a quick flash into her memories, he recognized her feelings easily. The rush of heat, trembling fingers and quick breaths, immediately followed by an overwhelming, crushing heartache swept through him in the mere seconds he had slipped into her mind. It had been enough.

The look of terror on her face that gave way to utter mortification confirmed exactly what he had been fearing was true. He had done the only thing he knew that could reassure her in that moment. He had lied, told her he hadn’t seen a thing, even though his heart had been pounding against his chest as if he had been facing a room of boggarts.

Kakashi blinked down at the fresh ink stain on the parchment beneath his quill. So lost in his thoughts he hadn’t realized he had been dripping ink down the page. He crumbled the paper into his fist and tossed it into the trash bin beneath his desk, rolling his eyes at his carelessness. Why was it bothering him so much to know that a random teenage girl had fooled around with someone? He was well acquainted with the things teenagers did after dark in Hogwarts.

After all, he had been one of those teenagers at one point. Though he hadn’t cared too much about fooling around, he had been a hormonal teenage boy and experimented with his female classmates a time or two. They just always took a backseat when it came to his studies, which most girls were never a fan of.

So why was this particular case of teenage hormones bothering him so much?

The heartache he had felt from Haruno had left a bitter taste in the back of his tongue that he could still taste, nearly twenty-four hours later and he sighed, pushing his hand through his hair. If what she had went through wasn’t just a normal, everyday teenage experience, and had been something a bit more, that ache he could still feel in his chest must have been so much heavier in hers.

This was exactly what he didn’t want to think about, the possibility that the thing he had witnessed, had felt in her memories, was the one thing most people kept private. And if it was, then he felt truly horrible. He would have never did so intentionally and wished she had been able to stop him in time. Which was why it was best to put it out of his mind and forget it even happened.

And if he couldn’t do that, then their lesson after class the next day was going to be just as interesting as the last.

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.

To say he was nervous was a bit of an exaggeration, but Kakashi wasn’t exactly sure how else to describe it. He had a hard time making it through his last classes of the day on Monday without making it obvious he was fidgety. And when the seventh years made their way into the classroom, he had to keep himself from glancing to that first desk on the left side of the classroom. Luckily, he had planned a slide show lesson and could stay at the back of the classroom, away from the stares of his students and far from the desks at the front.

From his perch on the stool behind the two rows of desks, he was able to gather that if Miss Haruno was still affected by what had happened during their first lesson, she did a good job at hiding it. She and Miss Yamanaka spent most of the lesson passing notes to one another and hiding their giggling behind their palms. Occasionally one of them would slip a note to the boys behind them and Kakashi’s jaw clenched behind his mask. He decided not to confiscate the note, though he couldn’t deny that it was rather annoying to see her paying so little attention.

But now that he was alone after the class, only half an hour before their next Occlumency lesson, Kakashi was feeling more than restless. His foot bounced against the leg of his desk as he sat back in his chair, staring down at the boxes that were still stacked around the room. He knew that organizing his office and finally unpacking all of his books would do well to distract him from the current problems plaguing his mind, but his laziness won out in the end.

He remained in his chair, rocking back and forth and listened to the creaking hinge beneath him. It could be fixed with a simple charm, but he left it alone.

Kakashi cut his eyes to the door of his office and pursed his lips, wondering if he had enough time to grab a bite to eat from the professor’s lounge. It wasn’t ideal as there was always someone there who wanted to corner him and chat, no matter how standoffish he made himself appear, but he was feeling a bit hungry.

Would it be wise to go into an Occlumency lesson on an empty stomach?

Being hungry usually made him a bit of an ass. Iruka often referred to him as 'hangry' when he got into those moods and he assumed Miss Haruno would be the type of person who would take it personally.

He would have to eat before the lesson. For her sake, anyway.

But as he sat forward, ignoring the creak of protest from his chair, the classroom door opened and a voice called out, making him freeze in place.

“Professor?” The voice was familiar and Kakashi sighed, glancing to the clock on the wall above him. Was she seriously showing up twenty-five minutes early?

A part of him wanted to stay still and quiet, hoping she’d go away and come back at the time they had specified. Closing his eyes, Kakashi sighed and sat back in his chair, wishing now he had used that charm to grease the old hinges.

“Up here,” he called, clearing his desk off. He slid a few lesson plan pages to the edge of the desk and dropped them into a drawer. By the time he could hear her footsteps on the stairs, he realized that the office was far too cramped for Occlumency lessons. What was he thinking?

He looked around the room quickly, scowling to the boxes that only made the office seem that much smaller. Damn his perpetual laziness.

At the door, Miss Haruno poked her head around the frame and smiled politely. She was out of her Hogwarts uniform and Kakashi forced his eyes to stay on her face and not notice any particular details about the way she was dressed. From his peripheral, he couldn’t see any dress code violations, but he refused to look too closely.

“I know I’m early. I just wasn’t feeling very hungry tonight.”

Kakashi wished he could say the same. Neglecting his lunch had been a terrible mistake that he was paying for now. Still, he nodded to the girl and gestured to the two chairs across from him.

“That’s alright. Please, have a seat.”

As she stepped further into the office, her eyes darted to the boxes scattered around and he sighed, following her gaze. “I’ll get around to unpacking, eventually.”

She lowered into one of the chairs on the other side of his desk and laughed softly, folding her hands into her lap. He glanced down to her fingers, clenched into fists in her lap, and lifted his eyes back to her face. It was clear that she was nervous now, despite her looking quite the opposite earlier in class. Kakashi raised his eyebrows and forced a smile that she couldn’t see.

 “Take a deep breath. We won’t start until you’re ready.”

He watched her inhale through her nose, her chest rising slowly before she exhaled and looked at him with a quick nod. “I’m okay. I’m ready.”

Though she said she was ready, he didn’t exactly believe her. Not after what had happened last time. Kakashi folded his arms over his chest and looked at her.

“Tonight,” he started, “I want you to focus only on pushing me away, as soon as you feel me. Your mind will naturally try to resist my intrusion, which is why you feel a bit of pressure to the middle of your forehead. Concentrate on that resistance.”

She nodded, letting out another breath through her mouth. The muscles along her throat tightened and she kept her eyes down at her hands in her lap. Kakashi didn’t let his gaze drop below her chin and watched her closely, waiting for her relax enough to continue. He didn’t want to push her, didn’t want to give her a chance to slip up and reveal something else to him.

When he cleared his throat, the Ravenclaw lifted her head and nodded. “Okay, I think I can do that.”

“Good,” he said, flicking his wand to the lights above them, dimming them enough so that they weren’t annoyingly bright, but not exactly too dark either. He sat up straight and looked at her, eyes narrowed in concentration. “I’ll count down from three, just like last time.”

In the back of his head, Kakashi was aware that he was stalling, trying to prolong the inevitable, hoping that for some reason, she would give up on these lessons and he could have his peace of mind back. It was ridiculous to let someone get under his skin so easily like this. A teenage girl at that!

“Three,” he started slowly, watching her close her eyes.

It wasn’t something that happened often. Not many people got under his skin these days. He was a master at letting things people said or did roll off of his back. So why couldn't he do the same when it came to her? What was so special about this particular girl?

“Two.”

Nothing. There was nothing special about her and he would be wise to remember that. She was an irritating, overly dramatic, boy-crazy teenager and despite knowing that wasn’t true at all, Kakashi didn’t want to see her as anything else.

“One. Legilimens,” he recited, immediately diving into her thoughts. He pushed harder than he had intended and was met with little to no resistance. For a moment, he hesitated at the threshold of her mind, afraid that the sudden intrusion would dredge up those memories again.

But, judging by the emptiness he was met with, he could tell she had been practicing keeping her thoughts and emotions clear. Kakashi urged on and could sense a few tendrils of memories rising up from beneath him in her mind. They were quickly sucked back into the depths and he lifted a corner of his lips.

He pushed just a bit deeper, wondering if he could coax something out of her. Nothing as intense as last time of course, but a simple thought would do. Instead, he was met with a mental block strong enough to make him falter in her mind. He had no time to recover before his presence was shoved completely out of her head.

Surprise lit his face and he leaned back a bit, waiting for her to open her eyes. She was breathing heavier now, the shuddering breaths making her shoulders and chest tremble. Kakashi slipped, glancing down to the sweater she was wearing with a large R knit into the front in silver letters. He snapped his gaze back up to her face immediately, catching her opening her eyes to him.

He stared, suddenly caught in the color of her eyes. There was a quiet intensity to her green irises, and it was instantly familiar to him. A color he had seen before but couldn’t place where or when. It brought a surge of nostalgia to his chest and he swallowed the feeling down to his gut, hoping to forget about it there.

Kakashi cleared his throat and sat forward, hoping that she wouldn’t be able to notice that he was unexpectedly flustered. “Right, good job.”

“Wow,” she whispered breathlessly, her lips stretching into a smile that Kakashi couldn’t describe as anything but pretty in his mind. He pushed the thought out of his head as quickly as it had entered it. “I can’t believe I did it.”

He scowled at her. “Why do you have such little faith in yourself?”

At his question, her cheeks burned bright pink and she ducked her head to stare down into her lap. With a sigh, he slid his chair closer to the desk between them and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m just curious. Even in class, I’ve noticed how tense you seem, like you’re anticipating the hit before your opponent has even raised their hands.”

“Well,” she started, meeting his gaze with a scowl of her own. “I was hit, remember?”

Kakashi couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled to the back of his throat and quickly recovered, shaking his head. “You’re not going to be hit right now though, and I can see how tense you are.” He paused, his eyes darting across her reddening cheeks. “If you’re body is this tense, what do you think your mind is like? You have to let go and not worry so much about failing.”

“That’s easier said than done.”

“Okay, so why are you afraid of failure? You’ve already failed at it, so there’s no where else to go but up, right?” Behind his mask, his lips curled at one corner no matter how hard he tried to keep them pursed. He didn’t expect to feel so amused by the look of stubborn annoyance on her face.

She folded her arms over her chest and darted her gaze to the wall at her left, a frown turning her mouth downward. “I’m not afraid of failure. I just…I want to get it right, and when I don’t, it frustrates me.”

As he sat back, the croak from the chair cut through the silence and he noticed her frown ease up a bit. “Your frustrations are coming from fear. No one wants you to fail, Miss Haruno. I certainly don’t.”

He didn’t know why he had to include that last part. His point had been made, yet he couldn’t keep himself from giving her just a bit more. Why should she care about him specifically? It was best if she didn’t care about him at all.

Her eyes slid back to his face, making his stomach clench tight inside him. Hoping he didn’t sound like a nervous imbecile, he chuckled and gave a shrug.

“Besides, you might be working for the Ministry with me one day. I want you to become the best Occlumens you can be.” After a beat, he added, “Aside from myself, of course.”

He expected her to chuckle along with his joke, but she tilted her head to the side and regarded him with those green eyes that he hoped he would be able to forget when the lesson was over. If he was to peer into her mind in that moment, he was sure he would see her clicking the pieces into place, figuring out a question that he hadn’t realized he had even asked.

“You’re not going to stay here?”

“Hmm?” He didn’t want to admit he had been too occupied with staring at her to hear her question thoroughly.

“You said I might be working with you one day. Which means you won’t be here.” She lifted a hand and gestured to the room around them, though Kakashi knew she meant Hogwarts. His brows pinched together, and he shook his head.

“This is certainly not something I ever thought I would be doing. I’m here because Tsunade asked me.” A bit too late, he realized he had addressed the Headmistress informally and hoped it was because he was well acquainted with the woman, and not because he was feeling friendlier to the student sitting across from him. He blinked up at the girl across from him, seeing the small smile on her lips and hating that it made the inside of his stomach twitch. “What?”

“Nothing. You’re just…not what I expected you to be like.”

Alarms sounded in the back of Kakashi’s head and he shifted in his seat. He reached for the wand at his desk, repositioning it before bringing his arms back across his chest. Why the hell was he so flustered all of a sudden? How the hell was he so flustered? What the bloody hell was happening here?

Before he could stop himself, the one question he knew was the exact wrong question to ask her fell from his lips. But damn it, his curiosity was maxed out and he didn’t think he’d be able to stop himself even if he had tried.

“What were you expecting?”

The smile that broke out across her face made the alarms sound once again and he knew that he had better get this lesson back on track or postpone it until he could get a grip on himself. She shrugged and the smile on her face widened mischievously. Kakashi forced himself not to look down at them.

“You make people nervous,” she said simply. He knew this, didn’t really care if he did or not. “They think you’re tough and unfriendly. Possibly a bit cold.”

Cold?” That, he was a bit surprised by. Tough and unfriendly, yes, but he tried not to make himself appear cold to people. He wasn’t sure why that affected him worse than the other things. “You think I’m cold?”

“I never said that’s what I think of you.”

Oh, this was bad. The words were on the tip of his tongue and he quickly bit them back, swallowing them down to the depths where they could be forgotten. He did not need to ask her what she thought of him, though he was suddenly dying to know.

No. He wouldn’t let himself speak them. A question like that was nothing but trouble and he opened his mouth, intending to guide her back into another demonstration of Occlumency. His words were cut off by the gnawing growl that emerged from his stomach.

It had grown tired of him acting childishly, prolonging the food that he had been promising it before Miss Haruno had arrived. Feeling the heat touch his cheeks, Kakashi looked up at the girl across from him. Her eyebrows lifted and she put a hand to her mouth.

“Oh, gods. I interrupted your dinner time, didn’t I?”

He wanted to be honest, to tell her that, as a matter of fact, she did just that. But he held his tongue and shrugged. “I’ll live.”

“I feel bad. Do you want to stop for the night so you can eat?”

Yes, he thought to himself. Stop this and eat something. Its obvious that in addition to becoming hangry, you become a total idiot when you’re lacking nourishment!

“Let’s do another, and if you can push me out of your head like last time, we’ll call it a night.” Behind his mask, he smiled, though his stomach was protesting, and his mind was furious that he hadn’t listened to reason.

“Okay,” she said with a smile, inching to the edge of her chair. “I’m ready.”

 


 

AN- Apologies for the short chapter. I was going to include it with the next, but it was getting rather long and including this one with it would kind of make this seem a bit choppy. Besides, I wanted to only focus on Kakashi's developing "feelings" in this chapter. 

Chapter Text


 

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The morning was quiet in the Great Hall. Not too many students had woken up for breakfast on Saturday morning and Sakura was enjoying the relative quiet as she ate her bacon and worked on organizing her assignments in her schedule book. The task was long overdue, and she was afraid that if she let it fall behind any longer, she’d accidentally miss an assignment.

Which had only happened once in her entire life and she didn’t plan on letting it happen again.

Through her concentration, she hadn’t noticed anyone else walking into the Great Hall. Sakura was thinking mostly about how delicious the bacon was that morning when a copy of the Daily Prophet slammed down on the table next to her. She jumped in surprise, the slice of bacon dropping from her fingers to the floor.

Sakura frowned down at the now crumbled pieces of meat she had been enjoying before glancing up at the face of her best friend. With a roll of her eyes, Ino sat down onto the bench and thumped her fingers across the front page of the newspaper.

“Can you believe this bullshit?”

Not waiting for an answer, the blonde spread open the pages, ignoring the usual sections until she reached a page toward the back. The black type at the top of the page spelled out ‘Legacy Family of the Month’ and Sakura wrinkled her nose. She had seen it before in the Daily Prophet. Some sort of pat on the back pureblood families pay for just for having a pure wizard bloodline. Nothing was more important than image to some of them and as a muggle-born, Sakura didn’t understand it at all.

She reached for another piece of bacon and chomped on the end, giving a shrug to her best friend. “Are you just now finding out about this?”

“No,” Ino said with a scoff. “I’ve known about this ridiculously arrogant display for a while now, but look what family is featured for this month.”

She slid the paper toward Sakura who glanced down at it. Instantly, she set the bacon back down on her plate, no longer hungry. For the month of October, the family that was featured was the Uchihas and right there, in the middle of the page was a family portrait. They all looked stiff and awkward being so close but the four of them had a definite air of superiority.

Sasuke sat in the middle, with his older brother at his shoulder and parents on either side of them. Whether it was intentional or not, his top lip was pulled up in a slight sneer that made Sakura roll her eyes. Did he even know how to make a normal face anymore, or was he perpetually smelling something foul?

She slid the page away from her and shook her head. “I’m not at all surprised,” she muttered, turning back toward her date book. Planning her up and coming assignments was far more interesting than the Legacy section of the Daily Prophet, especially for this month.

“Listen to this,” Ino called, shaking the page in front of her. Before Sakura could tell her that she’d rather not listen to it, she was speaking again. “The Uchiha’s youngest son, Sasuke, is expected to graduate at the top of his class this year from Hogwarts. Yeah, right!”

“Top of his class yet has at least a dozen students above him. I wonder what the Daily Prophet Legacy writers would think if they knew a muggle-born student made better grades than darling Sasuke?” Sakura asked, letting her sudden bitterness out.

From beside her, Ino snorted. “We should write in a correction to them. ‘Dear Daily Prophet writers, it seems that you have made a grave mistake in thinking Sasuke was special at all at Hogwarts. Just a regular, run of the mill prick who…”

As much as Sakura loved listening to her best friend bad mouth her ex-boyfriend, her words faded into background noise as she caught sight of someone far more interesting making their way into the Great Hall. Professor Hatake walked through the doors with a purpose, keeping his head looking forward as he passed between the two center tables to make his way to the front of the room to join the other professor’s.

He took a seat next to Professor Umino who greeted him with a bright, friendly smile. Sakura couldn’t help noticing how good he looked, dressing a bit more casually than he did for class. Her eyes trailed down the length of his body before he sat down, roving over the dark, green sweater that hugged his chest and shoulders so well, it left her mouth watering.

Suddenly, Ino’s words came back into focus and Sakura blinked out of the trance she had fallen under. Clearing her throat, she turned back to the book opened up on the table in front of her and snatched her quill back into her hands.

“It’s just so ridiculous that this kind of thing is still happening. Like who cares how many generations your family has dated back? Eventually, purity just means incest and that’s gross.” Ino crossed her legs beneath the table and reached for the cup of juice that appeared before her. As she sipped, her eyes widened, and she made a ‘mm’ sound around the edge of her cup. “Oh, did you hear? They’re letting us go to Hogsmeade for Halloween this year!”

Sakura’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. She glanced quickly to the table at the front of the Great Hall, to one person in particular, before meeting Ino’s eyes again. “What do you mean?”

“Halloween is on a Saturday and we have permission to celebrate there this year! Apparently, Zonko’s is turning into a fun house and there’ll be dancing at The Three Broomsticks. We need to dress up this year.”

From behind Sakura, she felt someone move close and take the seat next to her. Tenten ducked around her shoulder and grinned. “You talking about Halloween?”

“Yes! What should our costumes be?”

“Ugh,” Tenten scoffed, reaching for the basket of biscuits at the center of the table. “I’m just going to wear my Quidditch gear. You know there’ll be so many stupid costumes. Sexy witch, sexy cat, they’re all dull.”

Sakura opened her mouth to comment but was promptly cut off by a scowling Ino. “Wearing Quidditch gear is the epitome of dull. You have to be something.”

“If I’m anything, it’s going to be in protest to all the ‘sexy’ costumes. I’ll be a ninja or something.”

The two of them argued back and forth about possible costumes while Sakura returned to her date book. But as Ino leaned back to address the Gryffindor, she couldn’t help letting her eyes move toward the professor’s table. She stared out of the corner of her eye and bit the inside of her lip.

Professor Hatake sat between Professors Umino and Tenzō who seemed to be in a debate much like the two girls on either side of Sakura. He was caught in the middle but didn’t look to be too disturbed by it as he buttered his toast. His fingers were long and elegant, even doing something as mundane as spreading butter. They caught Sakura’s gaze and she ran her tongue over her bottom lip.

He stilled, knife freezing over the edge of the crust and Sakura’s eyes widened. She looked up to his face and caught him lifting his gaze out to the tables. Had he felt her staring at him? She quickly ducked her head back to her date book before he could catch her. Heat spread across her face and she hid behind a section of hair, hoping he hadn’t seen her staring.

Behind her, Tenten was arguing the case for dressing up as a granny for Halloween to which Ino rolled her eyes and claimed that was just as dull as being a ninja or Quidditch player. Sakura paid no attention to them, far too occupied with trying to sneak another glance at her professor.

She tucked her hair behind her ear and took a peek up at the front of the Great Hall. Umino and Tenzō were discussing something with as much intensity as Ino and Tenten but the man between them had disappeared. A brief flash of panic raced through Sakura and she sat up straighter, darting her eyes around the room.

Halfway between the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables, Professor Hatake moved toward the door. He held something wrapped in a white napkin, more than likely his toast, and his eyes were set straight ahead of him. Sakura swallowed and knew she should look away. If anyone caught her staring at him, she’d never live it down.

But before she could look back down to her book in front of her, his eyes slid to the side and he caught her gaze. She was trapped, too entranced by him looking her way to avert her gaze. The corner of her lips lifted in a friendly smile before she could stop herself. The seconds before he reacted was mortifying. What if he didn’t even acknowledge her?

What if he wasn’t even looking at her to begin with?

Gods, what if he thought she was a freak for staring?

All of her worried thoughts dissolved into nothing as she watched him lift his chin in one of those signature nods that the male gender always seemed to give. It was hard to tell if he was smiling behind that insufferable mask, but before he could cross out of her eyesight, she could have sworn she caught a slight twinkle of something resembling a smile grace the corner of his eyes.

In her mind, that’s exactly what it was, and she turned her gaze down to her lap, hoping her face wasn’t burning bright enough to light the room. The last thing she wanted was for her Professor to think he was making her blush…though, that’s exactly what was happening.

“Hello?” Ino’s hand waved in front of her face and Sakura blinked in surprise. “Earth to Sakura! Have you heard anything we’ve been saying?”

“Of course,” Sakura said with a scoff that she hoped sounded offended. The last thing she wanted was for either of them to suspect her of staring after her professor. “You’re ranting about Halloween costumes.”

On her left, Tenten snorted into her cup.

“No, actually, we moved on to a different topic. Had you been listening,” Ino said, leaning forward to flick Sakura’s earlobe with her middle finger. “You’d know that.”

Well, shit. At least it didn’t seem like they were aware of what had distracted her so badly. Forcing a smile, she shrugged and snatched her planner from the table, hugging it to her chest. “Whatever topic it is, I’m sure it’s enthralling. But, I’m going to put my book up and take a quick shower before our Hogsmeade trip.”

“Meet us out front in an hour!” Ino called after Sakura, not wasting any time before diving back into her breakfast. Once outside the Great Hall, the Ravenclaw quickly scanned the area for that familiar tall figure topped with silver hair, just in case he had lingered behind. Unfortunately, Professor Hatake hadn’t stuck around and an hour later, Sakura was in the courtyard in front of the castle.

She quickly found Ino and Tenten, now joined by Hinata and Shikamaru. As usual, the blonde and Ravenclaw Head Boy were in a disagreement about something and Sakura found herself rolling her eyes before she could even hear what it was about.

She draped an arm over Tenten’s shoulder and nodded to the bickering pair. “What is it this time?”

“They’ve got a bet going,” Ten explained. “Ino thinks Ravenclaw will lose to Slytherin at the game this afternoon and Shikamaru thinks she’s delusional. So, obviously, they’ve bet one another that if their team loses, they have to do something completely off the wall. We’re waiting for them to decide exactly what that is.”

Hinata shook her head, lavender eyes glancing to the group of Gryffindor’s several feet away who were also discussing the upcoming Quidditch match. Of course, she was only focused on one Gryffindor in particular and Sakura sighed. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand why Hinata was so terrified to tell Naruto how she felt.

Everyone in the entire castle knew the feeling was mutual at this point. Sure, he had been pretty oblivious for the past five years or so, but he was slowly coming to the realization. Sakura vowed to herself that if by the Christmas holidays he hadn’t asked her out, she was going to give him a swift kick in the arse to speed things along.

“You’re psychotic if you think I’m ever going to be your personal servant,” Shikamaru scoffed, bringing Sakura’s attention back to the argument in front of her.

“What, are you scared you’re gonna lose?”

The three girls not included in the conversation glanced back and forth between the two of them as they squabbled.

“I’m not scared to lose. I’m scared of what fucked up things you’d have me do.”

Completely understandable argument from Shikamaru. Sakura wouldn’t want to risk that either and she glanced to her best friend to hear the counter offer. Of course, the sight of someone standing a few yards away distracted her away from the fight.

Decked out in his Quidditch gear, Sasuke stood with a few other members of the Slytherin team. His hair was wet from a recent shower and Sakura couldn’t force herself to look away. He raked his fingers through his hair and laughed at something one of his teammates said. It was so rare to see him smile these days.

It instantly sent a familiar ache wrenching through her stomach.

She swallowed, her tongue suddenly as dry as the Suna desert and she racked her brain for any excuse to avoid Hogsmeade and the game later that afternoon. It had been weeks since she felt the intensity of her heartache like this and it left her regretting having eaten so much bacon at breakfast.

A blur of red hair zipped across Sakura’s vision and she watched as Karin jumped into Sasuke’s arms, planting a kiss at the corner of his mouth. The usual pale color of his face reddened at the display of affection, but he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close to him.

Now, Sakura was certain she was going to be sick.

She turned, unable to keep watching. “Hey,” she said quietly to Tenten, forcing a smile. “I completely forgot to grab the letter to send to my parents. I’ll meet you in the village.”

“You sure?” Ten’s voice called out over the sound of the ongoing argument and Sakura nodded, though she didn’t turn back to give her answer.

She didn’t stop until she was back inside the castle, dodging a particularly excited group of third years who raced around the doors. Flattening against the wall to avoid them, Sakura rolled her eyes and wished she could get the sight of Karin kissing Sasuke out of her head. It was bad enough that she had to see it playing over and over again but having it up there meant there was a chance Professor Hatake would see it during their next meeting.

And she’d rather not have him see any more of her pathetic memories.

As she neared the stairwell, Sakura turned the corner and came face to face with a broad chest dressed in a nice, green sweater that was instantly familiar. She blinked and followed the fabric up to where it gave way to a black mask covering the lower part of someone’s face.

Professor Hatake reached out and took her by the shoulders while he stepped back. If she had been able to properly function, Sakura might have done the same, but seeing as she was too stunned by his sudden presence, she could do little else aside from staring up at him.

“Excuse me, Miss Haruno. I didn’t mean to bump into you.”

A tiny flicker of an idea went off the in the back of her mind, reminding her that she could use him as an excuse to get out of Hogsmeade and possibly the game later. Before she could stop the words from tumbling like bricks from her mouth, she was speaking.

“Are we meeting for a lesson this afternoon?”

His eyebrows lifted in surprise and she resisted the urge to smack herself in the forehead. He reached up and scratched at his hairline, turning his gaze upward as he took a moment to think.

While his attention was turned away from her, Sakura managed to come to her senses and finally notice how close he still was to her. And that one of his hands was still on her arm. She looked down at it, eyes wide and lips taking on the shape of a circle. She could feel how warm his palm was, even through her shirt sleeve and when he took it away, she nearly whimpered.

“I don’t think so. Did we agree to meet this afternoon?” He finally spoke, making her lift her gaze back up to his face.

Sakura took a step back, hoping he didn’t notice how much space she was putting between them or how brightly her face was blushing in that moment. Because she could practically see her cheeks glowing bright pink.

“No,” she finally managed to say. “I was just wondering.”

Professor Hatake let out a small laugh and Sakura raised her eyes to his face again. The left side of his mask shifted, and she could see the corner of his eyes crease in what she could only guess was a smirk that had no business making her stomach flutter.

“You’re free to enjoy the game this afternoon, seeing as how Ravenclaw will be playing after all.”

How could she tell him that she’d rather have him reading her mind than to sit in the stands, watching her ex-boyfriend zip around on his broomstick? She couldn’t tell him that. It was probably best if she put that out of her mind as well.

Sakura gave a shrug and glanced around the entrance hall. Most of the students who were jetting off to Hogsmeade had cleared out of the castle and all that was left were the first and second years and anyone too lazy to make the walk. Which left not many people around to see the two of them talking with one another at the front doors of the castle.

She didn’t know why that made her stomach flutter either.

“I’m not exactly a Quidditch fan.”

“It’s important to support your house, especially for a Head Girl.” He eyed the badge pinned to the strap of her overall and again, heat flushed up her neck and face. “I’ll be there to support my house.”

Ah, yes, she thought to herself, he’s a Slytherin. I had almost forgotten.

For some strange reason that she will never quite understand, the urge to taunt him popped up inside her and she couldn’t ignore it even if she tried. Lifting the corner of her mouth in a mischievous smirk, she folded her arms over her chest and raised her chin.

“That makes sense…it’s just too bad they’ll be playing Ravenclaw, though. I hate that you’ll have to see your house lose their first game of the year.”

This time, Professor Hatake arched a single eyebrow up his forehead and he mirrored her stance. He crossed his arms over his chest, drawing her attention to not only the way his forearms looked beneath his rolled up sleeves, but also the slight outline of muscles beneath the fabric of his sweater. Noticing her professor’s forearms was a huge no-no, but noticing that he was possibly built as well? Yeah, she had to bury this thought quick.

“Oh, is that right? That sounds a bit strange coming from someone who claims not to be a Quidditch fan.”

“Well, you do a lot of things that seem strange for someone like you to do.” The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. It instantly shifted the mood between them from playful banter to something a bit more tense.

Professor Hatake narrowed his eyes, though she could see that instead of anger, they were full of curiosity. “I’m not sure I know what you mean, Miss Haruno.”

Oh, this was a dangerous game she was playing at here. A game she wasn’t even sure how to play. It was forbidden and sexy and so wrong. She knew it was better to back out now before she did something stupid. Taking a step back in the direction she came, Sakura shrugged her shoulders to him and figured it was probably best to get back to her friends. She didn’t trust herself to be alone at the moment, not when there was so many new and strange desires coursing through her.

“I should probably get to Hogsmeade, but maybe I’ll see you there, Professor.” She lifted another playful smirk to him. “Maybe in the bookstore.” Sakura spun on her heel but managed to catch the obvious look of surprise on his face. It made all of her insides flutter with excitement and she was surprised by the bounce in her step.

Back out in the courtyard, she could see the tail end of the long line of students making their way to Hogsmeade and was thankful that Sasuke, and Karin, were no where to be found. She hoped she was lucky enough to avoid them for the rest of the day. Though the thought of seeing them again didn’t make her as sick as before.

And she had a feeling that had a lot to do with the stunned professor she had left at the front doors of the castle.

 


 

 

For the second time that day, Kakashi found himself wedged between two people in the midst of a heated discussion. First, Iruka and Tenzō had thought it was perfectly normal to discuss the werewolf population and whether or not they were discriminated against all the while Kakashi was trying to butter his toast. He had abandoned his plan to have breakfast in the Great Hall for the first time in a month and now, he found himself in almost the exact same situation.

Gai and Iruka sat to his left and right, arguing over the Quidditch game that was currently going on in the air before them. Between the crackling voice of the announcer over the aged speakers and the two professors squabbling, Kakashi was beyond annoyed.

Mostly at himself, but he wasn’t about to admit that.

For the fifth time, (five times too many) he found himself glancing to the student section that had been quite raucous from the start of the match. Though he told himself he was only doing it to make sure no one was being too rowdy or misbehaving, he couldn’t ignore the fact that his gaze fell over a particular section each time.

And of this section, he always found the one student with pink hair.

“Oh, you’ve got it all wrong, my friend!” Gai laughed, wagging a finger toward Iruka, nearly clipping Kakashi on the chin as he did so. “That most certainly was a penalty! Hyuga was clearly blurting and it was quite obvious from where I’m sitting.”

At Kakashi’s left, Iruka scoffed and leaned forward to stare around him. “Then you must be sitting in an alternate dimension, because that didn’t happen.”

Kakashi sighed and tried to pay attention to what was happening in front of him. This year, Slytherin was better than they had been in years, far better than they had been when Kakashi was in school. But for the life of him, he couldn’t pay attention to a single play. The score was sixty to forty, with Slytherin in the lead. That much, Kakashi had gathered from the student announcer.

“Look!” Gai cried, jumping to his feet as he pointed to two students whose broomsticks were knocking into one another in the air. “You can’t tell me you don’t see that!”

Ravenclaw put another ten points on the scoreboard and the crowd erupted into cheers. Kakashi rose to his feet and took Gai by the shoulders, steering him into the space he had previously stood. If they wanted to continue their little squabble, then they could do so without him in the middle.

The student sections were all on their feet, cheering for the Ravenclaw chasers. Following suit, the faculty section jumped to their feet and clapped in support. Kakashi glanced to his right, where the stands curved around the boundaries of the Quidditch pitch.

From his seat, he could see right to a section of students that he recognized. Many of them were in his advanced classes and one in particular caught his attention for the sixth time. Pink hair whipped around her face and she smoothed it back with one hand while cheering for her house. At her side, Miss Yamanaka was chanting something that was drowned out beneath the cheers.

Kakashi knew he should look away, knew it was ridiculous that he couldn’t bring himself to, and hoped that if anyone noticed him staring, they’d assume it was for unruly students. Before he could turn back to the game, he caught sight of Naruto Uzumaki standing behind Sakura.

He dipped his head to her ear, saying something that made the girl howl in laughter. She turned around to smack his shoulder playfully and he responded by circling his arms around her waist, lifting her off the bench and—

Kakashi tore his gaze away with a tight clench of his jaw. He stared at the players zooming by on their broomsticks, forcing himself to concentrate on the green jerseys and not on the student section anymore. He had no business staring at her and certainly had no business feeling jealous of a damn student.

His hands tightened into fists at his side and he lowered himself back onto the bench. Why hadn’t he just stayed in his office? After the conversation—no, the blatant flirtation he had shared with Miss Haruno earlier that morning, he knew it would be a bad idea to be anywhere near her. He had stupidly thought putting the entire length of the Quidditch pitch between them would be enough but apparently, his foolishness knew no bounds today.

Even over the cheers and screams of the students, he could still hear the echo of her words in his mind. The flirty little tone in which she said them had left a lasting affect on him. Had she realized what she was doing?

He didn’t know which answer, yes or no, would be worse.

“Oi,” Gai said suddenly, ripping him from his worried thoughts with an elbow jab to his ribs. “What are they chanting?” He nodded back toward the direction Kakashi was struggling not to look at.

He shook his head, narrowing his eyes on the back of a Slytherin beater, hoping if he could just keep his eyes on him, he wouldn’t be tempted to look at her. On the other side of Gai, Iruka leaned forward with a frown that Kakashi could see out of the corner of his eye.

“Sounds like suck it Slytherin.”

“Not quite,” a voice behind them said with a snicker and Kakashi turned to glance back at Jiraiya. He was stomping his heels in time to their chant and said it low enough that they could hear, chuckling to himself. “Suck it, Sasuke.”

Iruka sighed. “That’s not very sportsmanlike. We should probably go talk to them.” He stood to his feet, making Kakashi do a double take up at him.

We?”

“Yes, we. I’ll need someone intimidating to make them stop.” He reached down and tugged on Kakashi’s sleeve, pulling him out of his seat and toward the stairs leading down to the narrow walkway in front of the crowd. Somehow, his legs found the will to move on their own and all too soon, he was following Iruka down through the sections of students.

First and second years sat together in their houses, cheering happily. As they moved down the crowd, the chants got even louder and Kakashi sighed. He should have put up more of a fight. Why did Iruka need him to come along for this? He was a professor; he could tell them to shut up on his own.

Kakashi swallowed and looked up at the crowd. They were close now, only one more section to go and he would be standing three benches down from her. Oh, get it together, Hatake! He commanded to himself, smoothing a hand down the front of his sweater. He channeled all of the irritation and frustration he could muster into making his eyes narrowed and as intimidating as he could.

They stopped in front of the seventh years and Kakashi folded his arms over his chest, not letting himself look at her. He focused on the Gryffindor’s behind her who were chanting the loudest. Mr. Uzumaki had his hands cupped around his mouth, oblivious to the two professors staring up at him.

“And another ten points for Ravenclaw!” The voice over the speakers crackled and Kakashi turned to glance at the game over his shoulder. The referee was blowing his whistle, chasing after a Ravenclaw beater.

“Can we keep the personal attacks to a minimum please?” Iruka said loudly, catching the attention of the seventh years and Kakashi turned back around to face them again. “It’s not very encouraging.”

Kiba Inuzuka threw his head back and laughed. “We’re not trying to be encouraging! We want the git to lose!”

Behind his mask, Kakashi scowled and opened his mouth to respond with something as intimidating as Iruka probably wanted, but he quickly clamped his mouth shut again. A pair of green eyes stared at him from the crowd, focused with an intensity that left him speechless. The corner of her lips were curled upward, similar to the way she had smiled up at him as she suggested they would see one another in the bookstore at Hogsmeade.

He swallowed tightly, knowing he should look away. It was quite obvious he was staring at her, despite Iruka keeping the attention of the rest of the seventh years with his diplomatic chastising. The wind lifted her hair across her face, and he watched her reach up to pull it out of the corner of her lips, a few strands catching on her lip gloss.

Fuck

Behind him, Ravenclaw scored another ten points and the crowd went wild. A few students jumped between him and Sakura, breaking his trance and he blinked with a shake of his head. As they settled down, he addressed the lot of them.

“No more chants targeting a specific student.” He turned away from them, making his way back through the crowd. He could hear Iruka suggesting they chant something encouraging for their team. Telling a bunch of seventeen year olds not to be completely annoying was a waste of breath. They were going to do what they wanted time and time again.

As Iruka caught up, Kakashi glanced back at him. “You know we were just like that.”

“I know,” he sighed. “And we were told the same things by our professors.”

Kakashi pushed his fingers through his hair, and glanced up to the section of the stands where the rest of the professors sat. “You ever think we’d be here, Iruka? This old and this lame?”

With a scoff, Iruka stepped up the stairs and moved through the crowd back to his seat next to Gai. Before taking a seat, he turned back to Kakashi with a laugh. “Kakashi, you’re only thirty-two. That isn’t old.”

He stood in front of the empty seat on the bench, staring up at the game still going on above them. He knew thirty-two wasn't exactly old, but it was definitely too old for some things.


 

 

Chapter Text


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Kakashi wasn’t sure how the last class of Monday, Wednesday and Fridays had become his most annoying and most anticipated. On one hand, he really didn’t enjoy teaching a bunch of seventeen year olds things they very clearly did not want to participate in. Their grumbling and complaining had gotten worse as the weeks went on.

He knew they were probably getting burnt out from all of the work, but so was he. And if he had to come to class and put in the effort, he expected them to as well.

But even with him dreading the last hour of classes, he still felt nervous about it approaching. If he was being honest with himself, he would just admit that it was one person in particular who he was nervous about seeing. He refused to think anything close to that level of absurdity and brushed the thoughts away, chalking the knots in his stomach up to being tired.

And since his weekend had been filled with conflicting thoughts about that one student in particular he was refusing to think about, he hadn’t gotten much sleep. By the time the seventh year Advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts class shuffled into the classroom, he wasn’t in the best of moods. Kakashi stood at the front of the room, arms crossed over his chest as each student found their seat quietly and nervously.

They eyed him and a few of the more daring students whispered to one another. He kept his gaze turned toward the right side of the room, not letting himself even glance to that front desk where the Ravenclaw Head Girl was sitting. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed her hands folded over the desk and her ankles crossed beneath her seat.

And though he wanted to look her way and see the bare bit of skin that stretched from the top of her stockings to where the hem of her skirt rest across her knees, he didn’t. He turned toward the blackboard as the last student took their seat.

Kakashi flipped the blackboard over to reveal the list of jinxes he planned for them to focus on for the next few weeks. He could hear the students behind him grabbing their quills and parchment to take notes and he was thankful that at least for a little while, their heads would be lowered.

He turned around, eyes instantly flickering to the only bit of pink in the room, before he focused on someone else entirely. He chose Uzumaki for two reasons. The kid would barely notice, and he usually needed someone to keep an eye on him anyway. This way, Kakashi could kill two birds with one stone.

As the class jotted down the list of jinxes, Kakashi addressed them. “For the next few weeks, I want you to focus on these four jinxes. They’re mild enough that you can practice them outside of class with one another. These four will be what I intend to test you on in your exam next week.”

A collective groan rolled across the seventh years and Kakashi ignored them, plucking the text book from the desk in front of him. “The exam will cover the first four chapters and like I said at the beginning of the year, if you’ve been doing your homework, you should have no trouble with the exam.”

From the first row, a face lifted, and the pair of green eyes caught his attention, pulling his gaze toward her. He allowed himself to look for just a brief second. Her smile was friendly and polite, eyes sparkling with sweetness. Though it was a simple gesture, it wreaked havoc on his insides and the knots in his stomach tightened sharply.

Shit, he cursed to himself, quickly looking away from her. What is your problem? Get yourself under control, Hatake.

Once the quills started slowing their writing, he instructed them to group up once more with their partners and to pick a spot in the room to practice the jinxes. The groups were broken up as usual. Slytherins stayed with one another in the back corner of the room and the only one that did venture elsewhere was the one paired with Miss Haruno.

They chose the opposite side of the room toward the stairs leading up to his office. The rest was a nice mix of houses and Naruto and Shikamaru had paired up this time. Mr. Nara had no trouble firing off the first spell and sending the Gryffindor stumbling back slowly with an Impediment Jinx. And though the incantations were supposed to be silent, it wasn’t long before the conversations picked up around the room.

Kakashi made his way around, observing each pair of students as they worked. A few were still having trouble casting the unspoken spell, but he expected them to have some hiccups with new jinxes. The ones who usually excelled did so today. Nara, Uchiha, Yamanaka had gotten it instantly and assisted their partners with the jinx.

Once again, Kakashi glanced up to where the bright pink ponytail was swishing at the opposite corner of the room and swallowed. Her face was pinched in concentration as she executed the proper wand motion. Unfortunately, the spell fell flat and her partner barely moved an inch. He turned with a sigh toward the corner of the room they were in, fully intending to suck up his pride and assist her.

But the snickering remarks at his back stopped him.

“It’s no surprise a little mudblood can’t do something this easy.”

The giggling instantly set his blood boiling and he spun on his heel, crossing back to the group of Slytherin girls before their laughter had a chance to die down. One of them, probably the leader, was a member of the Watanabe family. Kakashi knew she was a daughter of one of the Ministry officials and he would more than likely get a few strongly worded letters for what he wanted to say to her.

Instead of calling her every name she deserved to be called, he folded his arms over his chest and glared down at the girls. They instantly shrank away but not out of guilt for saying horrible things about a classmate. They looked more irritated that he was bothering them in the first place.

“Care to tell me which one of you said that?” He asked, his voice sharp and words clipped. He had meant to keep the volume low as to not attract the other students, but his anger was uncontrollable in that moment.

It didn’t take long before the conversations behind him died down and he could feel the rest of the class staring at his back. He glanced between the three girls, raising an eyebrow as he waited for any of them to respond. When none of them did, he glanced over their head to where Sasuke Uchiha stood with his shoulder against the wall. He had a smirk on his face, despite looking somewhat bored of it all, and scoffed.

Kakashi lifted his chin and stared down at the Uchiha. “Do you find this funny, Mr. Uchiha?”

“Kind of,” came Sasuke’s flippant reply that had a few of his classmates instantly whispering amongst them. Kakashi took a step between the girls and narrowed his eyes on the Slytherin in front of him.

“Well, then you’ll find it hilarious to know that you’ll be reporting to detention for the next three Saturdays.”

“What? You can’t do that! I have a Quidditch game next—”

Kakashi let out a bitter laugh. “And I have far more important things to do than spending Saturdays with a miserable brat.”

Anger flashed quickly across the boy’s face and Kakashi didn’t give him a chance to respond. He pointed to the girls he had addressed earlier.

“You three can report to the Headmistress and tell her that none of you can decide who said that word. I’m sure the punishment she will give you will be evenly distributed between the three of you.” He heard the girls whispering amongst themselves, instantly turning on one another but he didn’t care if they came clean now. He had given them a chance to be honest and they passed on it. Before they could make their way to the door, he turned back to glance at them. “And don’t think you can avoid punishment by not going to the Headmistress. I’ll be sure to speak to her later about this incident.”

The three of them rolled their eyes in sync but didn’t offer an argument. Kakashi left Sasuke quietly stewing in his anger at the back of the room and blinked at the rest of the class still staring wide eyed at him. “Well, get back to work. Class isn’t over just because we’ve had a disruption.”

A few students grumbled, hoping the drama would carry on, but they quickly found their partners once more and the lesson picked up where it had been interrupted. Kakashi folded his arms back over his chest and walked behind the cluster of Gryffindor’s, observing their wand motions and the strength of the jinx.

From over the top of Kiba Inuzuka’s head, he caught sight of that same pink ponytail and found Sakura watching him from over her shoulder. She peered across the room at him while her partner stepped away to argue with Mr. Nara and though Kakashi was fighting himself to look away from her, he didn’t. He held her gaze long enough to see the tops of her cheeks redden and the shy, thankful smile curl the corner of her lips.

Only then did he let himself turn away from her and concentrate on something else—anything else.

 


 

The next Occlumency lesson was scheduled for Thursday night after dinner. Sakura had managed to eat a bit, knowing she would feel worse if she went into it on an empty stomach. But she hadn’t been able to eat much, and she regretted what she did as she made her way through the second floor corridor. Though her last lesson had been far more successful than the first, she was still nervous.

Whether or not that was because her thoughts would be invaded, or because of who was invading her thoughts, she couldn’t be too sure.

She had changed out of her school uniform and opted for something more comfortable; a pair of jeans and a hand-me down Konoha University sweatshirt from her dad. Luckily, it was navy blue, with bright yellow, block letters across the chest and after years of wear and washes, it fit loose and offered the utmost comfort.

Her sneakers made her footsteps quiet and she was thankful that she had avoided meeting anyone in the hallways. Not too many students came down this way after dinner. The last thing she wanted was to bump into someone like Sasuke or Karin. He was still furious about having to spend the next Saturdays in detention, even though Sakura suspected he would be in the game next week anyway. Not even someone like Professor Hatake could stand up to the Uchiha clan if they raised enough hell to Tsunade. And though it was his fault entirely for talking back to a teacher the way he had, the rumors started that it was Sakura who had gotten him in trouble in the first place.

Which meant, for the past few days, she avoided any Slytherin aside from Ino like the plague. She was already nervous enough as it was about her lesson; she didn’t need to add bumping into anyone who hated her guts to her nerves.

Sakura clenched the sleeves of her sweatshirt in her hands and folded her arms over her chest, trying to keep her steps at a steady pace. She didn’t want to rush into the classroom and look as if she were trying to get to the lesson as fast as possible. It was bad enough she was fifteen minutes early, but she couldn’t sit at the dinner table, listening to Ino complain about Sai’s obliviousness any longer.

The classroom where they always met for the Occlumency lesson loomed at the end of the hallway and the door was open just a few inches. Inside, the lights were on and the closer Sakura got to the room, the more she could hear voices. She took her bottom lip between her teeth and slowed to a stop well enough away from the door not to be seen, but still close enough to hear the sound of laughter inside.

She instantly recognized it as belonging to Professor Hatake, though she can’t recall ever hearing him laugh that way. The little giggles he had let out in the bookstore when he thought no one was looking was all she could compare it to, and the memory left her smiling. This time, he was laughing so genuinely, the way someone would if they were on the verge of gasping for breath, and she couldn’t help taking a few steps closer.

A second voice reached her ears and she recognized it as well. Jiraiya chuckled and continued with whatever he was saying to make the other man laugh. “I swear, it’s true! She looked at me, I looked at her, and the next thing I knew I’m flat on my back! That woman’s got a mean left hook, but I’ll take the beatings as long as I get to stare at her big—”

Sakura’s elbow leaned into the door and the hinges creaked, cutting into whatever was on the verge of coming out of Jiraya’s lips, though she had a pretty good idea. The two men inside the room jumped up from their seats on the desk and Sakura stepped inside, ducking her head sheepishly. She hadn’t meant to interrupt them. A part of her was kind of curious to hear the rest of whatever story he was telling.

But the larger man cleared his throat and glanced back to Professor Hatake, eyes wide and a single eyebrow arched with curiosity.

“I’m sorry,” Sakura started, pointing her thumb back to the door. “I can come back if you—”

“No, that’s alright.” Jiraiya waved a hand at her and beamed a bright smile. “I was just dropping off something for Hatake to read.” He turned to wink at Professor Hatake, who ignored it as he stared toward Sakura. “Tell me what you think, kid.”

With a nod goodbye to her, Jiraiya strolled from the room, whistling a tune happily as he went. In his absence, Sakura turned to face her professor with a sly smile. “Kid?”

“Well, he is older than I am.” He shrugged and snatched a book off the desk from beneath him. The cover was rather plain, colored green, and had a figure printed on top. Though she hadn’t got a very good look at it, Sakura could only guess that it was much like the last book she had seen him laughing over. She waited patiently as he tossed it in the air and pointed his wand to it, carrying it into the open door of his office above them. He turned back to her with a smile creasing the corners of his eyes. “I don’t mind it. Makes me feel young.”

With a scoff, Sakura lowered into the same seat she regularly sat in during his class. She folded her arms over the desk and scowled up at him. “You are young.”

She could tell her comment caught him off guard by the flash of surprise on his face that he tried to hide. He blinked it away and cleared his throat. “Not quite. Shall we get started?”

“Actually, I need you to sign a permission form for me to check out another book from the Restricted Section.” She pulled the folded parchment from the front pocket of her jeans and held it out to him, watching as he stepped up to her. He took it and signed his name across the bottom and Sakura cleared her throat.

“Also, I was wondering if…” Her voice trailed off as she reached for the parchment. The tips of his fingers brushed against hers and the touch sent heat flooding over her face and neck, though she tried not to let him see her react to it. “If you would help me with what we learned in class on Monday. The jinxes and counter jinxes.”

He stood straight and took a deep breath, arms folding over his chest. For a moment, she thought he was going to tell her no and her shoulders fell in anticipation of it. Instead, Professor Hatake gave a nod, flicked his wand toward the door to shut it and crooked his finger toward her. Butterflies were rampant against the inside of her stomach and she slowly stood from her chair.

“Stand here,” he said, pointing to a spot in front of his desk. “I’m going to try to knock your wand out of your hand and I want you to knock me back before I can. Alright?”

Sakura nodded but her grip on her wand was sweaty. She drummed her fingers against the length of the wood and stepped to where he had pointed, keeping her gaze focused on the floor at his feet.

“Sakura.” Her name startled her, and she lifted her gaze to meet his. For so long he had referred to her only as Miss Haruno. She didn’t expect it to sound so good. “You have to actually look at your opponent to anticipate an attack.”

“Right,” she muttered with a nod and pushed the sleeves of her sweatshirt up to her elbows. “Okay, I’m ready—”

A small snap of magic slapped her hand and her wand tumbled backwards, clattering to the cobblestone floor. She blinked up at him in surprise to see his eyebrow arched and what she could only guess was an insufferable smirk hidden behind his mask. Alright, she thought. If that’s how he wants to play, then so be it.

Sakura spun on her heel and grabbed her wand from the floor, whipping back around to face him. She held her wand at the ready, the tip pointed toward him and the locormotor jinx clear in her mind. Before she could even set the spell off, the same slap of magic hit her fingers and her wand bounced out once more.

This time, she glared at him as he chuckled.

“You must always be ready, Sakura.”

She snatched her wand up and flicked it toward him, mouth opening to speak out of instinct. He held up a hand and wagged his finger back and forth once.

“Ah-ah, no incantations remember?”

She couldn’t resist rolling her eyes at his words and she folded her arms over her chest. “You’re not even giving me a chance.”

“Your enemies won’t give you a chance either.”

With a sigh, Sakura dropped her hands to her side, her grip on her wand so tight she was afraid the wood would snap. She wasn’t going to let him disarm her again, though. “You’re not my enemy though. I know you’re not going to hurt me, so I don’t exactly feel threatened.”

He tilted his head to the side, eyes narrowed with an intensity that made her feel sudden heat across her face. Long gone was the cheeky smirk that touched his eyes and in its place was something she had never seen before. It frightened her enough to take a step back.

Professor Hatake took two steps toward her and Sakura put her wand up in front of her. The incantation was in her mind and she could feel the magic release from the tip of her wand. Unfortunately, it was only a second too late. Before the jinx could knock him back, the wand was knocked from her hands and clattered to the floor.

She turned to snatch it, only to have him send it across the room, much too far for her to reach. Sakura backed into his desk and swallowed, staring up at him as he advanced toward her. Her thoughts were a frenzy, caught between fear and something else, something that snaked its way through her and settled deep and warm in her lower belly.

Her first instinct was to run past him and retrieve her wand. She took a step to her right and he fired another spell. A red spark shot out of his wand and sizzled against the toe of her sneaker, making her jump back. He had her nearly cornered now. The backs of her thighs were pressed as far into his desk as they could go and she stared as he lifted his wand once again, this time aimed right for her.

Her body reacted before her brain could even make a decision. Sakura snatched his wrist and pushed the wand away from her just as he released the spell. It soared over her head in silver streams until it hit a large, framed painting. It toppled off of its nail and clattered to the floor loudly, though neither turned to glance at it.

Sakura’s left hand moved toward his face, intending to smack him the same way she had in front of the entire class a few weeks ago. It never reached its target and as he caught her wrist, she stumbled back. The desk slid a few inches across the cobblestone and the noise was loud enough to make her gasp.

With his wrist held in her right hand and her left held in his, they stood still for several seconds. Their breaths were heavier and though he kept himself a safe distance away, it was closer than he had ever been before. She could feel the heat from his body sinking into her, starting with his fingers still gripping her wrist and spreading down deep into her belly.

Something dark and tense flashed across his eyes as he stared at her and though it lasted mere seconds, she had seen enough to know that whatever she was feeling, he felt it too.

Professor Hatake dropped her hand and she did the same, folding her arms around herself as he stepped away from her. With a flick of his wand, hers zipped across the room into his open palm and he handed it back to her.

Sakura stared down at the familiar wood and pinched her lips between her teeth. She watched him put enough space between them to be comfortable through her lashes and lifted her wand. He was distracted by whatever had just happened between them and she couldn’t resist the pull of a smile at the corner of her lips.

“Right, let’s try again—”

His wand popped out of his hand and he watched it tumble to the floor with his eyebrows raised to his hairline. She had taken advantage of his distraction and the look of genuine surprise, made her chest swell with pride. As his head turned to hers, Sakura smirked.

“You must always be ready, Professor.”

“I think I was wrong about you,” he said as he bent to pick his wand back up from the floor. Though he had said it with a certain humorous tone, Sakura still frowned.

“What do you mean?”

“I think you need to learn how to channel your frustrations. Don't ignore them. Use them.”

She blinked and shook her head with a scoff. “Isn’t it dangerous to use emotions with magic?”

Professor Hatake gave a small shrug and sat on the corner of his desk, folding his hands over his lap. He met her eyes and sighed. “Sometimes, yes. It can make you too quick to react. But I think for you, it could be beneficial to use a bit of emotion. You concentrate solely on the how and forget that the magic has to come from within you, from a part of you that you can't always explain through facts and logic.”

For the past several months, she had been trying to get rid of her emotions. The last thing she wanted was to feel a fraction of the heartache, pain and frustration she had went through. And even before that, she never had to use her emotions to excel at her witchcraft. Everything from her first year until now had been methodical and precise. Now he was telling her to do the complete opposite? It made sense from the way he explained it, but she couldn’t deny that it made her nervous to think about.

“I understand. I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to use my emotions with magic.”

Professor Hatake took a breath and nodded. “Being a seventeen year old can’t be easy. You have a lot of emotions to deal with—”

Sakura smiled and lowered herself into the chair behind her usual desk. “I’m not seventeen.” When he didn’t respond, she let out a small laugh and ducked her head. “I’m a year older than the other 7th years. My parents have always been protective of me, and being Muggles, they had no idea this other world even existed. And when my mother fell ill the summer before my first year, they didn’t want me to be too far away.”

He stared at her, his expression completely unreadable and Sakura didn’t know if she liked it or not. No one had ever looked at her the way he did. She shrugged and shifted her gaze to the framed painting they had knocked off the wall.

“I didn’t know that,” he finally said, his voice quiet.

“Not many people do. It took almost a whole year for Tsunade to convince my parents to let me attend. The Ministry approved on the condition I not tell anyone, and I had always assumed it was because they didn’t want it known that I was allowed special privileges. Though now that I’m older I realize it probably has more to do with what I am.”

“What do you mean, what you are?” He pushed off his desk and moved toward her, arms folding across his chest and bringing her attention to the shape of his muscles beneath his shirt.

Sakura swallowed and forced her eyes back up to his face. “A muggle born.”

“Sakura, the circumstances of your birth doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone else. You’re a good witch because you worked hard for this.” His words made her look down to her hands twisting nervously on top of the desk. She took a deep breath, hating the way it shuddered in her chest.

“Well, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?” She lifted her gaze to meet his once more. “I don’t come from a family of wizards dating back to the third century. This doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for Ino, or Naruto, or—” She really didn’t want to say his name, but it was clear from the way Professor Hatake’s jaw clenched that he knew exactly who she was talking about. “Some people see me working hard and laugh because they don’t have to work hard. Poor mudblood has to actually work hard just to be beneath everyone else.”

The bitterness in her words echoed in her ears and she clamped her lips shut, wishing she hadn’t even opened her mouth in the first place. She wasn’t even sure why she was telling him this. It was something she hadn’t even shared with Ino before. Risking a glance up at him, she found him leaning over the desk with his hands flat on the surface, his eyes narrow with concern and she felt his gaze pierce right through her.

“It may not matter much to hear this now, but I can assure you, that you're a bigger person than they will ever be. And I know that whatever you decide to do in the future, you will do great things.”

Blood pricked warm and pink behind her cheeks and Sakura swallowed as she stared up at him. Once again, they were closer than they had ever been to one another and even with the desk between them, it would be nothing for her to raise up from the chair to—

Sakura blinked at her thoughts, unsure what they were even wanting to do. Kiss him? Her gaze drifted down to the outline of his lips behind his mask and she wondered what the rest of his face looked like. She wanted to see it, to feel it under her fingers and on her lips. And when she glanced back up to his eyes, she found him studying her own lips. Her body inched to the edge of her chair, lifting her up just a fraction of an inch and to her surprise, he leaned down as well.

But whatever spell they had been under broke as his eyes widened and the realization of what they were doing hit him. He straightened and cleared his throat, turning away from her quickly. Sakura sank back in her chair and clamped her teeth around her bottom lip. She knew she should say something, anything to reassure him that she was not trying to kiss him.

Although, that’s exactly what she had been doing.

And he had leaned toward her as well.

She held her breath, not exactly sure what they were supposed to do now. Luckily, he made the decision for them and with a quick glance back at her over his shoulder, he said, “I think it would be best if we stopped here tonight. I have some work to finish.”

Sakura’s mouth opened to protest but she snapped it shut once she realized she had no reason to. What was she supposed to say anyway? No, please, let’s keep going! He’d probably march her straight to Tsunade’s office. Quietly, she slipped out of her chair and pocketed her wand, turning away from him. Only once did she look back on her way out of the room, but by the time she did, he was in his office with the door closing behind him.


 

AN- Apologies for the short chapter and nearly month long wait! 

Chapter Text


 

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How was it so warm? It was in the middle of October and still, Sakura felt as if her room was sweltering as she laid in bed, staring at the dark ceiling above her. She kicked the blankets from her feet and closed her eyes at the sudden rush of air that touched her legs. Even though she had chosen to wear a pair of shorts and a tank top to bed, she couldn’t shake the heat.

As much as she wanted to blame it on an unseasonable warm spell that had lingered over the grounds the last few days, she knew her feverishness had little to do with the weather. Throughout the entire weekend, she had been a recluse, staying in her dorm and only coming out for meals. Of course, Ino had noticed the odd behavior but thankfully, being the studious student that Sakura was, it wasn’t that out of character for her.

Her isolation had allowed her to get ahead on her work, but it wasn’t the reason behind her desire to stay in hiding. And in truth, she didn’t know if she was ready to even think about that reason. It certainly had a lot to do with a certain someone she had absolutely no right to think about, but she couldn’t bring herself to admit that.

No.

It was the late warm spell that was making her hair cling to the back of her neck and it was the weather that had her squirming in bed Sunday night. Definitely had nothing to do with the fact that Monday morning would be rearing its ugly head once again and she would be forced to sit in the front row of Defense Against the Dark Arts to stare at the man who she had nearly—

Sakura sighed and flopped onto her side, blowing a bit of hair from her face in annoyance. She knew she had to stop thinking about it. There was no good that could come from dwelling about the way his eyes had looked, half-lidded and heavy with something she couldn’t even fathom, or the way the air between them seemed to sizzle. She definitely shouldn’t try to piece together every second from her memory about the way he inched his face toward hers.

That would be way too dangerous for her to think about.

But as she closed her eyes, a whimper escaped her lips and her mind quickly returned back to the memories she was trying to escape from. If she held her breath, she could almost remember the way he smelled standing so near to her. And if she tilted her head up at just the right angle, she could almost see his eyes flickering down to her lips.

Sakura snapped her eyes open and rolled back onto her back, draping her arm across her forehead. Sweat was making the back of her tank top hug the skin along the small of her back and she wiggled over the sheets, wishing she could just open the narrow window across the room. If she could just feel the night air, she would feel so much better.

Unfortunately, the window was for decoration purposes only and she stared at the diamond shaped panes of glass. Would she be in too much trouble for breaking one of them out? Knowing the castle, it probably wouldn’t even let her.

She was stuck in her misery it would seem. She glanced to the notebook she had charmed to hover in the air beside the bed, fanning the warm air into her face. It was doing nothing to help and she swatted a hand at it, sending the book to the floor. Lifting her hips off the bed, she wiggled out of her shorts and quickly peeled her tank top off to match. She wasn’t nearly brave enough to be without a bra or panties but without the extra fabric, she was already feeling better.

That is, until she closed her eyes and saw his face again. She saw the way he stared at her lips, his gaze quickly finding hers once more and the flash of—of what? She wasn’t exactly sure. Had he wanted to kiss her too? Had his heart been hammering like mad against his chest in the moment?

Sakura bit her bottom lip and opened her eyes to the dark room around her. The moon outside the thin strip of a window was only a sliver of white in the sky, offering little light into her room. She glanced to the mirror where she had thrown a jacket over the annoying inspirational messages that popped up each and every day.

What would the mirror advise her to do in a situation like this? Would it continue to motivate her to do her best, to go for what she wanted, or would it tell her to stop being crazy? She almost laughed at the thought of the mirror writing a very long, passionate message about how wanting to kiss her professor is not only stupid but incredibly dangerous. And honestly, she didn’t know if she even wanted to kiss him.

In that moment, yeah, there was no denying it. But now? If he was in her room, standing beside her bed, would she invite him in…Sakura’s eyes slid close and her lips parted in a sigh. Despite how hot her skin currently was, the thought of having him in bed with her, his skin sticking to hers and his lips across her jaw, making her body temperature raise even more, sounded surprisingly amazing. They would have to be quiet even though she had her own room.

Anyone sitting in the common room would be able to hear them. She would have to whisper to him, beg him in hushed tones to kiss her like she had wanted him to the other night. And as he touched her the way she was touching herself and made her feel like no one had ever done before, she would breathe, “Professor.”

Sakura’s eyes snapped open and she sat up in her bed, winding her fingers through her hair. What the hell was she doing? She was supposed to be getting these thoughts out of her mind! Not producing more unnecessary, dangerous fantasies that would only make things a thousand times more awkward between them.

“Fuck, what is wrong with me?”

.

.

“What’s wrong with you today?” Ino asked as she dropped into the bench beside Sakura during their lunch hour. Aside from getting no sleep the previous night, Sakura had woken up in a foul mood and to stop herself from taking it out on anyone who came across her path, she thought it would be best to keep her mouth shut. Which apparently Ino wasn’t too happy about.

Lifting her head, Sakura frowned up at her best friend and offered a simple shrug of her shoulder in response. “It’s Monday, isn’t that enough?”

“For Miss Academia? I thought you’d be thrilled at the chance to start another week of learning.” A plate appeared before her on the table and she tucked into the meal with a snort at her own joke. She dashed a bit of salt over her potatoes and popped a bite into her mouth before glancing to Sakura.

“Maybe I’m a bit tired of being Miss Academia.”

“Oh good,” Ino said around the bite of potatoes. “Does that mean you’re going to become Miss Slacker? I could get behind that.”

Sakura didn’t even bother rolling her eyes. As much as she wanted to just say screw it to her whole academic career, drop out of Hogwarts and become a muggle accountant like her father, she knew she would regret that for the rest of her life. Although, her father would probably be quite proud. He still couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that there was an entire world hidden in plain sight from muggles, and each holiday she came home, he urged her to consider a good muggle university ‘just in case’.

After the year she’s had, the option wasn’t completely off the table for her.

“Why are you always over here?” A male voice made both girls lift their heads and Shikamaru dropped with a sigh into the bench across from them. Sakura was thankful for the distraction and knew that an argument between him and Ino would keep the Slytherin busy for a few hours. “Don’t you belong with the other snakes?”

“Oh, how hilarious! I’ll go sit with the snakes if you go take a leap off the Astronomy tower and see if you’re truly an eagle.” Ino popped a carrot into her mouth.

“Clever,” he said with a yawn following closely behind.

As thankful for the distraction as she was, Sakura would rather not get caught up in the screaming match that usually broke out between the two of them. In times like these, there was only one thing she could do to really shut them both up and get them out of her hair altogether.

She gathered her books into her arms and stood from the bench, shaking her head at the two. “It’s been seven years like this between you two. Just hook up already and get it over with.”

As she turned to walk away, Sakura couldn’t help the smile that Ino’s sputtering put on her face. Their disgust was ignored by the Ravenclaw but even outside the Great Hall, she could still hear her best friend’s gagging sounds echoing. And while it definitely brought some peace to Sakura so she could dwell on thoughts about the last class of the day and why she was so worried to be sitting in that classroom, Ino was still upset when Defense Against the Dark Arts rolled back around.

Sakura was the first one in the room, like usual, and she was relieved to find that if Professor Hatake was already there, the door to his office was closed and she didn’t have to see him. Not that she didn’t want to. All that she had wanted since the moment she opened her tired eyes was to see him again and maybe quiet some of the questions racing through her mind.

Would he say something to her, take her aside during class to tell her that he didn’t want to give her Occlumency lessons anymore? Surely he wouldn’t do anything to embarrass her in front of anyone else. She had all but poured her heart out to him about her fears. Was he the kind of person who would turn that against her?

No, she knew he wasn’t. Despite the hard exterior, the stern mask he wore, she had seen enough glimpses into his true self to know he would never. As much as he tried to hide it from everyone, he was kind and decent and that made it so much harder for Sakura to not like him.

Gods, did she like him?

It was the thought that rang through her mind like alarm bells when her best friend fell into the seat beside her with a frown. If she hadn’t been feeling a similar way, Sakura would have probably laughed only because she knew she was the source of that frown.

Instead, she pulled her textbook closer to her and opened it to the chapter they were currently working through. She had finished the questions over the weekend but reading over them was better than worrying about the questions still circling her mind.

“I don’t like him, you know?”

Sakura’s eyebrows lifted and she turned to blink at her best friend. “Who?” She knew who; she just wanted to hear Ino say it.

With a roll of her eyes, the blonde sat back in the seat and picked at a loose string hanging from the hem of her skirt. When she did finally answer, she whispered, “Shikamaru.”

“Oh,” Sakura said, turning back to her book. She flipped to the next page with a shrug. “I never said you did.”

“Well, you practically did during lunch.”

“No, I said you two need to hook up.” Sakura lifted her head with a smirk pulling at the corner of her lips. “You can hook up with someone without liking them.”

“Whatever,” Ino grumbled. “I just don’t want you thinking that I do like him. Because I don’t. I like Sai.”

“How’s that going, by the way?”

“Well, we don’t hate each other’s guts, so I think that’s a good sign.”

As convincing as Ino was, Sakura didn’t believe for a second that she and Shikamaru hated each other’s guts. Anyone even remotely attuned to attraction could sense the tension between those two, and it had nothing to do with hate. Hell, there were first years who knew about the relationship between Slytherin’s hotheaded blonde and Ravenclaw’s annoyingly lazy Head Boy.

It may not be love, but that fire was going to ignite before the end of the year, Sakura could almost guarantee it. But before she could enjoy the look of indignation on her best friend’s face, the room begun to fill up with students. With no Professor Hatake looming ominously at the front of the class, the seventh years were feeling a bit more chatty than usual.

Sakura glanced over her shoulder toward the open door to the classroom. The hallway stretching beyond was almost empty, with the only people still milling about was the stragglers that never got to class on time. One of which was Naruto, and as he fell into his seat gracelessly, Sakura checked her watch.

Being late was typical of Professor Hatake, but so close to an exam? They had things to cover before Wednesday and she doubted that they’d have enough time to get to it all if he was too late. Her foot tapped nervously against the leg of the desk and her eyes darted up to the closed door to his office.

She wondered what he would do if someone marched up there and knocked to see if he was hiding. And of course, she couldn’t help her thoughts shifting to what he would do if she were the one to come knocking on his door to find him.

The door slammed at the back of the classroom and Sakura whirled around before she could stop herself. But Professor Hatake’s blank stare was not the one she was met with. Jiraiya marched down the aisle between the two lines of desks, his sandals clacking loudly on the stone. Immediately, whispers started about what in the world he was doing there. Naruto groaned and sank further down into his seat.

Sakura’s heartbeat tripled inside her chest and she clenched her teeth tightly together. She followed Jiraiya as he made his way to the front of the room. As he turned to face them, crossing his arms over his chest, he grinned.

“Well, well, well. Never thought I’d be in a classroom like this again, but I guess Tsunade thought it was better for me to cover for Hatake than for you lot to have a free hour.”

A hand rose from the back and he pointed to the girl. “Where’s Professor Hatake?”

“As you know, Hatake’s an auror for the Ministry. He was called away yesterday, but he assured me that he’d be back for your exam Wednesday.”

Something hot and sick pressed against the back of Sakura’s throat. She, and the other students in the room, seemed to all bristle at the mention of one of the Ministry’s aurors being called away. Had something happened? Was Professor Hatake in danger? The last question was the one Sakura found the most worrying.

Naruto raised his hand next and Jiraiya looked a bit hesitant to call on him. With a sigh, he pointed to the Gryffindor before circling around the desk at the front of the room.

“What happened to call him away?”

The class turned in unison back toward the man at the desk. His smile was gentle and genuine, though Sakura could see he was forcing it. Something had happened. Her hands clenched the seat beneath her thighs, and she shared a quick, worrying glance to Ino.

“How the hell should I know, kid? You think they tell me anything?” He pushed the blackboard until it swung around and showed a list of jinxes and charms that they had been practicing the past few weeks. “I’ll go over these and what you need to know for the exam, then we can get out a bit early.”

The promise of an early day was nice, but the students were too wound up to even care. Sakura glanced around at the rest of the class and found that most of them had the same worry and unease written across their face. In fact, the only ones who didn’t seem to be phased by the thought of something happening to call their professor away in the middle of the semester were the group of Slytherins sitting toward the back.

“They don’t look too worried, do they?” Ino whispered as she leaned toward Sakura.

“No, they don’t,” she sighed, turning back to face the front of the class where Jiraiya was sitting back in the chair, his feet propped on the corner of the desk. He had already started the day’s lesson, reading right from a parchment that was more than likely given by Professor Hatake as a guideline. There was no way he’d ever just give them the information, emergency or not.

Sakura couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad had happened and it sat heavy and intruding on her stomach for the next thirty five minutes. Whether the other students seemed to have forgotten about the worrying information they had gotten at the start of the class, or they were better at hiding it, she wasn’t too sure. But she couldn’t ignore it or mask her dread as easily.

Ino nudged her with an elbow as it became clear that Jiraiya was winding down the lesson. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she whispered with a nod, hoping she looked convincing. Knowing Ino, she wasn’t. Not much got passed the girl, especially when it came to Sakura. “I just hope it’s nothing bad.”

“I’m sure if it was, we’d know by now. Madame Tsunade wouldn’t keep it from us.”

That’s what she wanted to believe, but Sakura couldn’t be too sure. The last thing the Headmistress wanted was to cause a panic. But maybe Sakura was being too paranoid. Would she be this worried if it was another professor that she didn’t feel this way toward?

She wanted to tell herself that yes, she would worry just as much.

“I think that’s about it,” Jiraiya called, flipping the parchment over to check the back. With a smile, he dropped his feet to the floor. The rest of the class stood up and the chattering from earlier picked back up. A few were discussing what could possibly have happened to call Professor Hatake away, but most were busy talking about the outcome of the Quidditch game coming up this weekend.

Sakura rolled her eyes and shouldered her bag, turning toward the door. She opened her mouth, on the verge of asking Ino what she thought about the situation when her name was called behind her. Both girls stopped in the center aisle and turned to see Jiraiya move around the desk. He held out a book with a folded piece of parchment sticking out an inch from the middle of the pages.

“I was told to deliver this to you from Professor Hatake.” His words made warmth flood her face and she took the book quickly.

She looked down at the cover with a frown. It was nondescript; black leather cover with faded, gold lettering across the top that spelled My Thoughts, Your Thoughts. It was the one he had mentioned while he led her through the Restricted Section of the library. The one she held was very clearly not the library’s copy. It was worn from several reads and some of the page corners were dogeared.

This was his personal copy.

And sure, she had read one of his personal books before, but she had asked for that. This was something he thought she needed to read.

The realization that she had stood there, gawking down at the book without saying anything for a minute made her swallow and she lifted her eyes to the professor in front of her. He had an amused look on his face; more curious than assuming.

“Thank you, Professor,” she managed to mutter before tucking the book between her chest and the textbook she had been carrying. He nodded once and crossed his arms over his chest, the small smile never leaving his face. It only made her blush worse and she quickly spun on her heel to catch back up to her friend.

Ino was waiting just outside the door with an eyebrow arched as she eyed the new addition to the books in Sakura’s arms. “More reading?”

“Well, I asked him to provide me with outside information. I can’t learn everything if I restrict myself only to—”

Ino put a hand up to stop her and shook her head with a laugh. “Forget I asked, Miss Academia!”

God, she really hoped that nickname wouldn’t stick. They had just gotten to the point where they weren’t calling each other Pig or Forehead every other sentence. She didn’t need a new one. But, just in case, she decided to think of a new one for Ino that would really strike a nerve.

Mrs. Nara would probably do it, but she decided to save that for the next time she was truly angry at the girl. In the meantime, she couldn’t think beyond what could possibly be on the parchment sticking between the pages of the book in her arms. She glanced down at the torn edge and tried to picture what he was doing when he wrote it.

Did he think of her after being called away?

“I have to go drop my stuff off in my room,” Sakura said suddenly, wanting nothing more than a moment of privacy so she could read the note. There was no way she was going to open it up around Ino. “Are you going to sit with me at dinner or should we sit with Ten? Wouldn’t want you to run into Mr. Nara.”

Ino’s glare was enough to make her laugh and she lifted her free hand in surrender. “I might not sit with you at all.”

With that, the blonde turned on her heel and made a beeline through a crowd of younger students lingering around the stairs. Sakura stayed behind in the hallway and ducked toward the windows. She checked to make sure no one was near enough to read over her shoulder before snatching the note out of the middle of the book.

His handwriting was bad, but she had gotten used to reading it through the last months of class. This was worse, though, as if he had been in a hurry to get it out. So maybe he had written it after getting called away from Hogwarts. That sent a tingle of warmth through her body and she blinked down at the letters.

‘Sakura,

I think it would be a good idea to postpone our lessons until after the exam. Continue to do the readings. We will pick back up in a couple of weeks.

K. Hatake’

She read it twice, her face falling into a frown with each word. The excitement she had felt only moments ago had turned into disappointment that didn’t sit well inside her stomach. She stared at his signature and pursed her lips. If he had thought of her before leaving, it was only to tell her this? That he didn’t think it would be a good idea to have their lessons the next few weeks?

The exam was Wednesday. Why would they need to postpone their meetings for a couple of weeks? Even as she asked herself the question, she knew the answer to it. He wanted to put distance between them after what had happened. He didn’t want her to think that he was interested and the best way to make her realize that was to distance himself.

Her hand crumpled around the note and she stepped away from the window. She held it tight in her fist up the stairs and through the halls, not letting go until she was back in the Ravenclaw common room. It was relatively empty, with most of the Ravenclaws having already made their way down to the Great Hall for dinner. Only a few stayed behind, too busy with their homework to even notice Sakura.

She walked to the marble fireplace and glared at the blue and gold veins running through the white stone. With a quick flick of her wand, the fire blazed to life and heat flooded around her legs. She tossed the note into the flames and turned on her heel. Ino would just have to eat without her tonight. Sakura’s appetite disappeared the moment she read Professor Hatake’s note.

And she couldn’t even be angry at him.

If she were in his position, she would have done the same thing. This whole thing was entirely her fault and she was the reason behind the sick feeling clenching her stomach. She crossed the room and into her private dormitory, kicking the door shut behind her. The force of it slamming made the jacket she had thrown over the mirror fall to the floor in a heap of fabric.

Sakura spun around and darted her eyes from the jacket to the mirror. The charmed message shimmered in the overhead light and the letters bloomed across the glass. 'When one door shuts, open another...'

 


 

It was getting easier for Kakashi to understand why Tsunade drank so much. He wondered if she had been quite the alcoholic before taking a position at Hogwarts, though he doubted it. Nothing he had ever done in his life made him want to reach for that bottle buried way back in the bottom drawer of his desk quite like teaching.

Though the reason he grabbed the Fire Whisky tonight wasn’t because of lesson plans or the exams he had only a day to finish writing out. The bottle made a soft thump as he set it down on top of a stack of papers. He rolled his sleeves to his elbows and sat back in his chair, ignoring the creak of the hinges. The sound of the door of the classroom opening made him sigh and he quickly glanced to the bottle.

No one even knew he was back yet. He had been hoping to spend an hour or so to himself without a rush of questions. Apparently, that wasn’t happening tonight.

Kakashi grabbed the bottle and pulled it off the desk and into the drawer, kicking it shut as he stood up and crossed the office. At the door he let out a small laugh of relief and leaned against the frame at the sight of Tsunade making her way up the stairs.

“I know you’re probably exhausted, but I needed to check in.”

“I’m alright,” he said, stepping aside to let her into the room. “I was actually about to pour myself a drink. Care for a cup?”

“Only one, tonight.” Tsunade took a seat in the chair across the desk and Kakashi tried not to think about the last person who sat there. Of course, she was who he had been trying not to think about all weekend ever since their last meeting. But every night, when he closed his eyes, before sleep could take him, all he could see was her gazing up at him and the way her lips had parted with— “I had wondered if you would be back so soon.”

The Headmistress’ voice snapped Kakashi back to attention and he lowered himself into his chair, clenching his jaw to keep his thoughts off of Sakura Haruno. He snatched the bottle from the drawer and snagged two cups from the box behind him, exactly where they had been the first time Tsunade sat in his office.

“The Minister sends his apologies for pulling me away from Hogwarts. They didn’t anticipate an attack and a break in at the Ministry on the same night. They needed all hands on deck.” He passed the cup of whisky to her and sipped from his own, inviting the bitter burn falling down the back of his throat. It was exactly what he had been needing.

“Speaking of the attack. It was a muggle village, correct?”

Kakashi nodded, staring down into the amber liquid at the bottom of his cup. The muggle village had been the easy job. Only one was house hit by the rogue, dark wizards, though the resulting crowd that had gathered to watch required a lot of man hours from the Obliviators. Luckily, Kakashi hadn’t needed to stay to help them with that.

“No casualties, thankfully. One wizard is missing, though his family was left unharmed, and we think he was the one targeted, though we can’t figure out why.”

“Who was he?” Tsunade asked, her brows pinched and heavy with concentration. She swirled her whisky before bringing it back to her lips. “Someone working in the Ministry?”

“No, that’s what’s baffling about it. He was a debt collector. Never had so much as a ticket in his life.”

“Perhaps someone didn’t want to repay their debts,” Tsunade suggested with a soft chuckle. She slid the cup over the desk and Kakashi refilled it, ignoring her earlier promise of only one drink tonight. “Was it tied to the break in at the Ministry?”

“I’m not sure.” Kakashi shrugged. “I’m expecting a message from Asuma in the next few days when he finds out more. He was handling the break in.”

“Kurenai told me.”

“How is she?”

“Always a nervous wreck when it comes to her husband and his career. She’s better now that she knows he’s safe.” Tsunade knocked back the refilled cup and downed the contents in one gulp. She set it down on his desk with a slight grimace. No matter how many years she had under her belt in drinking, no one could drink a gulp of Fire Whisky and keep a straight face. “You’ll be pleased to know that there were no reports from your classes. Though, with Jiraiya covering, I wouldn’t suspect there would be.”

Kakashi laughed, feeling more relaxed after two servings of alcohol. He scrubbed a hand over his face and through his hair, picturing his Monday classes reacting to the unorthodox professor taking over. He suspected none of them stayed the full hour.

“I’m still baffled by the Ministry’s decision on hiring him. I don’t think I’ll ever know how desperate the were making that decision.”

“Oh, he’s alright,” Kakashi said in defense, pushing himself to his feet as the Headmistress did the same. “The students seem to appreciate his leisurely behavior.”

The woman made a grunt and cast a sideways glance back at Kakashi. She moved down the steps of his office and he followed behind her, feeling the alcohol sink its way through his body. He wondered if he had enough time to go for a run, or if he should finish making out his exams first. The stack of blank parchments sitting on his desk was a grim reminder of how far behind he was, and he shook his head.

As they approached the door to the classroom, Tsunade turned back to face him with a strange look on her face. It immediately made his stomach muscles clench.

“How are the Occlumency lessons going?”

There were days when he was thankful for his mask, and this was one of them. Had he not been wearing it she might have seen the color drain from his face at the mention of the lessons. Instead, he cleared his throat and looked back to the spot in the classroom where he and Sakura had departed last week.

“They’re going well. I think she has potential.”

“And in class? How is she?”

He knew that the Headmistress had taken Sakura under her wing the last year and cared for her not just academically. It still didn’t change the uneasiness that settled in him when speaking about her. He couldn’t quite explain it, but it felt as if he were spilling secrets that he had promised never to tell. Whatever was the reason behind this feeling, he didn’t like it.

“She needs some work, but we’ve been trying to practice that as well. She, ah,” he paused to reach up and scratch his eyebrow. “She doesn’t seem to be as hung up on Mr. Uchiha these days.”

“Good.” Something dark passed over Tsunade’s face and her lips twisted into a scowl. “We need to keep an eye on him as well. There are some rumors floating around, both in the castle and out, that his family is in support of some darker ideals.”

Kakashi wasn’t a stranger to those rumors, though he didn’t think they were much more than that. The Uchihas had been the subject of this kind of talk a hundred times before, just like most of the ancient clans still around. But as common as it was, he knew it was best to take Tsunade’s advice to heart. She had dealt with enough dark wizards to be able to sniff them out of a crowd.

“So far, he’s only been an insufferable snob.”

“What Uchiha isn’t?” Tsunade asked with a smirk before giving him a nod goodnight. She left him at the door to his office and he watched her go, his hand gripping the knob tightly. As soon as she was out of sight, he let out a breath and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers.

Unfinished exams or not, he needed fresh air that only a run through the woods could promise. Taking the wand from his pocket, he pointed it to the door of his office and turned back to the hallway before it had even shut or locked behind him.

Whatever light mood the Fire Whisky had given him was quickly dissipating, starting first with the mention of a particular Ravenclaw who he had hoped wouldn’t pop into his head tonight. Wasn’t it bad enough that she had occupied his thoughts for the past four days? Why was he being tortured another night?

Kakashi rounded the corner and headed toward the stairs, hoping they wouldn’t take him off track too much tonight. He didn’t want any distractions. He wanted to shift and feel all four paws in the dirt. Already his body was tingling with the anticipation of the change and he reached up to loosen the top buttons of his shirt.

Thankfully, the late hour meant that most students and faculty were in bed for the night. Only those on patrol duty would be out and about. Which Kakashi completely forgot about, and one person in particular whose duties required her to be in the halls this close to midnight.

The set of stairs Kakashi stepped onto rumbled beneath his heels and he sighed, lifting his eyes to the ceiling as he waited for it to finish misdirecting him from his course. It swung to the left, taking him close to the hall that lead to the library and as he glanced down at he first floor, he caught a glimpse of a pink ponytail swaying over a black cloak. His hands gripped the railing tighter and he jerked his attention back to where she stood, now in his direct path.

Her face was tilted up at a series of portraits, all of the inhabitants pleased to have her attention on them. A small dog was balancing on a ball while the crowd laughed and cheered. It was Sakura’s laugh that stood out among the rest and it kept him frozen to the spot.

“Oi!” A gruff voice called behind him and he spun to the portrait that was now glaring down at him. “You see a ghost or somethin’? Get moving, it’s bedtime!” The angry man inside the canvas snapped rather loudly, flipping the ends of his silver scarf over his shoulder before leaning up against the frame.

Kakashi winced at the volume of his voice and turned back to face the way he had been heading earlier, losing all hope that she wouldn’t notice him at all. Her eyes were on him in an instant and again, the muscles along his stomach clenched. He regretted those two cups of whisky he had shared with Tsunade. The last thing he needed was anything clouding his head and making him do something incredibly stupid in front of a thousand portraits.

His feet moved on their own, taking him down the staircase though all he wanted to do was race back up and disappear into his office. It was incredibly bothering how easily she had gotten beneath his skin, settling in his thoughts far too much and making him think about things that were not only foolish, but completely out of character for him. He was annoyed that even now, with the alcohol making his stomach turn and knowing that he should nod to her and bid her goodnight, he couldn’t help wondering what her mouth would have felt like if he had never stopped them last week.

By the time he was on level ground with her, his jaw was clenched tight and his arms were folded across his chest. He hoped she could see how uncomfortable he was and wouldn’t bother him. The relief in her eyes as she smiled at him was almost unbearable.

“You’re back,” she breathed as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Fuck, why did she have to do and say things like that?

“It’s a bit late for a stroll through the castle, isn’t it?” He hoped he didn’t sound too upset about seeing her. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see her…Or maybe it was like that. He wasn’t even sure anymore. The only thing Kakashi was aware of was the distance he had put between them hadn’t been enough. Hopefully their break from Occlumency lessons would let him clear his mind.

“Well, I’m on patrol duty tonight.” Sakura pointed to the Head Girl badge pinned onto her cloak, just over her left breast. He refused to let himself look down at it, keeping his gaze on hers and hardened the way he had looked at her the first day of class when she had been just an annoying teenage girl. “I’ve got to keep my eye out for anyone out of bed, like you.”

Her giggle made his jaw clench tighter and he looked down the hall over her head, hoping that the portraits who had gathered to put on a show for her earlier were ignoring them now. They weren’t. Several painted figures were watching them and waiting. For what, he wasn’t sure he even wanted to know.

“Professors don’t exactly have a curfew. What were you looking at?” He nodded toward the group of portraits, the sizes varying. Right in the middle was a small frame at Sakura’s height. It had been the one the figures had been crowding around and Sakura turned to face it with a smile. The shaggy dog inside sat up on its hind legs and tilted its head, ears flopping side to side.

“Oh, they do this a lot. I always try to stick around for a show when I have time during my rounds.”

“Well,” Kakashi started, taking a step around her. “I shouldn’t keep you then.”

He managed to make his way to the opposite side of the hall, where the lights were a bit dimmer and the portraits were filled with sleeping figures or ones that didn’t bother glancing their way. Kakashi rubbed a hand over his face and held his breath, knowing he wouldn’t get away that easily. Sure enough, Sakura spoke up.

“Professor, wait!”

He turned to find her trotting up to him with a nervous smile on her face and a blush creeping along her cheeks. It made something stir inside him and he forced himself to look away from her. Instead, he focused on the gold chipped paint on the frame closes to him.

She took a deep breath and ducked her head before speaking. “I’m sorry about the other night. I shouldn’t have…I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable and I’m sorry.”

Kakashi’s breath froze in his lungs and slowly, his gaze slid back to her. His thoughts were a frenzy as he tried to figure out what he could possibly say to her. Nervous anxiety crept up his chest and he coughed to try to dislodge it. His arms crossed over his chest and he shifted on his feet.

“You have nothing to apologize for. If I insinuated in any way that I—”

“No!” Sakura’s eyes went wide, and her hands raised, palms facing him. “You didn’t. I promise, it was just me being…completely out of the line and I am sorry. It will never happen again.” The sincerity of her words was palpable and inside him, he felt a sharp sting to his chest. This was the best outcome he could hope for.

“Alright.” He didn’t quite know what else to say. “I’ll see you in class on Wednesday. Goodnight, Miss Haruno.”

“Goodnight, Professor.”

Yes, this was good. She was sincere in her apology and accepting the blame. He even believed her promise that it would never happen again. But as they turned and made their way away from one another, he couldn’t help the disappointment settling in his mind. Somehow, in some way he would never understand, she had managed to sink further beneath his skin in such a short exchange and though he still wanted—needed—that run, Kakashi would rather have the Fire Whisky waiting for him back in his office.

Anything to dull these thoughts and make him forget why he was so disappointed in her promise. It will never happen again. It should have been exactly what he wanted to hear and instead, though he refused to ever admit this to anyone or himself, it was the opposite.

 


 

An- Damn, he's got it bad already...Good thing Halloween is right around the corner. These two deserve a little break from their mutual, secretive pining. Hopefully, they'll get a bit more action and alone time :) 

 

Chapter Text


 

 

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A knock at Sakura’s door made her lift her head from her reading. The book Professor Hatake had lent her was open on her desk and she was nearly finished. Only a few more chapters to go. She had been so caught up in the reading that she had completely lost track of time and the fact that she had asked her two friends to meet up.

Sakura cursed beneath her breath and turned toward the door. “Just a sec!” She grabbed the closest thing to her for a bookmark; one of the pictures of Ino and her sitting on the beach, tanned and relaxing after a day of swimming. Sakura closed the book with a thump and crossed the room quickly to throw open the door.

The rather annoyed face of Shikamaru met her first as he leaned a shoulder against the door frame. He glanced back at her two friends with a sigh. “Do these belong to you? They’ve been pacing out in the hallway for a while.”

Ah, so she had lost track of more time than she had previously thought. She ducked her head sheepishly and took a step back, opening the door wide enough to let the two of them in. A stuffed backpack was slung over Tenten’s shoulder and Ino carried a bundle of crafting supplies stuffed into a satchel. The blonde rolled her eyes as she crossed into Sakura’s bedroom.

“It’s about time, Haruno. We’ve been outside that door for bloody ages.” She dropped the bundle in her arms on the floor and Tenten sat down beside them. The backpack she had been carrying was dumped out to reveal various articles of clothing.

When Sakura turned back to Shikamaru, his eyebrow was arched, and he was ducking around the door frame to get a better look. She put her hand to his forehead and pushed him back out into the common room. “Thank you, Shikamaru. I can handle it from here.”

He rolled his eyes and spun on his heel to stalk back to his room, but not before he muttered, “Whatever,” loud enough for the three of them to hear. As he stalked off, Sakura glanced around the common room with a frown. She had never seen the Ravenclaw students so rowdy and full of excitement. While usually, they were broke-up into groups, studying or reading quietly, most of them were discussing the weekend ahead and there was even a stereo playing music in the corner.

“Are they usually that rowdy?” Ino asked as Sakura shut the door behind her.

“No, I think it must be the weekend that’s got them so excited.”

She joined the two on the floor and crossed her legs beneath her on the navy rug. The pile of clothes in the middle was a multitude of colors and Sakura picked at the sleeve of a purple blouse. Tenten scoffed and gave her friends a lopsided grin.

“Halloween has Gryffindor in a tizzy as well. You should see the decorations we’ve hung up…”

Sakura stopped listening at the mention of the holiday. Halloween weekend had been the cause of excitement that buzzed through the student body for the last few days. It was rare that the faculty let the students partake in something like this. With the holiday falling on a Hogsmeade Saturday, the students were allowed to spend their night in the village to celebrate. Only until midnight, though.

And though she wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of spending Halloween monitoring her peers, Tsunade had made it clear to the Head Boys and Girls that that was exactly what they would be doing. It was bad enough that Sakura might run into certain people she really didn’t care for, but having to watch the younger years run about, screaming and going wild from a sugar rush?

She almost wanted to fake sick and stay in the castle.

But that had nothing to do with the fact that staying in the castle would give her another opportunity to run into a certain masked professor that she was having trouble not thinking about. Of course, that would go against what she had promised him the other night. As relieved as she was that they had fallen back into the friendly student-teacher relationship they had found themselves in after their turbulent beginnings, Sakura missed the flirty banter. But keeping professional was better than being awkward with one another.

She’d take professional and platonic over that any day.

Ino plucked a stuffed lion head pincushion from the pile of crafting supplies and arched her eyebrow at it. She tossed it back onto the pile between them on the floor and moved onto the clothes. Grabbing a pair of leggings, she sat back against Sakura’s desk with a sigh. “I’m still undecided on what to dress up as.”

 “I’m undecided on whether I want to even go,” Sakura mumbled, hoping her voice had been low enough to be unheard. It hadn’t.

Ino dropped the leggings into her lap and glared with a finger pointed toward the Ravenclaw’s face. “Don’t do this, Haruno. We all agreed on this.”

She tossed a green sweater that Sakura barely caught. The sleeve draped over her head and she pulled it away from her, smoothing her hair back with a scowl. It wasn’t like she was actually going to bail on her friends. She knew there would be dire consequences waiting for her if she did. But that didn’t mean she had to want to go. If they wanted her to tag along, they’d have to accept her whining and complaining the whole time.

She stared down at the sweater in her lap and sighed. “These costumes seem a little silly, don’t they?”

“The very idea of dressing up is silly. But it’s one day a year,” Tenten reminded her absently as she searched the crafting supplies. She pulled out a pair of scissors and a piece of chalk. Sakura watched her lay a yellow blouse down on the rug before hovering over it on her hands and knees. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Ino sat up and snatched the chalk from her hands. “What are you even going to be, Ten?”

“Well, we were all doing the protest against sexy costumes, right?” She sat back on her heels and Sakura once again looked at the green sweater. She didn’t remember agreeing to that, but she didn’t mind either. Dressing up at eighteen was already kind of embarrassing. Trying to appear sexy in skimpy, low cut costumes would be even worse. Tenten sighed, making Sakura lift her head to look at her. “The most unsexy thing I could think of was a bumblebee.”

“Aw,” Sakura said. The mental image of Tenten wearing a black and yellow striped shirt and stinger attached to her arse was adorable. She nodded to the shirt laid out on the floor. “Just charm some black stripes on the shirt. I can help you make the stinger.”

It wasn’t long before they settled into the groove of crafting their costumes. Sakura sat with her legs crossed beneath her as she twisted white pipe cleaners through the holes of her borrowed, knit sweater. She clipped them short and hoped she would look like a cactus once she put it on. As she laid it down on the rug in front of her, she couldn’t help thinking about how many people would see her in this thing.

And, oh, gods, what if he saw her in it?

Professor Hatake didn’t seem like the kind of person who would celebrate Halloween, and even with his obligation as a faculty member, Sakura couldn’t see him willingly volunteering to chaperone the festivities. She had assumed he would keep to the castle and be as antisocial as he usually was, especially with the number of exams he would be grading.

Surely grading them was something else he would procrastinate doing.

There was nothing for her to worry about. Even if he would be in Hogsmeade, she highly doubted that he would be paying much attention to who was dressed as what. And after their discussion in the hallway, she had a feeling he would be actively avoiding giving her any extra attention at all. He still hadn’t given her another date for their next Occlumency lesson, and she didn’t really want to be the one to ask about it.

Since it was distance he wanted, she was going to give it to him.

Sakura sighed and frowned down at the costume she was working on. It was already looking ridiculous and she was sure she would look stupid wearing it. She couldn’t help wondering what Karin Uzumaki would possibly be wearing. Heads would surely turn for her. Not that Sakura wanted to turn heads…just one in particular. One that she shouldn’t—and couldn’t—want to turn her way anyway!

Ugh! Why was this so frustrating?

She snatched the sweater up and tossed it to the side, not wanting to look at it any longer. From across the floor, Ino glanced at her out of the corner of her eye and sat up. “You’ve got that look in your eye. The one that says you’re getting in your head again.”

As long as Sakura was the only one in her head, she didn’t care. “I think I’m just going to go as myself. It’ll be scary at least.”

Tenten shook her head with a scoff. “Is this where we have to give you another pep talk just to get you to come along?”

Her words felt like a slap in the face and Sakura felt her jaw drop. She would have preferred a slap, actually. Was she becoming this predictable in her misery? She wrapped her arms around her waist and kept her gaze fixed on the lamp sitting on the dresser across the room. “I’m sorry I can’t feel as confident as the two of you all the time.”

“We aren’t confident ever.” Tenten sat back and pursed her lips at Sakura. “We just don’t wallow in it like you do. You’re gorgeous, Sakura. You’re gorgeous in a cactus costume, or a dung beetle costume. Just stop pitying yourself and help me finish this.”

The yellow and black striped shirt was flung across the room, smacking the Ravenclaw right in the face. She snatched it and looked down at it with a frown. “What’s left to do?”

“Nothing with that. But I’ve got to attach this stinger on these leggings,” she said, holding both items up for Sakura to see. “And I need someone to wear them while I figure out where it goes.”

“It goes on the ass,” Sakura grumbled before standing to her feet. She pulled the leggings on beneath her skirt and held the extra material around her waist to give Tenten a proper view of her rear end. While Ten fumbled around with the leggings at Sakura’s ass she held onto one of the bed posts and stared into the blue and silver curtains hanging from it.

Even if she was getting stuck in her head again, Sakura didn’t see the big deal. Her head was where she was supposed to be. It kept her grounded and aware of things that she wouldn’t necessarily notice if she acted more through her emotions. If she hadn’t been in her head the last night she and Professor Hatake had their lesson, she may have done something far stupider than what she did.

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The streets of Hogsmeade had completely transformed and even someone as skeptical as Sakura was amazed at the way it looked. Candles floated overhead down the main street of the village and each building façade was adorned with streamers, wreaths, and charmed ghouls that flew out at passerby’s with a screech. The third and fourth year students were going absolutely mad. They ran back and forth from each store, nearly colliding into the group of seventh years.

Sakura spun on her heel and gazed up at the lights, unable to keep her mouth from dropping open. It looked phenomenal and she was glad she hadn’t talked herself out of coming. The blonde to her left seemed to read her thoughts and Ino nudged her with an elbow. “Told you it’d be fun!”

At the head of the small group of friends, Naruto was steering them toward Honeyduke’s. The front windows, despite being painted up in bright oranges, purples and greens, showed exactly how crowded the interior was and both Ino and Sakura groaned.

“If we go in there, we’ll never get out!”

Naruto whirled around and lifted his werewolf mask that he had obviously made himself. The thing was painted brown and orange but looked more like a fox than a wolf. He plucked the plastic teeth out of his mouth and scowled at the two girls.

“They’re having a contest! Whoever can bob the most apples in a minute wins free candy for the year. I’m going!” He placed his mask back down around his face and marched up to the door. The crowd inside immediately stopped him from going to far in and Sakura shook her head.

“I’m not going to try to fight our way in there.” She turned toward the street and glanced up to the rest of the buildings. Ino stepped up beside her and looped an arm around hers. “They’re having live music at the Three Broomsticks.”

“Zonko’s has a mirror maze,” the Slytherin suggested with a shrug.

A third figure stepped up beside them with a heavy sigh and Sakura knew it was Shikamaru without even glancing his way. She scowled at his lack of a costume and folded her arms over her chest. “Why didn’t you dress up?”

“I did,” he said with a shrug. “I’m a werewolf on a non-full moon night.”

“That’s so lame,” Ino muttered beneath her breath.

Ever since calling the two of them out on their behavior, Sakura was surprised that they had tamed their usual banter. It had been nearly two weeks without so much as a squabble between them. She wondered which one of them had been bothered more by her suggestion. Probably Ino. Shikamaru didn’t let much bother him.

“Where should we go first?”

Excluding Naruto, and Hinata who promised to keep watch after him, the group made their way over to the bookstore. The grizzled old shopkeeper had set up the front of the store for spooky storytelling and had charmed several paper toys to come alive and act the scenes out. For the younger kids, it was more entertaining. And while Sakura would have probably sat for the entire tale, Kiba and Tenten were obviously bored out of their minds.

They suggested stopping at Madam Puddifoot’s for some cakes and while their friends were inside, stuffing their faces, Ino and Sakura stood on the street outside. They both had snagged some free samples and held them in their hands on orange and black striped napkins. Sakura popped a peeled grape ‘eyeball’ into her mouth and giggled as Ino grimaced.

“It doesn’t even look like a real eyeball.”

“I don’t care,” Ino said with a shake of her head. “I know what it’s supposed to be and it’s gross.” She opted for some of the hard candy shaped like bones and they settled into silence, watching the crowds race by them.

Professor Yuhi and Shizune passed by, dressed in their formal cloaks and pointed hats. The two of them waved at the girls and Sakura couldn’t help but wonder if she would see other professors. It was the first time she had allowed herself to think about him all night. She had been hoping she would be right about him staying behind to grade papers.

Now that the thought of bumping into him was in her head, she couldn’t ignore it. Her stomach clenched nervously, and she folded the napkin over the remaining grapes in her hand. She turned to the trash bin and glanced to her reflection in the front windows of Madam Puddifoot’s. The bright yellow, tulle flower she had tied around her hair earlier was only a bit crooked and she straightened it out.

Her homemade costume had turned out better than she thought. The pipe cleaners really did look like the spines of a cactus and her brown skirt and leggings made a good ‘pot’. In the windows, Sakura glanced to Ino’s costume. She had settled on being a bat and was dressed from head to toe in black, with felt bat ears and sheer wings hanging from her sleeves.

Their protest against the sexy costume ideas had pretty much gone unnoticed by everyone. The only girls wearing lowcut or short skirts were the ones that already had reputations of being sleazy anyway. Sakura was relieved that she hadn’t seen any of the Slytherins she was trying to avoid. She was almost certain they’d be at the Three Broomsticks, dancing to the live music.

“Oh, hey Professor Umino,” Ino said while Sakura’s back was still turned toward the trash bin. Her eyes went wide, and she glanced to the reflection of three men making their way up the street. Professor Umino was out front, smiling politely to Ino, with their Herbology professor following behind him. But it was the third man’s reflection who Sakura couldn’t help staring at.

She whirled around to face them and hoped that she didn’t look too ridiculous in her costume. As she stepped back up to Ino, Professor Hatake circled around his two friends and tossed some rubbish in the bin.

“Happy Halloween, ladies,” Professor Tenzō said with a soft smile. None of them were in costume but were nicely dressed in suits and cloaks. “I hope you’re having a nice time.”

“We are,” Ino beamed, looping her arm back around Sakura’s to pull her close. “Have you been in the mirror maze yet?”

The three men glanced back to Zonko’s where a crowd had gathered at the entrance. The front of the building had been made to look like a clown’s face, with the door acting as it’s open mouth. Professor Umino shuddered. “I think I’ll stay away from that side of the street tonight. If you happen to see Naruto, tell him to behave tonight.”

Sakura laughed, a bit too loudly, but she was having trouble hiding her nervousness at the mere sight of him. She was trying to keep her distance, trying not to let her gaze slip to him. It was taking all of her strength.

“He’s trying to win free candy for a year at Honeyduke’s.”

“Just what he needs,” Professor Hatake finally spoke and this time, Sakura couldn’t help looking up at him. The lights of the hundred candles above them illuminated his silver hair and she held her breath as she stared up at it. She was faintly aware that Professor Umino was speaking and the others were chuckling at something he said, but she couldn’t stop staring at the one man she had to distance herself from.

Professor Hatake glanced to his feet and stuffed his hands in his pockets, his mask covering the smile she knew was behind it. Hearing his laugh was always so strange. A good strange though. She swallowed tightly as he lifted his gaze and let it fall to her face. The smile wrinkling the corner of his eyes softened but didn’t disappear altogether.

“We’ll leave you two to have fun. Remember, curfew is midnight tonight and not a minute later,” Professor Umino reminded them as he stepped away. Professor Hatake’s gaze lingered on Sakura for only a second more than the others, and before she was ready to watch him leave, he was turning away from her.

“Does he still make you that nervous?” Ino asked, folding her arms across her chest.

Sakura blinked up at her in surprise. “What?”

“Professor Hatake. You were barely breathing when he was standing here.”

Gods, had she been that obvious? She was going to have to work on her poker face around him. She just hoped Professors Umino and Tenzō weren’t as eagle-eyed as Ino was. Then again, she seemed to be the best at picking up on things like that, especially when it came to Sakura. With a sigh, she gave a helpless shrug of her shoulders.

“I don’t know. He’s just intimidating. He can read my thoughts and—”

“He’s not going to dive into your head on the streets of Hogsmeade, Forehead.” To emphasize her point, she reached over and thumped Sakura right between the eyebrows. She rubbed at the spot with a scowl but didn’t offer a response. What was she supposed to even say?

I’m nervous because I might have a crush on him, and I don’t know what to do about it? She could barely admit that to herself, much less someone like Ino who couldn’t keep a secret to save her life. Thankfully, Kiba and Tenten had finished stuffing their faces and had joined them once again, keeping the conversation off of Sakura and how nervous she was around a certain professor. They found Shikamaru once more and the five of them headed toward the giant clown face covering the façade of Zonko’s.

“Should we find Naruto and Hinata?” Tenten asked, glancing back down the street toward the candy shop.

Ino waved her off with a roll of her eyes. “Hinata is exactly where she wants to be, and Naruto’s probably drowned himself trying to win that contest.”

Her words were cut off by an announcer at the door, decked out in a bright, multi-colored clown costume. The electric green wig on his head flopped as he bounced around the group waiting to head inside the maze. “Infinite reflections and only one way out! Will you get lost in the maze or will you be one of the few to find their way to the end?” He ended his spiel with a honk of his giant, red nose and Sakura wrinkled her nose.

She wasn’t exactly afraid of clowns, but they had done a good job making this guy creepy and unsettling. Maybe she should have taken a page from Professor Umino’s book and steered clear of this place the whole night. Despite her friends practically buzzing with excitement, she couldn’t shake the nervous feeling that had settled in her midsection. She glanced over her shoulder to the rest of the crowd making their way from shop to shop.

“Step up! Step up!” The clown called again, counting the heads of Sakura’s group of friends. He touched the yellow flower on her head with a giggle and held his hand out toward the entrance.

Kiba and Tenten raced inside and Ino led a reluctant Shikamaru and Sakura into the maze. The front entrance was black as pitch with only a strip of electric lights on the floor to show the way. Shikamaru sighed behind Sakura and for once, she was thankful for the sound. Hopefully they could stay together and find their way through this.

From deep inside the shop, she could hear squeals and laughter and as they rounded a corner, the black hallway opened up into infinite reflections, just as the clown had promised. Black lights glowed above them and below, with pinks, blues and greens illuminating the mirrors. There were so many, Sakura didn’t even know which was the real her.

Ino tugged her toward the left and they hit a wall of mirrors. “Oh, shit,” she muttered. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”

“It’s this way,” Shikamaru called behind them and both girls spun around to follow him deeper inside. He kept his hands out in front of him, feeling along the walls for any openings. It seemed like they wandered through the maze for hours but was only a few minutes. Sakura was already tired of it and wished she had opted to find Hinata and Naruto instead. The endless reflections and lights everywhere was starting to give her a headache.

Behind the three of them, a small group of third year boys came barreling around a corner that Sakura could have sworn was a solid wall of mirrors. They ran between her and Ino, knocking her into a corner of her reflections and she spun around to scream at them.

“Little brats!” Her screams echoed off the glass walls and she watched them disappear into an opening. Rolling her eyes, she turned to face her friends once more and stopped short. She was surrounded by nothing but her own face staring in bewilderment.

Where did they go? She was only separated for a split second!

“Ino?” She shouted, knowing her voice wouldn’t carry over the echoes of shrieks and laughter. The countless faces, all identical to her own, was extremely unnerving. She tried not to look at herself and used Shikamaru’s method of feeling along the walls for openings.

Ten minutes passed and she was almost certain she was going in circles. There was a smudge of what looked like someone’s face up against one panel of mirrors that she had seen more than once. Heaving a sigh, Sakura folded her arms over her chest and stared up at the black painted ceiling. How long would she have to wait in here before someone came to find her?

The last thing she wanted was that creepy clown coming to lead her out of the maze. It was best if she just keep going and hopefully find her way out by sheer, dumb luck. Around another corner she went and found a long hallway that seemed to lead straight. Her pulse quickened and she raced on, ready for this stupid maze to be over.

But as she met the end of the hall, she found only a dead end and her brightly lit reflection frowning back at her. Her fists balled tightly at her sides and she breathed through the urge to shatter the stupid piece of glass and force her way out.

Over her shoulder, she caught sight of someone dressed all in black and her eyes widened. Ino! Sakura spun back around and hurried through the hallway, turning to follow the figure to the right. Around the corner, she could see them multiplied into dozens and she stopped dead in her tracks.

At the end of another dead-end room stood the one person she had been hoping to not run into tonight…or ever again. Sasuke lifted his eyes to her reflection and scoffed. He folded his arms over his chest and turned to face the real her with his eyebrow raised, as if challenging her to start something in such enclosed spaces.

Sakura averted her stare and turned on her heel. She refused to give him exactly what he wanted, though anger bubbled up inside her so suddenly it made her dizzy. Her fists tightened again, and she whirled back to face him, taking a few steps toward his side of the dead end area. What came over her, she would never know. But she was tired of feeling this way, tired of being scared to even look his way.

“What happened to you Sasuke?” Her voice echoed off the glass panels around them, mingling in with another round of laughter from somewhere deep inside the maze.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head, looking completely bored with her already. His voice was cold when he finally answered her. “What do you mean?”

“We used to be friends. All of us. And now, you won’t even look at us.”

The scoff he made only infuriated her more and she took another step toward him. She clenched her fists, hoping he gave her a reason to swing them. Professor Hatake’s words echoed through her mind and she pursed her lips. I think you’re more of a fighter than you think. She was ready to prove that. But Sasuke only strolled past her as if she were nothing but a random stranger on the street. He stopped behind her shoulder and turned his head toward her.

“Don’t concern yourself with what happened to me, Sakura. It doesn’t concern you.”

“Because I’m a mudblood? Is that why?” Sakura whirled around before he could disappear. She reached for his elbow, intending to make him face her, but he jerked away from her grasp and glared at her from one of the mirrors.

“I owe you nothing, especially an explanation.”

“Sasuke, I loved you,” she forced the words out despite the lump pressing hard against her throat. “And I know you loved me—”

He was facing her before she was ready for it and despite taking a step back, he followed close. As her back hit one of the mirrors, Sasuke reached out and slapped his palm against it with enough force to make the panel tremble. She flinched but refused to look away from the fury etched across his face. There was nothing but disgust behind his eyes and for once, it didn’t break her heart.

“You don't know anything about me, Sakura. I didn't love you and I never will. You're nothing to me but an annoying, little—”

“Choose those next words carefully, asshole,” Shikamaru’s growl was quiet, but loud enough to be heard over the noises of the maze. His wand was raised and pointed at the back of Sasuke’s head. At his side, Ino was standing with her own wand at the ready.

Sakura’s eyes flickered back to Sasuke and caught the corner of his lips lifting in a cruel smirk. He pushed away from the mirror and shook his head at the sight of her friends. He glanced back to Sakura and scoffed. “You know, you won’t always have a pureblood around to save you. Why don’t you just give up on this fantasy that you have? You will never be good enough.” And without another word, he disappeared around one of the mirrors and left the three of them behind.

Sakura stared at the place he had just stood, unsure of what she was even feeling. It was a sickening mix between sadness, regret, and…relief. But the regret and sadness wasn’t for losing him. She regretted ever giving him the one thing he hadn’t deserved from her, the one thing she would never be able to get back. Thankfully, her heart hadn’t shattered like she had thought it would if they spoke to one another again. It was still intact, still beating inside her chest, and she felt nothing inside it but relief.

Ino hurried to her side and studied her face. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“We found the way out,” Shikamaru said as he pocketed his wand. “This place fucking sucks.”

Ino gripped Sakura’s hand and the back of Shikamaru’s shirt as he led the way through the maze. With only another turn to the left and again to the right, they found the exit, and Sakura scowled up at the painted clown face grinning happily at her from above the door. This place did fucking suck.

The cool air blasted Sakura as they hurried out into the village in front of the building next door to Zonko’s. A long line of students had formed in front of the mirror maze and Sakura wanted to tell them not to waste their time. But the sight of the clown dancing around and warning the next crowd about the maze made her change her mind. That clown would haunt her nightmares for weeks.

Once they were far enough away, Ino turned back to face Sakura and frowned. “Did he hurt you?”

“No,” Sakura shook her head and glanced to Shikamaru standing a few steps away. He looked bored and passive, but she could tell he was listening and waiting for a cue to hunt Sasuke down. It was nice, knowing beneath his lazy exterior, he did care for her. “I’m fine,” she said, forcing a smile to her best friend.

It was the truth. She was feeling better than she thought she would be after something like that and a bubble of laughter escaped her throat. The adrenaline from her confrontation with Sasuke was beginning to fade. Her knees felt shaky and her stomach clenched tight. From down the street, Naruto and Hinata were jogging up to them, arms filled with candy.

“Did you win?” Sakura asked breathlessly. The lump she had felt in her throat had returned and she tried to swallow it down. It refused to budge, and she pursed her lips to keep her chin from quivering.

“Nah, but they had tons of free candy. I think this might do me for another month.” He looked between his armful and Hinata’s with a nod before looking up at Zonko’s behind them. “Oh, sweet! A mirror maze! You guys want to go in?”

“No,” the three of them said in unison, making Hinata and Naruto share a glance.

“Actually,” Sakura started as she turned to face Ino. “I think I’m going to walk back up to the castle.”

“What?”

“No!”

Ino pulled her a few steps away and glanced to the rest of their friends from over her shoulder. “I knew you weren’t alright.”

“Yes, I am,” she sighed. “I got the closure I needed, but I just don’t feel like dancing or celebrating anymore. I want to finish my book and go to bed.”

Though she could tell that Ino wanted to protest, she clamped her lips shut and took a deep breath instead. With a nod, she took her by the hand and smiled. “Then let me walk you back.”

Sakura pulled away and shook her head. “No way. You stay and find Sai. I’m sure you’d much rather be dancing with him than walking back with me.”

The blush that crept up her cheeks was enough of a confirmation to her words and Sakura pulled her hand free from Ino’s. She smiled and nodded toward the Three Broomstick’s pub. The music from inside was loud enough that they could hear every word from down the street. Ino turned to glance back at it with a small sigh. “Fine, but only since you insisted I find him.”

“I do insist,” Sakura laughed and took a few steps backwards away from her friends. While Naruto and Shikamaru rifled through the assortment of candy he had snagged, Ino and Hinata waved to Sakura with sad smiles on their faces. They knew exactly how to make her feel bad, but tonight, she wasn’t giving into their guilt trips.

She hadn’t been lying when she said all she wanted to do was go to bed. Her bed was calling her name all the way from the castle and she was ready to answer its call. With one final wave to her friends, she turned and took a deep breath of the crisp, cool air. It filled her lungs, but her chest shuddered as a sob reached her throat. She glared down at the ground and cursed the tears stinging her eyes.

Why was she even crying?

It’s not like she was upset that Sasuke didn’t love her anymore. She truly didn’t care what he felt for her now. But still, she couldn’t ignore the miserable feeling that weighed on her chest like a stone. Her steps faltered once she was far enough outside of the village that the candle lights didn’t reach any longer. The realization that she wasn’t upset with Sasuke and that all of her misery was directed at herself made her feel worse.

She had been so stupid. How many red flags had she ignored during her relationship with Sasuke, how many warnings had there been that she couldn’t see because of her rose tinted glasses? Had he been using her from the beginning to get the one thing she had easily given up to him? God, she couldn’t even remember if she had even tried to refuse.

All it took was one trip to the private bathrooms, a few kisses and false promises whispered in her ear and she had willingly given in to him. No wonder his friends now laughed at her and whispered rumors about her. She had walked right into the trap, all because she was blinded by her stupid childhood crush finally giving her everything she thought she had wanted.

“Miss Haruno,” a familiar voice called behind her. Sakura gasped and furiously swiped at the tears brimming along her lower eyelashes. She sniffed and turned to see a dark, yet familiar figure jogging up the path to her. She hoped it was dark enough that he couldn’t see her tears. Professor Hatake pushed his hands into his pockets and stopped a few feet from her, a look of concern over his eyes. “Everything alright?”

She didn’t know how many more times she could say Yes, I’m fine in one night. Her mouth opened to tell him exactly that, but she clamped it shut once more. The same anger and frustration that had brought on her tears returned and she let out a breath from her nose.

“Will all males say anything to get what they want, or is it just one asshole in particular? Because if it’s the whole gender, I think I’ll just give up on you right now.” As soon as the words died on her lips, she regretted them. And after his eyebrows shot up in surprise, she looked away from him and narrowed her eyes on the dark trees around them.

“Did something happen?” He took a step toward her and she could hear the concern in his voice.

Again, she sighed and dropped her arms to her sides. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“You’ve said that before. If someone hurt you then I need to know.”

Sakura stared at him, surprised by his words. Was he being a typical professor, needing to know who caused trouble to punish them? Or did he care deeper than that? Now was not the time to be asking herself those questions and she turned away from him with the reminder in her head to keep her distance from him.

“I’m fine, Professor. I’m done letting this person hurt me.” She continued up the slope toward the castle and expected him to keep his distance as well. But the sound of his boots crunching over the fallen leaves made her pause. She looked back at him and watched as he stepped up beside her.

“Let me at least walk you back. Even if you’re fine, you shouldn’t have to walk alone.”

“You don’t have to. I’m sure you need a night away from the meaningless problems of your students anyway. Go enjoy yourself.” The bitterness in her voice was enough to make her flinch but Professor Hatake let out a laugh and glanced back to the lights of the village.

“I won’t be able to enjoy myself knowing I let you walk back alone.”

For a second, she didn't know how to respond. There were no words coming to her mind that would feel right to say. She settled for nodding and turned back toward the castle, taking her bottom lip between her teeth to keep the smile off of her lips. He was only an arm’s length away and she wondered if she should give him a bit more space as they walked.

Then again, if he wanted space from her, he could have taken her offer to go back to the village and leave her alone. She wrapped her arms around her waist and glanced down at herself. She had forgotten how ridiculous she looked with pipe cleaners sticking out from her sweater. A nervous laugh bubbled up her throat and she picked at one of the fuzzy spines on her elbow.

“I feel a bit silly wearing this.” He glanced toward her as she spoke, and Sakura couldn’t help the urge to fill the silence with something—anything. “My friends and I were kind of protesting the typical Halloween costumes that girls wear. We tried to think of the least sexy things, and I chose a cactus.”

He gave a quiet hum and nodded, reaching over to pluck at one of the spines on her shoulder. For a moment, she was afraid he wouldn’t speak the entire walk back up to the castle. She didn’t trust herself not to nervously ramble in his silence.

“I can think of at least one person who might find a cactus sexy.”

Despite the feeling of excitement that raced through her at hearing him say the word ‘sexy’, her steps slowed, and she tilted her head to the side in thought. “Are you talking about Professor Tenzō?”

Professor Hatake’s eyes widened before he laughed and glanced back at the village falling farther behind them. He rubbed the back of his neck absentmindedly and met her gaze once again. “Never tell him we had this conversation.”

“My lips are sealed.” Sakura grinned and looked down at herself once more, holding the hem of her green sweater out a bit. “I feel so strange wearing green, like I’m betraying my house or something.”

“It suits you,” he said quietly. Sakura let go of the material and looked up at him. It was difficult to tell if he was smiling behind his mask and with how little light reached them on the path, she could barely see the look in his eyes. She was having trouble wanting to keep her distance all of a sudden.

A sudden breeze lifted her hair and a strand caught on the corner of her lips. His eyes moved to her mouth, watching as she reached up to pull her hair free and Sakura forced herself to turn away from him. She had made him a promise not to make things weird again, and as much as she was dying to move closer and see his reaction, she didn’t want to scare him away again.

She walked up the path until they passed beneath the covered bridge. Their footsteps over the wood planks echoed around them and Sakura folded her arms over her chest once more. She couldn’t risk reaching for him, though that was exactly what she wanted to do. In the darkness of the bridge and the chilled breeze blowing, she wanted the warmth from his arms.

His voice startled her out of her thoughts. “I never answered your earlier question.”

“Oh?” She couldn’t even remember asking him one.

Professor Hatake cleared his throat and took a deep breath. He kept his gaze straight as he considered his answer. “Some men, mostly boys, will say anything to get what they want. I won’t even lie, it’s probably a majority of them,” he said with a scoff, shaking the hair from his eyes. “But you’ll find someone who is patient and wants you to be happy more than they want…other things.”

“You mean sex?”

His eyes went wide, and Sakura ducked her head to hide her smile. He let out a nervous laugh and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. “Erm, yes. I know at this age, it seems that’s all boys want, but they do eventually grow out of it. Well, some of them at least.”

Sakura nodded and stopped once they reached the opposite end of the bridge. She turned to face him and couldn’t help the smile on her lips. How had she gone from being in tears to smiling like an idiot in such a short amount of time? It’s almost as if she had never spoke to Sasuke. Glancing toward the lake at her right, she took a deep breath and risked looking up at him through her lashes.

“So, I shouldn’t give up on the whole gender?”

“You could,” he said with a shrug. “You might miss out on some things if you do, though.”

“I should just wait until I find someone more mature, I suppose.”

Professor Hatake didn’t respond right away. Slowly, his eyes moved to her and her lips curled up into a sly smile. Gods, she wanted to kiss him. Even with the mask over his face, she didn’t care. Her body was practically begging for her to move closer to him, to reach for his hands, anything. But she kept her feet firmly planted where they were, and her hands crossed over her chest as she waited for his answer.

“If that’s what you want.” His voice was quiet and raspy, and it sent chills down her spine.

“It is,” she answered back just as quietly. Her eyes lifted to the scar running down the left side of his face. The fingers gripped around her arm twitched with the desire to reach up and trace it. She didn’t know how he got it, but she was damn curious.

He stared down at her and even with the distance between them, she could feel something similar to the way he had looked at her during their last Occlumency lesson. Her heart was pounding, filling her ears in the silence that stretched between them. No matter how badly she wanted to make a move, she couldn’t forget her promise.

Sakura took a step back on her heel and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I think I can find my way back from here. You should go enjoy yourself. I’ll be fine.”

Professor Hatake nodded but took a step toward her instead. Her breath froze in her lungs and knees threatened to buckle beneath her. She watched his hands fall to his side in anticipation. Was he going to reach for her? She wanted nothing more than to feel him touch her. But it seemed that whatever spell he had slipped under momentarily had faded and he gave another nod before retreating back a step.

“Goodnight, Miss Haruno.”

“Goodnight, Professor.”

He turned to make his way back to Hogsmeade and Sakura knew she should have continued on her way up to the castle, but her feet refused to budge. She watched him move through the shadows of the bridge and listened to the fading sounds of his footsteps. Just before he was out of sight, she spotted him reach up and push both hands through his hair.

Sakura turned to face the castle, unable to keep the smile off of her lips.


 

 AN- Nothing happened, yet it feels like so much happened in this chapter! The next chapter is....whew, it's kind of a doozy ;)

Chapter Text


 

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He had put it off for too long. It was time to suck it up, be professional, and start the Occlumency lessons with Miss Haruno once more. Which is exactly what Kakashi had done on the Monday following the holiday weekend. He gave himself five days to prepare for the lessons. Five days to convince himself that there was nothing between them.

And as the days had ticked by, he was no closer to convincing himself of that. Then again, it was difficult when she glanced his way anytime she thought he wouldn’t notice during class. Or the way she had grinned with pride as he handed their graded exams back. She had made a perfect score and Kakashi didn’t want to admit that seeing her so happy made him feel…well, something. He just didn’t know what.

Nor would he ever admit what it was.

Unfortunately for Kakashi, the five days had passed much too quickly and had brought him no closer to the conviction he had set for himself. If anything, the days had only brought him too many thoughts and worries and by Friday afternoon, he was trying to find an excuse to put the lesson off for another week. He had failed miserably when she had left his classroom that afternoon, asking him if the lesson was still scheduled.

Instead of doing the sensible thing and telling her no, that something had come up, he could only nod and tell her he’d see her after dinner. As soon as the classroom was empty, he sat at the desk and dropped his head into his hands. And there he sat for the next hour. He knew he should eat before their lesson but couldn’t really bring himself to care about that.

All too soon, she would be back in front of him and he would be feeling things he didn’t want to be feeling. Halloween had made it worse, though nothing had even happened. It was what she had said to him that made those dangerous thoughts return to his head.

I should just wait until I find someone more mature, I suppose…

Did she mean what he suspected she meant by it? Or was he being completely paranoid? It wouldn’t be the first time and Kakashi sat back in the chair with a roll of his eyes. He hated being like this, so caught up in something stupid as a crush. He was in his thirties for fuck’s sake. Crushes were for teenagers and people who could actually do something about them.

What was he supposed to do? Any other time, he would be cold to the woman who liked him and would make her know that he wasn’t interested. The last time he let a woman’s crush get to him, he ended up breaking her heart and he didn’t want that to happen again.

He couldn’t be cruel to Sakura. Not after she had come so far to gain a little bit of confidence. He just had to make sure that for the next eight months, the relationship he and Sakura had was nothing but professional. Eight months was nothing. Once she graduated…

Well, he wasn’t going to think about that just yet. It was quite possible that they would be working together in the years after she graduated, and he could wait until then. Eight months was nothing.

Kakashi drummed his fingers on the desk and sat back, watching the door to the classroom with narrowed eyes. Five days had been annoying enough. But if he could sit through these lessons with her and keep his distance, he could make it through the year. In the hour that he sat at the desk, after the last class of the day had ended and before the Occlumency lesson began, he came to more of a conclusion about things than he had in all five days he had set for himself.

For eight months, he would ignore her flirting and would tell himself that she was just being friendly. Anytime she popped up in his head, he would think only professional things about her and would refuse to think anything else. When he was in her head, he would just have to make sure not to let anything slip and break free. And that was going to get him through the year.

Besides, he had more important things to worry about than whether or not a girl liked him. He was thirty two years old for fuck’s sake. Far too old to care about this kind of thing. And one of those more important things he had to focus on was the lesson he had planned for her tonight. It was more intense than what she was used to, and he had to keep his concentration on the task. There was no room for mistakes tonight.

But as the knock at the door echoed through the empty classroom, even he couldn’t stop his pulse from skipping a few beats. He stood from the chair and put his hand down on the desk, bracing himself for the next hour. “Come in,” he called.

The door opened and Sakura poked her head inside, her pink hair spilling over one shoulder. She smiled and stepped all the way in. A book was clutched to her chest and Kakashi let his gaze flicker down to the letters printed across the black leather. He recognized it as the one he had loaned her, and he was impressed with how quickly she could retain the information.

Her smile was infectious, and he found the corner of his own lips lifting as she made her way to his desk. She handed the book over and he carefully reached for it. If she noticed how much effort he put into not touching her, she didn’t show it and Kakashi held his breath as he took the book from her.

“Thank you for recommending it.” Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and Kakashi nodded. “The part about the implanted thoughts was fascinating.”

He leaned down and set the book on the corner of the desk. “I’m glad you think so. That has a bit to do with what we’re getting to tonight.”

Her eyebrows lifted in surprise and she took a step back as he waved her toward the front desk where she usually sat during class. As she took a seat and smoothed her skirt around her hips, Kakashi sat on the corner of his desk and faced her.

“A large part of Occlumency isn’t just blocking someone out of your mind. It has much more to do with controlling your thoughts. In that control, you’ll be able to keep an intruder locked in a part of your mind and away from the things you need to keep hidden. Does that make sense?” He hoped he wasn’t rambling, but Sakura nodded, and he believed her. “Tonight, when I enter your mind, I don’t want you to push me away.”

Again, she nodded, but he could see her confidence starting to slip away. She looked down at her hands folded over the top of the desk and her lips pursed with worry. Kakashi gave her a moment before he pushed further back on the desk. His feet dangled off the edge and he tapped his heel against the leg.

“I’m not going to run loose in your thoughts. But I want you to familiarize yourself with conjuring a thought and keeping me there.”

“What kind of thoughts?” She asked, lifting her gaze back to him.

Kakashi took a deep breath and looked at the windows of the classroom in thought. “To start with, choose a happy memory. Something strong that you’ll be able to easily hold onto.”

She shifted in the chair and sat up straighter, eyes narrowed in concentration. He watched her cycle through memories and studied the way her nose wrinkled as she was deep in thought. He could feel his own thoughts start to drift away from professionalism and he quietly cleared his throat, moving his gaze down to his lap.

After several moments of waiting, Sakura nodded with a sigh. “Okay, I think I have one.”

“A strong memory? Preferably with happy emotions attached to it.”

She nodded again and smiled. “Oh, definitely. Lots of happiness.”

“Good,” he slid off the desk and pulled his chair out from behind it. He pushed it closer to her and sat down, facing her with only her desk between them. It brought up a few memories of his own, from the last time they were alone in the classroom, with nothing but the desk separating them. He forced the thoughts away and locked them up. “Hold onto that memory and those emotions while you feel me entering your mind. Ready?”

“Wait.”

He blinked at her and she let out a nervous laugh. Her eyes moved down to her hands and Kakashi followed them, watching her pick absently at her thumbnail. “What if the memory starts slipping?”

“Just try to hold onto it as long as you can—”

“No, I mean…what if it slips away and another one pops up? What if it’s something I don’t want you to see?” She lifted her gaze to meet his and he knew exactly what she was afraid of him seeing. He had never admitted to her that he had already glimpsed the memory and he never would.

With a sigh, he reached up to scratch his scarred brow. “I can’t guarantee it won’t. But if I feel you struggling to hold onto it, I’ll back out. I’m not trying to invade your personal thoughts, Miss Haruno.”

“I know,” she breathed and let her eyes close. “I trust you, it’s just…embarrassing.”

He wanted to reassure her that he wouldn’t poke fun of her or make her feel bad about what she had went through, but he was having trouble thinking about anything coherent in that moment. Her words repeated in his head and he didn’t exactly know how to feel about them. I trust you. Such a small phrase and yet, it made his mouth go dry and he had to force himself to blink out of this daze.

Sakura pushed the hair from her face and took another deep breath before nodding. “Okay, I’m ready.”

It took a few seconds for Kakashi to ready himself and he sat forward to put his elbows on his knees. He stared at Sakura and took the few extra seconds where her eyes were closed to just look at her. The peaceful expression on her face, the steady rise and fall of her chest with each breath she took and those three words she spoke still swirled through his mind.

“Three, two, one,” he counted, mostly to pull himself out of those dangerous thoughts that he had refused to let himself turn to. With an unspoken incantation, he was propelled into her thoughts and he hesitated once he was met with darkness. Was this the memory, or had she let it slip away so soon? He nearly pulled away when her memory opened up to a bright, sunny morning.

Diagon Alley stretched around him as he stared through Sakura’s eyes and he could see two taller figures on either side of him. Their hands clutched hers and she excitedly pulled them toward a building Kakashi immediately recognized as Ollivander’s. Everything about the memory was happy excitement. He could feel it bubbling up through the young Sakura and even now, he felt it swirl through her thoughts.

It was a strong memory, just as he had instructed, and he figured the man and woman on either side of her were her parents. Her father had hair a few shades darker than her own and her mother had a smile that looked much like the one he had seen on her face a few times. Aside from the excitement buzzing around the memory, Kakashi could feel the love between the three of them and pulled away from her mind. It was a bit sooner than he had planned, but he didn’t want to push her past her limit on the first try.

She was breathing heavier by the time he opened his eyes and for a moment, he worried she had been overwhelmed. Her eyes opened and she smiled softly down at the desk. Despite the exertion it took to hold the memory, she’s much more relaxed and he hopes she’s feeling her confidence returning.

“Very good,” he said quietly, sitting back in his chair. “Take a minute to catch your breath and we’ll continue.”

“I’m fine. I’m ready.”

He appreciated her attitude, but she would definitely need to take a minute before they moved on. The next memory he was going to ask of her wouldn’t be as enjoyable as this one. He folded his arms across his chest and purses his lips. “You held it very well. It’s easier to hold onto a happier memory and unfortunately, it won’t always be a happy memory that you’ll need to conjure up.”

“Oh,” she said with a frown, her shoulders dropping.

“You’ll need to find one that isn’t quite as pleasant for the next part. It can be anything you want. A failing test grade, detention, or—”

“I have one,” she said quietly. He expected to look up and find her nervously picking at her fingernails once more, but she held his gaze steady. There was an uneasiness to her gaze, just behind the confidence he could still see.

Cautiously, Kakashi sat forward again. “I should warn you, that I’m going to try to amplify the emotions this time. A dark wizard will fill you with the worst possible feelings and I want you to be prepared for what that feels like. Do you think you can handle that?”

She nodded without hesitation and Kakashi swallowed. He tapped his heel against the floor and took a deep breath. “I’ll give you a minute to focus.”

Several seconds passed as he listened to her slowly take a breath in and let it out. She repeated it a few times before giving him another nod. “I’m ready.”

Once again, he counted down so she could prepare, and he closed his eyes as he slipped into her memory. He wasn’t met with darkness this time. Bright sunbeams caught specks of dust floating through a small bedroom. Across from him, he could see a writing desk pushed against a window with soft, yellow curtains tied back with a blue ribbon.

Pictures of drawings and posters were taped on the walls and he could only guess that he was seeing the inside of Sakura’s childhood bedroom. He felt his face shift into a frown, wondering what could be unpleasant about this. He felt it though. There was anxiousness, worry and something so strong it nearly took his breath away.

He watched through Sakura’s memory as she made her way out her bedroom door, slowly creeping down a dimly lit hallway. At the end of the hall, a door was open just a crack and the sound of a woman weeping met his ears. Immediately, he felt the weight of helplessness press down on him. The memory shifted and he was now peering into the narrow crack in the door.

It was another bedroom with thick curtains drawn over the windows to not let any light in. A lamp was on beside the bed and a man sat on the edge of the mattress, his back hunched as he dabbed a damp cloth over a woman’s head. It was the same woman Kakashi had seen in Sakura’s previous memory. It was her mother, laying back against the pillows, but the familiar smile she had earlier was gone. Her face was twisted in agony, chest rising and falling with each ragged breath she struggled to take.

Kakashi was stunned. He could only stare at the scene as he felt everything that Sakura was experiencing. The desperation to help her mother and having no way to do it, the fear of losing her, the heart ache as she watched her father struggle to stay strong. And now, Kakashi had to make it feel worse for her. He couldn’t do this. He didn’t want to.

But he had to.

Concentrating on those feelings, Kakashi made them intensify just enough to make her know what it would feel like. A strong surge of dread crept up through the memory and he felt his own body shudder from it. He could do nothing more than that to her. From outside the memory, he heard Sakura gasp and the edges of the memory shimmered. He knew she didn’t have long before it crumbled but he didn’t back out just yet.

Across from the door, he could see a mirror in the bedroom facing his way and in its reflection, Sakura’s face was something he would never forget. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she had a hand pressed tight to her mouth. Her sob echoed around him as he pulled away from the memory and fell back against the chair in the classroom.

He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to see Sakura with her head down on the desk, her shoulders heaving as she sucked in deep breaths. Kakashi was on his feet in an instant and he put a hand to her arm. “Are you alright?”

She nodded and sniffed, sitting up slowly before wiping at her face. “I’m okay. I just…I didn’t expect it to be that intense.” She blinked a single tear away and Kakashi watched it roll down her cheek, stopped only when she reached up to swipe it away. Her eyes focused on the desk beneath her and he took a step back. “It was like I was eleven years old again, seeing my mother like that…”

“We can stop here if you need to,” he said, wishing he could comfort her.

Sakura shook her head and lifted her gaze to meet his. With the last remaining tears settling along her lower lid, the green of her eyes was bright, and the color struck him with that same feeling of nostalgia that he couldn’t put his finger on. It was so strong that it sent his pulse racing, though he still had no idea where he had seen that color before.

“No, I’m fine,” she said as she pushed the hair from her face and wiped her eyes with the heels of her palms. “I can keep going.”

He was hesitant to believe her. After what he felt, he knew she would need a break from anything that intense. But the way she composed herself and smiled up at him in that moment made his resolve crumble and he slowly sat back down across from her. He wouldn’t make her hold onto a memory again. She needed to rest…mentally and emotionally.

“Alright. There’s a part in the book I loaned you that talks about burying ideas beneath thoughts. Do you remember it?”

She nodded and folded her hands in her lap. “Yes, it’s kind of the opposite of what Ino was explaining to me a few weeks ago. Instead of clearing your mind, you have to basically mess it back up.”

“Think of it more like an onion,” he started, smiling as she pinched her brow together. “There’s layers and layers of an onion and at the center is the core. The idea or memory or secret you want to keep hidden should be at that core and everything else in your mind is layered around it.”

“Oh, that makes sense.”

“Good. Now think of a word and layer it beneath your thoughts. I’m going to try to find it.” Her eyes went wide, and he lifted a hand to stop her before she could protest. “I’m not going to pay attention to any of the other thoughts. They’ll look like pages of a picture book to me and I’m going to be flipping through them rather fast.” He wanted to remind her of the words she said earlier. She trusted him and he would do nothing to betray that trust. Not when she had come so far in their lessons.

Sakura pursed her lips and took a deep breath through her nose. She exhaled and gave him a nod. “Do you have a word?” He asked her quietly.

“Yes.”

“Is it buried?”

“It is.”

Kakashi leaned forward once more and put his elbows on his knees. He met her eyes and held her gaze for several seconds, his breath nearly frozen in his lungs. That same feeling from before returned as she looked at him with that emerald stare and Kakashi swallowed tightly. This time, for some reason, he gave no countdown.

As he slipped into her mind, he knew in an instant she wasn’t ready for it, knew he had taken her by surprise. Her gasp echoed in his ears even after he was inside her head. Her thoughts were a frenzy and he could feel the tremendous effort she was putting forth to keep the word hidden from him. But he did just as he told her he would; he flipped through her thoughts quickly, only giving them a second of a glance before moving on.

The layers she formed were crumbling fast and he felt a bit of remorse for playing unfairly. Had he given her to the count of three, she might have been able to hold them together steadier. She wouldn’t always get a countdown though and he wanted her to be prepared for any surprise.

He continued to move through the layers of her thoughts. Each time she threw one up in front of him, he forced it aside and pushed forward. And just beneath a few more, he could see the word she had thought of. Halloween. The edges of the letters were shimmering like a mirage and just as he grasped onto it, everything shifted around him.

She had conjured a memory and sucked him into it, one he immediately recognized. He saw himself standing on the covered bridge outside the castle. The quarter moon offered little light, but he knew exactly what he was seeing. It was Halloween night and she had just told him to go back to the festival and enjoy himself. He could see the look in his eyes mirror the exact feelings he was trying to keep locked away a week later. He wanted to reach for her, wanted to pull her back into the darkness of the bridge.

And judging from the desire spiking hot and thick around him, he knew she had wanted it too. In her memory, he felt just how badly she had longed for him to touch her. It left him breathless and trembling in his own body.

Kakashi pulled back, intending to back out of her head altogether, but the memory shimmered once more and shifted into something new, seizing him. He could see Sakura in this new memory. The edges of her body were fuzzy, as if she were a ghost and if he looked too long at her, she would disappear. She lifted her arms and snaked them around a second figure’s neck…a second figure that looked exactly like him.

The two figures merged in a kiss full of want and longing. He could practically taste it on his tongue, and he watched the image of himself wrap his arms around her waist, bringing her crashing against his chest. If they were wearing clothes, he couldn’t see them and Kakashi felt his breath completely leave his lungs. His chest ached from the lack of oxygen and his stomach clenched tight at what he was helpless to turn away from. This wasn’t a memory.

It was a fantasy. A fantasy he had no business watching—no matter how badly he wanted to.

Kakashi ripped himself out from her mind and stood from his chair so suddenly, he sent it tumbling backwards on the stone floor with an echoing clatter. His hands were shaking as they reached for his face and when he turned toward Sakura, he felt his heart drop into his stomach. She had fallen out of her chair and was passed out beside her desk.

He was at her side in an instant, swiping the curtain of hair from her face. “Sakura!” She groaned as he pulled her into his arms. He patted her cheeks to try to bring her out of her daze. The color had faded from her face, leaving her pallid and the sight of it made panic spike suddenly in Kakashi’s chest. “Sakura, wake up—”

Another groan sounded from her throat and her eyes started to flutter open. She lifted a hand, though it seemed to be a struggle for her to do so, and she pressed her palm to her forehead. “What happened?”

“You fainted,” Kakashi said as he smoothed the hair back from her temple. “Can you sit up?”

“I don’t know. What am I doing here?”

That both worried him and gave him a bit of relief. He hoped she had fainted long before she had conjured up those fantasies of the two of them. He hoped she wouldn’t remember any of it, even though he wouldn’t be able to forget. Now was not the time to be dwelling on it though.

Kakashi hooked his hands beneath her arms and lifted her out of his lap so she could sit up. He watched her closely as she took her head in her hands and winced from the sudden movement. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to pass out during an Occlumency session, but he knew it was important to get them to a hospital as quickly as possible.

“Come on, I’ll help you stand.”

She nodded slowly and held onto him as he slowly pulled her to her feet. He watched her face closely, noticing again the lack of color to her face. He didn’t like it. He wanted to see the flush of blood across her face that he was used to. She squeezed her eyes shut and Kakashi wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her from falling to the floor once again. “Hold onto me,” he murmured, pulling her arm over his shoulders.

Her fingers gripped the sleeve of his shirt and he moved toward the door to the classroom. Luckily, the hallways were completely void of any students or faculty and he was able to make it up to the fourth floor in record time. The infirmary doors were open and inside, he could see the long stretch of beds making two rows on either side of the room. Only one was inhabited by a young student Kakashi knew from his first year classes.

Sakura’s feet were dragging by the time they crossed into the infirmary and Madam Inuzuka hurried to them. She took from his arms and he watched helplessly as she moved her into one of the beds, gently laying her back against the pillows. Across the room, the first year boy let out a hiccup and several green bubbles that floated slowly up to the vast ceilings followed.

Kakashi turned his back to the boy and stood beside the bed, staring down at Sakura. She had a frown on her face that pinched her brows and he knew she was trying to piece together what the hell had just happened. Hana grabbed a rolling cart full of medical supplies and glanced up at him.

“What happened?”

“She fainted during an Occlumency lessons.”

He watched as Hana pulled a damp cloth from the cart. Flashes of Sakura’s memory of her mother, getting the same kind of treatment from her father, sped through his mind and he crossed his arms over his chest with a quick glance to her. She didn’t seem to recall the same memory and winced as the cold compress touched her forehead.

“Sakura, can you tell me the last thing you remember?”

Panic gripped Kakashi’s spine with icy fingers and he held his breath. For a moment, Sakura’s frown deepened before she flicked her gaze up to his face. “Diagon Alley.”

The look of shock on Hana’s face made Kakashi shake his head. “It was a memory she was conjuring.”

With a nod, the nurse turned back to face Sakura. “Can you tell me how old you are?”

“Eighteen?”

He hated that her answer sent a spark of electricity through his body. He shoved the sensation away to be locked up along with the other dangerous thoughts and pursed his lips in frustration. Hana continued her questioning.

“Do you remember who the Headmistress is?”

Sakura nodded and looked at the foot of the bed. “Madam Tsunade.”

With a nod, the nurse stood once more and faced Kakashi. She pushed the rolling cart away and joined him at the foot of the bed that Sakura was still studying with a deep frown. “This is fairly common when they start Occlumency. Was she concentrating?”

He nodded, glancing back to see her lift her gaze to his. She didn’t offer a smile and the green of her eyes had lost that brightness that struck him so fiercely before. “She was. Will she be alright?”

“In a day or so. I want to keep her over night for observations, make sure she can remember things more clearly and to see if there is any temporary memory loss.” From behind Kakashi, the first year let out another hiccup, following by a belch that echoed off the stone arches over head and all three of them turned to stare at him.

The boy groaned and released more bubbles from his mouth. He held his stomach with a wince and Hana heaved a sigh. She crossed to the opposite side of the infirmary to scold him. “And this is why you don’t drink mysterious potions given to you by fifth years!”

In her absence, Kakashi turned back to face Sakura still laying back in the bed. She blinked up at him and forced a small, self-conscious smile that had his old heart aching for her. He glanced to her hand laying across her lap and wished he could reach for it and just hold it to reassure her that she would be okay.

“I’m sorry.”

Her whispered words clenched his chest and he gave a quick glance back at Hana. She was bent over another cart of bottles, her back facing him. It was a ludicrous idea and he knew better. But he couldn’t stop himself. With a deep breath, Kakashi reached toward Sakura and after only a second of hesitation, he placed his hand over the back of hers. Though she was cool to the touch, he felt a rush of heat flow through him and he couldn’t help noticing the way her chest jumped as her breath hitched. It was just a quick gesture, a few seconds of contact between their hands but it was enough to make him crave more.

He quickly pulled his hand away before the temptation to do more was too much to stand, and cleared his throat, taking a quick step back from the side of her bed. “You don’t have to apologize. Just,” he paused to rake his fingers through his hair. Her eyes followed his hand and he wished she wouldn’t look up at him like this. It was the same way she had looked at him on Halloween night before they parted on the bridge. “Just feel better. I should leave and let you rest.”

Sakura sat up on her elbows and opened her mouth, only to quickly shut it once more. He wondered what she had been wanting to say. With a nod, she looked down at the foot of the bed once more and he knew it was for the best that they say goodnight to one another. “Alright. Thank you for carrying me here.”

He should have said more, but the words were stuck to the back of his tongue. It left him feeling a bit sick to his stomach and without a backwards glance, he fled from the infirmary as quickly as he could without running. The halls of the fourth floor were still deserted and Kakashi was grateful for the quiet. There was too much chaos in his head already and he was desperate for it to stop.

 


 

 

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” Sakura grumbled as she glanced between her three closest friends who all had come to the infirmary bright and early Saturday morning. She wasn’t exactly sure how the news had traveled so quickly, but Ino had been by her side since before breakfast. Getting that girl up so early was unprecedented, so Sakura hadn’t complained too much.

Still, she hated when people made a fuss about her and she had been hoping to escape the Infirmary without a single person knowing she had even stayed overnight. Well, all but one person. And though, she had wished Professor Hatake had stayed longer than he had, she was thankful for the peace and quiet she found in his absence.

Having him so close to her, actually touching her, had sent her entire body in a frenzy of things she hadn’t felt in months and it didn’t mix well with the dizziness plaguing her head after fainting. But he had touched her. And she wouldn’t forget the way his hand had hesitated, hovering so close to her knuckles that she could feel his body heat, or the softness of his fingers. It had been surprising. She expected them to be hardened and tough, a match to his personality.

But once he was gone, and after another round of questions from Madam Inuzuka, Sakura had spent most of the night laying in the lumpy, uncomfortable bed, trying to figure out what had happened. She knew she had fainted, could remember the two emotionally strong memories he has asked her to conjure up. Beyond that, things were still too fuzzy to make out.

“Don’t try to get out of our fussing,” Ino scolded, reaching toward the bundle of muffins she had managed to smuggle out of the Great Hall. Hinata, and Tenten had brought them up to Sakura as soon as breakfast had ended and the four of them sat on the narrow hospital bed. “You had me scared this morning, you know?”

“Yeah, but I’m fine. I barely have any memory loss.” Sakura picked at the banana muffin, popping a small piece in her mouth. It was cold, but delicious and she quickly ate several more bites.

“So,” Hinata started quietly, glancing to the other two girls. “What made you faint?”

It was the one question Sakura didn’t particularly want to answer. Mostly because her recollection of the events were still a bit fuzzy. Madam Inuzuka had assured her that with time, bits and pieces would become clear again, but she couldn’t deny that something was bothering her. It felt like a vivid dream that was beginning to fade upon waking up. Each time she thought she had grasped hold of something tangible, it slipped away again. She stared down at the remaining piece of muffin in her hands and gave a small shrug of her shoulders.

“Well, I can’t exactly remember. I know I was concentrating extremely hard, but I can’t recall what it was.”

The three girls exchanged quick glances before Ino lowered her muffin. “Do you think it was an intense memory or something?”

Sakura shook her head. They had moved on from conjuring memories, that much she could remember. What they had moved onto though was the question she couldn’t answer. Her brows furrowed as a quick flash of an onion popped into her mind. That wasn’t right. An onion couldn’t possibly have made her faint. “I don’t think so,” she answered. “I think I was trying to…hide something. Everything went black rather quickly and when I woke up, I was on the floor and Professor Hatake was over me—"

Hinata’s eyes went wide as she let out a squeak, the muffin she had been nibbling on dropping to her lap. The other girls turned to stare at her and under their scrutiny, her face turned bright pink. “D-did he catch you?”

This time, it was Sakura’s turn to blush furiously and she blinked in surprise as the others waited for her answer with wide eyes. “Catch me?” She let out a nervous laugh and dusted the muffin crumbs from her fingers. “Hardly. I have a nasty bruise on my elbow from where I hit the floor.”

Though she couldn’t remember what led to her blacking out, she could still very much recall the look of fear in his eyes as she came to. Her head in his lap, his hands stroking the hair from the side of her face, it was something she would never forget. He had carried her through the halls to the infirmary, keeping her tucked close to his side with his arm around her waist. Whether he had realized his fingers had been touching her bare side, she wasn’t sure. She had known though and could still recall how tight his grip had been.

“But, he must have carried you to the hospital wing,” Ino said, sharing a glance with the other girls as they nodded enthusiastically. “Was it bridal style?”

“Bridal what? No!” Sakura couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Since when did they fancy him? And why was she feeling jealous? If she had known all they wanted to do was collect details like this, she would have never let them stick around to visit her. “I walked to the infirmary. What is the matter with you three?”

Tenten rolled her eyes with a groan. “Oh, come on. Not even you can be that oblivious.”

Heat rushed to her face and she hoped they couldn’t see how tightly she was gripping the sheet beneath her crossed legs. Oblivious to what? Her heart was thumping wildly, and her thoughts raced like a speeding train. Could they possibly know the little crush she had developed on him? She opened her mouth to ask what the hell they were on about but was stopped by Ino’s playful sigh.

“This is Sakura we’re talking about. She’s oblivious to most things like this.”

“Will one of you explain what the bloody hell you’re all talking about?”

“Professor Hatake!” Ino laughed, throwing her hands up in defeat. “You’ve seriously never noticed?”

On the end of the mattress, Hinata hid her giggles behind the sleeve of her sweater and by now, Sakura was beyond confused. “N-noticed what?” She asked nervously.

It was Ten who answered first. “How hot he is—”

“His eyes—”

“That scar—”

“His forearms,” Hinata finally chimed in and Sakura stared at the three of them, her jaw hanging open in completely shock. The blush had officially crept along the length of her face and settled along her hairline, blending nicely with the pink of her hair.

Excitedly, Ino nodded in agreement to Hinata’s point. “When he rolls his sleeves up, I get a little—”

“Okay!” Sakura held her hands up to them. She didn’t want to hear anymore about how hot they thought he was, or anything about what happens to Ino when he shows his forearms. Of course, it was more than likely the same thing that happened to Sakura when she noticed them. By now, her ears were burning bright and she hoped Madam Inuzuka would be back soon to discharge her. “We’ve never even seen his face.”

“So? No one with that much raw, sexual energy could be ugly.”

Ugh. She regretted ever bringing this up. She should have known they were only after the juicy bits of her ordeal. There was no way she would be telling them about the fear and worry in his eyes as he pulled her into his lap, or the heat she could almost still feel from his body. It was best if she kept those details to herself.

“Did you see him on Halloween?” Ten asked, dropping her voice low once Madam Inuzuka strolled back into the room. “It should be against the rules to look that good in a suit.”

The three of them erupted into giggles, drawing a scowl from the nurse as she hurried toward them. She reminded them about keeping their voices down in the hospital, even though there were no other students laying about in the infirmary. As they apologized to the nurse, Sakura could only stare absently down at her lap. The word Halloween circled her mind over and over and brought with it the same, fleeting feelings of that dream she couldn’t recall.

Had she conjured up the memory of her altercation with Sasuke on Halloween? Had it been so intense it caused her to pass out? No…It was something else, something she could only barely remember. The bridge, Professor Hatake stepping toward her, and the sudden rush of desire that had passed through her that night. It settled in her now the same as it had then, nearly smothering and hot, pressing on her from the inside out.

Which meant, if she had been thinking about it last night while he was in her mind…then he would have felt the exact same thing as well.


 

AN- Thanks to everyone who commented last chapter! I think it got more than any other chapter in this fic and I'm so happy you all seem to like what I'm writing! 

 

Chapter Text


 

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Under Madam Inuzuka’s suggestion, Sakura’s Occlumency lessons had been put on hold, yet again. It had been nearly two weeks since her sudden trip to the hospital wing and Sakura was becoming antsy. The only interactions she had been able to have with Professor Hatake were in class, and there wasn’t much time to speak to him one on one. He was notoriously late every day and she didn’t want to raise suspicions with Ino by staying after class.

But she was dying to know how he was handling things. If he was uncomfortable by their barely even there almost kiss, then he must have been going crazy from the things he could have possibly seen in her head. That possibly was quite the nuisance, though. She had no way of knowing if he did see or feel anything specific.

For all she knew, all of that had occurred after she passed out and he was out of her head.

There was a very good chance that he hadn’t seen anything, and she was making a fuss out of nothing. Which was detrimental to her studies, seeing as how she had been in Advanced Astronomy for nearly forty five minutes and hadn’t completed a single chart.

Luckily, Hinata was in the same class and though it was a last resort, Sakura knew she would let her copy if she needed to. With a sigh, she slid closer to her telescope and slid it to the northeast sky. The Perseus constellation was exactly where she had expected it to be and she backed away from the telescope to mark it on her charts.

At least she had something on them. If Professor Shiranui made another round of the classroom and she was still behind, he would more than likely say something to her. And though he was nice and had never scolded her for a single thing in seven years, she didn’t want to speak to anyone in that moment. Not when she was still quietly freaking out over the lack of contact with a certain Professor.

Casting a glance back to the man making his way around the room, Sakura turned back to her telescope and swept it to the south, past Neptune and saw the next constellation. She didn’t mark it just yet, waiting for the moment Professor Shiranui made his way around.

In the meantime, she crossed her legs and rest her elbows on her knees. She busied herself with circling a loose thread from her skirt around the tip of her middle finger. It faded to purple and she unwound it, gave her finger a moment to go back to normal and wrapped it around again. She had hoped it would have been a distraction from the frustrating thoughts swirling through her head, but it was failing.

Maybe after class, she could go to his office and see him, just to talk.

What would she even say?

Excuse me, Professor? The night I fainted, did you happen to find out exactly how badly I wanted you on Halloween? Any fantasies pop up? Just checking.

Sakura rolled her eyes at herself and ripped the string from her skirt with a soft pop of the thread. She shook it from her finger and grabbed her telescope again, moving her eye over the eyepiece. The twelve stars of the Aquarius constellation shined brightly, and she snatched her quill back up from the floor before scribbling the information on her charts, ending it with a heavy sigh.

“Psst,” a tiny voice whispered to her from the next telescope and Sakura turned to see Hinata. She glanced back to Professor Shiranui to make sure he was still occupied with assisting a student before leaning closer to the Hufflepuff. Hinata did the same, leaning over with her elbow on the stone floor. “Are you okay?”

Ugh, too many people were asking her that lately.

After the altercation with Sasuke and her overnight stay in the infirmary, her friends were all extra careful with her lately. It was annoying. Still, she knew Hinata meant well and Sakura resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Yeah, I’m alright. I just can’t seem to focus my telescope.”

“Want me to take a look at it?”

Sakura shook her head and sat back up. “It’s fine. I’m probably just going to finish this up over the weekend.” The class was nearly over anyway. She could fake being busy for another ten minutes. Of course, if she were actually busy, it may have been enough to take her mind off of things she was tired of thinking about.

It took the rest of the hour to plot a couple more constellations and once Professor Shiranui assigned their homework, Sakura crammed her books and charts into her bookbag. She threw a quick goodbye to Hinata who was taking far too long and hurried to the winding set of stairs. The rest of the class was lagging as well, giving her the peace and quiet she was needing. The last thing she needed was to add to the mass of confusion in her head.

As the Astronomy Tower opened up to the seventh floor of the castle, Sakura sped down the hallway. The entrance to Tsunade’s office was ahead on the left and further down the hall, to the right was a tapestry that she had seen a hundred times before. It was like the portraits in the main stairwell and moved to show the story of Barnabas the Barmy.

Like every other time she passed the thing, Sakura barely gave it a second glance. It was only until she had completely passed it that her feet came to a stumbling halt. She blinked and turned back to stare at the tapestry. Barnabas was there in the charmed threads, training his trolls for the ballet, the same as he had been for the past several centuries.

The rest of the Astronomy class had caught up to Sakura as she stood there gazing up at the tapestry but only Hinata slowed to a stop beside her. She blinked up at the tapestry and cleared her throat. “What’s the matter?”

“Hmm?” Sakura blinked, finally noticing her friend’s presence. “Oh, I think I left my quill up in the classroom.”

She turned away from Hinata, toward the stairs, but was in no hurry. The Hufflepuff called after her, “want me to wait for you?”

“That’s okay. I’ll be down to dinner in a minute.” Back in the stairwell, Sakura waited a few steps up and after several seconds had passed, she peeked around the arched doorway. The hallway was empty once more and she hurried back to the tapestry.

It wasn’t like it was interesting, but she remembered what Professor Hatake had said to her the night he caught her sneaking around the grounds after curfew. If you want to be alone in the future, you should try taking a walk on the seventh floor. It’s usually quiet and empty, especially around the Barnabas tapestry. Why had he mentioned such a specific spot on the seventh floor? It was quiet, but no more so than any other floor of the castle after class hours.

Was this somewhere he frequently strolled for privacy? If so, did that mean he wanted her to take a stroll as well and maybe bump into him? Now she was being ridiculous. He had only thought of her as an annoyance when he suggested it to her. With a roll of her eyes, Sakura turned away from the tapestry and her bookbag was slung against her hip. One of the Astronomy charts she had hastily shoved into it knocked free and rolled along the carpet.

It stopped against a door on the opposite side of the wall and Sakura snatched it up, shoving it into her back before turning away. Her brow furrowed and she cast a second glance to the door. Had that always been there? She couldn’t remember ever seeing it before, but doors did not just suddenly appear.

Her hand was reaching for it before she could stop herself and as the knob twisted easily in her grasp, she hesitated. This could be someone’s office or bedroom for all she knew. Her pulse quickened as her head filled with silly theories that she tried to fit with what Professor Hatake had suggested to her. She refused to believe this was his bedroom and that he had wanted her to visit him and scoffed at herself for being so ridiculous.

A quick peek in the door had Sakura blinking to adjust her eyes to the dim light from inside. It was a rather large room with two candles lit on what looked to be an enormous mantle. She held the door open with the heel of her shoe and moved further inside. There was a desk pushed against a wall with two long, narrow windows on either side of it.

From the limited light, she could see an antique couch facing the fireplace and a table with an empty candelabra sitting on top. Other than that, there was nothing to explain what the room was used for. Possibly a lounge for the faculty. But even as she ducked out of the room and shut the door behind her, Sakura wasn’t convinced that it was.

Which begged the question; did Professor Hatake intend for her to find the room? And if so…why?

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Sakura sat down on the bench seat in the Great Hall, nearly out of breath. She had raced to throw her books down in her room and found that her little detour on the seventh floor had taken longer than she thought it had. Dinner was nearly halfway over, and her stomach was growling in protest.

She dropped down between Shino and Shikamaru, brushing the hair from her face as a plate of food appeared before her. Cooked vegetables, rice and roasted chicken sat fresh and steaming before her and she snatched her fork from the table.

“Hungry?” Shikamaru asked as he watched her stab a cherry tomato with her fork.

“Very!” Sakura chewed a few bites of her food, enough to satisfy her stomach for the time being, and dabbed her mouth with a napkin. “Hey, do you remember ever seeing a strange door in the seventh floor hallway?”

“There are many doors in Hogwarts, Haruno,” Her fellow Head replied in a bored tone. “You’ll have to be more specific than that.”

Sakura scowled and took a bite of chicken before answering. “It’s across from the Barnabas tapestry.”

“You mean to Tsunade’s office?” Shino chimed in, making her turn to the left to stare at him.

“No, I think I’d recognize that. This was just a plain, wooden door and it had a strange room with a desk and a couch inside.”

Shikamaru scoffed and reached for his refilled cup of pumpkin juice. He took a swig and lifted his eyebrow at Sakura. “Like an office? There are empty offices all over the castle.”

“Yeah, but this one—” she clamped her lips shut as they stared at her and though her curiosity was burning strong, she wasn’t sure she wanted to explain this to them. If it ended up being just another empty office, she didn’t want to feel sheepish for caring about it. And if the room was something more, well, then she wanted it to just be her little secret.

And possibly Professor Hatake’s.

Clearing her throat, she stabbed a few more veggies and gave a shrug. “You’re probably right.” She managed to eat at least half of her plate before wiping her mouth once more with her napkin. “I’ll be in the library if anyone needs me.”

Not that she had any assignments she needed to finish that were upcoming. Those had been finished for weeks. What she wanted to find out was if there were any floor plans of the castle somewhere in the vast expanse of the library and if so, then she would get to the bottom of this strange room, hopefully tonight.


 

 

Kakashi stood behind his desk and watched the students make their way out of his last class for the day. Once the room was empty, he let out a sigh and his shoulders relaxed. It did little to help the tension that had been squeezing the back of his neck for the past week. He reached back and pinched the base of his skull, kneading the tight muscles.

With a sigh, he dropped his hands and stared down at the surface of his desk. It had grown cluttered over the last few weeks, due to his procrastination and the fact that he had been distracted by other things for far too long. Several reference books sat at the corner, nearly toppling over, and last week’s assignments were stacked, still not graded.

He knew that the longer he put it all off, the worse it would be for him down the road. But, gods, he didn’t want to do a damn thing except eat dinner and go to bed early tonight. In the back of his mind, he could hear a familiar voice of reason that sounded a lot like Rin Nohara saying, ‘a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind’. She’d be appalled by the state of his office for sure.

Kakashi scooped the stack of books into his arms and held them against his side as he gathered the neglected assignments in the other. The sounds of chatting students and laughter was dying down in the hallway and though he was planning to close himself up in his office anyway, he was thankful for the quiet. Once he was up the stairs and in the much-more-cluttered-than-his-desk office, he kicked the door shut behind him and dropped the books onto one of the towers of boxes.

The top three books slid off the stack and tumbled to the floor. Kakashi sighed and dumped the parchments on his other messy desk before stooping to the fallen books. He grabbed the first two and tossed them onto the desk at his right. But it was the third that made him pause. The black, leather book with faded, gold letters had been the one Sakura had returned to him almost two weeks ago.

She had returned it in the exact state he had loaned it to her, but there was something sticking out of the pages. Just a corner of it was peeking out and his mind was in a frenzy over the possibilities. Had she left him a note? His heart was hammering as he reached for it and his eyes widened at the sight of a picture showing both Sakura and Miss Yamanaka standing in front of a setting sun.

At the beach.

Wearing bikinis.

Heat flooded Kakashi’s face and he wrenched the mask down around his chin to get a bit of air. He swiped his hand across his lower face and flipped the picture to the back where a small description was scribbled in pencil.

Me & Ino after a day of too much sun!
Winter break, 6th year

He stared at the handwriting and hated that he could recognize it as hers. He knew he shouldn’t look at it, that if he was smart, he would toss it in the trash can and forget about it. But his hands moved on their own, flipping it back around. His gaze swept across the image. Her messy pink hair was down and darkened from the water, hanging around her bare shoulders. Miss Yamanaka’s arm was slung over Sakura’s shoulder and their smiles were bright and genuine.

And then his gaze flickered down to the bikini and a small groan rose from the back of his throat. Black bottoms that sat too low on her hips with a striped, low cut top. He swallowed tightly and stood to his feet. The words written on the back repeated in his head and he cursed. She was seventeen in this picture and he was still staring at it!

Kakashi hastily shoved it into his pocket and kept his hand on it, pressing it tightly against his leg. He had to get rid of it. Putting it in the trash bin was too risky. Someone could find it and though he knew he should rip it up and possibly burn it, he couldn’t bring himself to. What if she had left it in there by accident? It was hers and he had no right to destroy it.

Which left only one option; he had to give it back to her. And in the process, he would find out if she had left it by accident, or if she wanted him to find it. If it was the latter then…well, he wasn’t too sure. All he knew was that he had to get rid of the picture and soon.

He could feel it burning between his palm and thigh and he jerked his hand out from his pocket to slip his mask back in place. The longer he had the picture, the harder the temptation to look at it would be. He had to find her. But he had no idea what classes she had on Thursdays. Then again, it was nearly 7:30, and she would more than likely be having dinner in the Great Hall.

Not ideal. He didn’t want to do this in front of anyone. Just the thought of having to pull her aside to discuss it was making him nervous. What if someone saw?

He patted the side of his pants leg where his pocket was, just to make sure the picture was still there. The edges crinkled against the fabric, but he didn’t let out a breath of relief just yet. Not until he was no longer in possession of it.

The trip to the Great Hall seemed to take forever and every person Kakashi passed, he would press his hand against the photo, as if it would spring out of his pocket and land at the feet of the Headmistress. It was only after making his way into the dining hall that he began to regret even coming. Every other member of the faculty sat at the tables, sharing laughs and conversation and his steps slowed halfway to them.

Unfortunately, his presence was immediately noticed by both Gai and Iruka who waved him over to their side of the table. Kakashi glanced to his right, where the blue and silver flags hung over the length of the Ravenclaw table. As he walked, he scanned the students who barely paid him any attention and found no one with that bright, pink hair. He didn’t know why he was so disappointed not to see her, especially considering that now, he would have to go look for her.

He circled around behind the faculty and sat between Iruka and Gai who slid down to make room for him. A plate of food appeared before him and though the vegetables all looked delicious, he wasn’t sure he could stomach anything too heavy at the moment.

“Well, this is a treat,” Iruka said with a smile.

Kakashi nodded and touched his left pocket, a moment of panic racing through him when he didn’t immediately feel the edges of the photo. His eyes went wide, and he slid his hand a bit further down his pants leg. There it was, sitting innocently where he had left it, as if it weren’t something that could get him fired…and possibly arrested.

Instead of answering his friend, he grabbed the cup of butter beer and quickly took a gulp. He didn’t care who saw his face; he needed a drink. Unfortunately, it was non-alcoholic. Maybe Tsunade could slip him something stronger. Then again, he really didn’t want to run the risk of being close to her and having that impossible scenario with the photograph playing out.

“It’s not everyday we’re graced with Kakashi Hatake’s presence.” It was Gai who spoke this time and Kakashi replaced his mask over his face. He set the cup down with a scowl in his eyes.

“I was looking for a student…who left something in my classroom earlier. I don’t see them, though.” Why in the world was he telling them this? More specifically, why did he have to turn into a bumbling idiot anytime Sakura Haruno was on his mind? How had she gotten this far under his skin with such little contact?

“Oh?” Iruka took a bite of his dinner and looked out at the students. “Who was it?”

Kakashi frowned, caught between telling them who or making an excuse to leave immediately. That would be far more suspicious and with a sigh, he gestured toward the Ravenclaw table. “Haruno. I loaned her a book.” A book that he did not bring with him and that did not even exist. Hopefully, they wouldn’t notice that.

“You just missed her. She left about five minutes ago.”

Shit.

The two men fell into casual conversation around Kakashi and he forced himself to appear normal and eat. His stomach protested with each bite. Once he had managed to eat at least half of his plate, enough to look normal anyway, he gulped another mouthful of butter beer and slid his chair back.

“I’ve got some papers to grade.” The lie spilled easily from his lips and he hated how it tasted.

“Don’t work too hard,” Gai said with a laugh, reaching over to pat Kakashi on the shoulder. “And don’t be a stranger. Just because you don’t have Great Hall duty, doesn’t mean you can’t eat with us.”

He nodded and stood to his feet. “You’re right. I should eat with you more.”

Iruka offered a wave, too deep into a conversation with Jiraiya to say much else. Kakashi was thankful. The less people he had to speak to, the smaller a chance he would say something stupid. He managed to avoid speaking to anyone else and with a fuller stomach, he made his way toward the enormous doors of the Great Hall. Nearly half the students had left as well and wandered around the halls, chatting about their social lives.

He scanned the crowd for her, for that pink ponytail, and sighed when he found no sign of her. He couldn’t traipse across the whole castle searching for her. And he definitely wasn’t going to ask for her in the Ravenclaw tower. But the thought of carrying this picture around with him for any longer than he had to was worrying.

As his thoughts raced through his head, he wandered to the hospital wing to glance inside. Two beds were occupied, but neither of them were her. Thankfully, Hana hadn’t noticed his presence and he quickly moved on to the only other place he could think.

By the time he reached the library, the hallways were nearly completely empty. He didn’t mind. The less people around them, the better.

Just outside the doors to the library, he took a deep breath through his nose and let it out his mouth to calm the tight, bundle of knots sitting heavily in his stomach. He couldn’t remember the last time someone made him feel like this. It was annoying. As soon as the picture was back in her possession, he was going to put a stop to this. Even if that meant ending their private lessons.

He would have to think up a good lie for the Headmistress, but he was willing to do anything at this point. Anything to stop the feelings he obviously couldn’t stop himself.

Inside the library, he found the old librarian behind the circular desk. She was stamping dates in the front cover of books and mumbling angrily about irresponsible students who were late returning their borrowed books. She didn’t even notice as he stepped up to the counter, though he was standing directly to her left.

Kakashi drummed his fingers on the counter impatiently and glanced around to the few tables he could see. A small group of Gryffindors sat at one of the tables; the rest were empty. The five students, who looked to be 4th years, tossed a paper football back and forth, a bit noisily for the library. One of their elbows knocked into a stack of books, sending them crashing to the floor.

This, the librarian, definitely noticed. She was out from behind the circular desk, shuffling across the floor to the table with more agility than he’d ever seen her have. “Your mothers may let you disrespect books, but I will not. The library is not your playground!” The old woman snatched the books and turned back to her desk, only just now noticing Kakashi’s presence.

“Good evening, Professor,” she sniffed, turning her back to him as she laid the dropped books on a small rolling cart. “How can I help you?”

She didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the notion of helping him with anything and he wondered if she was still upset with the way he spoke to her the last time he was here. Knowing her bitter attitude toward most things, he wouldn’t doubt it. Clearing his throat, he moved further around the desk and watched her check the books over for damages.

“Have you seen Miss Haruno in here tonight?”

The woman grunted and gingerly set one of the thick tomes on the desk to be stamped. “Off in the Restricted Section again.” Kakashi’s heart leapt into his throat. “A girl has no business being back there so often. A school’s library shouldn’t have a section like that anyhow.”

He had already turned his back to her and faced the long stretch between the study tables and stacks of shelves. The group of Gryffindors were gathering their belongings to leave and all were commenting about the miserable librarian. They hushed as he passed by them but Kakashi didn’t even care what they were saying.

The photo was still burning a hole in his pocket and he stuffed his hand back inside, just to make sure it hadn’t become sentient in the half hour since he checked it last. It was still there, of course, and his fingers curled around it.

Behind him the librarian let out a horrified gasp and he paused at one of the last rows of shelves to turn back to the desk. The old woman could move fast when it came to her books and she quickly snatched the cloak of one of the boys trying to flee. “Gum in my books? You horrid students! I’m marching straight to the Headmistress with the lot of you!”

The boys tried to protest but the swinging doors of the library closed behind them and Kakashi stood alone in the cavernous space. The quiet was suddenly smothering and he glanced back toward the locked section where he would find Sakura. He could turn back, and rush to his office, lock the picture somewhere safe and give it back to her tomorrow.

It was the wise thing to do, the safe thing. It was the opposite of what his body chose to do. His feet moved onward, around the towering section of Muggle History books. The gate to the Restricted Section was closed, but the lock was open and hanging to the side. Kakashi hesitated at the entrance and held his breath. He could hear the soft rattling of the chains holding the books to the shelves and what sounded like a girl mumbling to herself.

The corner of his lips lifted in a soft, yet weary smile at the thought of Sakura talking to herself and he crept through the gate, holding it behind him to shut it quietly. Not that he was trying to sneak up on her. He just didn’t want to alert anyone else who might be near.

The dusty smell of books hit him despite the mask covering his nose and he took a deep breath of it. He followed the sounds of the chains until he could see her through the small spaces in the shelf ahead of him. Her back was to him, but he could see her hair across her shoulders. She held a rather large tome and hummed quietly in thought as she turned and leaned a hip against the narrow table beside her.

For just a second, he stayed where he was, watching her through the gaps. All of the panic and chaotic thoughts that had been circling his mind in the last hour were settling now. In their place, that strange pull to her was all he could feel. That itch beneath his skin that he wasn’t quite used to feeling. And of course, that burn against his hip from the photo of her in his pocket.

He cleared his throat and forced himself forward. She hadn’t heard him, too caught up in whatever she was reading. “Miss Haruno,” he said quietly.

Sakura jumped with a small squeak, nearly dropping the book from her hands as she spun around to face him. Her eyes were wide and despite the dim light from the candles overhead, they shone bright and green. “Professor! You startled me.”

“Oh, I apologize. I thought you had heard me come in.”

She shut the book in her hands with a small thump and looked down at the cover. He could tell it was to hide her blush and the memory of her fantasy flashed through his head. Is this where she had imagined him kissing her, in the dark corners of the Restricted Section? His fingers tightened around the photo, reminding him why he was standing before her in the middle of the stacks. Before he could pull it out and return it to her, she spun the book so he could see the cover.

There was no title and only an ancient engraving of Hogwarts castle. His eyebrow lifted as she let out a soft laugh. “I was trying to find a little more information about the castle. More specifically, the seventh floor.”

“Why?”

She looked up at him, her eyes narrowed, and lips pursed, as if he said something wrong. The look was brief, and she quickly shrugged it away. “I was just curious about something.”

Any other time, he would have wanted her to indulge on that a little more, but currently, he had only one thing on his mind. He pulled his hand from the depth of his pocket and handed the photo to her, thankful that it was face down. He didn’t want to see it anymore. It was burned into his mind anyway. “I think this is yours.”

She flipped the photo over and gasped before pressing it to her chest and Kakashi could see the heat of embarrassment flare across her face. “Oh, my gosh. I am so sorry! I used it as a bookmark and completely forgot it was in there!”

Despite her words and the bright red blush she had, he didn’t know if he believed her. A frown pinched his brows together and he crossed his arms over his chest at the anger bubbling beneath the surface of his skin. “Try to be more careful next time. Something like this could have gotten us both in a lot of trouble.”

“It was an honest mistake,” she said, narrowing her eyes on him in defense.

“Was it?”

Her scoff echoed around them, though it was nothing more than a quick breath. He winced and cursed himself for sounding so accusing.

“Yes, it was. You think I left it there on purpose? Why would I do something like that?”

He wasn’t sure why or how, but her sudden anger only made him feel it as well and he clenched his jaw tight. Despite him being several inches taller, practically towering over her, she stood her ground and held her chin high in defiance. He didn’t dwell on the fact that he liked seeing her like that. “Why? I have no idea. To entice me—”

Entice you!?”

This time, the volume of her voice was loud enough to echo off the shelves and Kakashi flinched. He glanced behind him, though no one had followed, before taking her by the shoulders and steering her a bit further into the stacks. The book she had been holding fell from her grasp and the chain rattled noisily against the shelf. So much for keeping quiet.

“Look,” he whispered, quickly dropping his hands from her arms. “Whether you left it there on purpose or not, it could have been bad. I don’t want to have to worry about my reputation—”

“And what about mine?” She kept her voice as low as his, but her words came out in a furious hiss. “I could be expelled. Not to mention the humiliation I would face if everyone found I have a crush on one of my professors.”

Kakashi blinked in complete surprise and reared back a bit. Slowly, her eyes widened as she realized the admission she had made. Before he could stop himself, he was speaking again. “You have a crush on me?”

He knew the truth already. No one fantasized about things the way she had platonically. Although, until now, he had been telling himself it was all a mistake of her subconscious, something she couldn’t help like a dream.

Sakura crossed her arms over her chest in false bravado, darting her gaze to the books just left of his head. “No, don’t be ridiculous. I meant hypothetically.”

“Is it ridiculous?” He was powerless to stop the words now. Alarms rang in his head, warning him to just shut up and excuse himself, to find a way to stop this before it went too far. He continued instead. “You look at me quite a lot in class.”

Without missing a beat, she met his gaze with fire. “How do you know I look at you a lot? Wouldn’t that mean you’re looking at me the same amount?”

“Now you’re being ridiculous. You’re a student. It’s my job to look at you.”

“I’m well aware of what I am,” she snapped, searching his face. Her hands fell to her sides and she sighed. “I’ll admit, there is something between us, some strange tension when we’re alone, but that doesn’t mean I have a crush on you.”

His eyes narrowed and the urge to touch her was sudden and intense. He clenched his fists to keep them in their place, but his feet inched forward. “We’re alone now,” he said quietly, making Sakura look at him. “I don’t feel anything.”

Though he stepped toward her, she retreated back until her shoulders were pressed against the chains hanging from the shelf. The sound filled the space between them, mixing with their heavy breathing. He watched her take her bottom lip between her teeth before her eyes lifted to meet his. There was nervous surprise behind her gaze, but something else, something that he knew she could see in him as well.

“Neither do I,” her whisper was barely a breath and it sank deep beneath Kakashi’s skin, making him shiver.

“Liar.” He put a hand to the shelf to the left of her head and leaned toward her. The photo in Sakura’s hands slipped free and fell to the floor between his feet. She reached for him and closed her fingers around the fabric of his shirt with a nod.

Feeling her touching him, even through his shirt, was thrilling and he tangled his fingers through her hair. It was softer than he could have ever imagined and when she leaned into his palm with a whimper, Kakashi felt something dark stir within him. He dropped his hand from the shelf and took her by the hip so he could pull her closer. Her skirt bunched in his fist, lifting from her thigh enough to tease him.

They were so close to one another, closer than they had ever been. He wanted to feel her lips against his, wanted to taste her on his tongue. She blinked up at him, her lids heavy with desire though the fear was evident in her stare.

“What do we do?” She whispered, searching his eyes for an answer he didn’t have.

“I don’t know.”

The muscles of her throat stretched as she swallowed. “What do you want to do?”

Kakashi dropped his forehead against hers with a groan that vibrated his entire body. Why did she have to ask him something like that? There was so much he wanted to do, and every single one was something he couldn’t do. It was so hard to keep his mind clear when she smelled so good and felt so warm against him. It was torture.

It was wrong.

Just touching her this way was horribly wrong.

At the front of the library, the doors swung open and closed with a creak of the hinges and a thump, forcing them both apart. Kakashi’s heart was thundering so wildly in his chest, he was certain Sakura could hear it. He scrubbed a hand across his face and looked away from her. He couldn’t look at her standing there, chest heaving with every breath she took, and her hair mussed up from his fingers. It only made him want her more.

As he took steady, calming breaths that did little to steady or calm him, he regretted his decision to find her. He should have hidden the photo and gave it back to her the next time they were alone. It wouldn’t have mattered, though. Finding her wasn’t the mistake. Being alone with her was. He couldn’t trust himself with her.

He pushed a hand through his hair and looked to the stone arched over their head. “Maybe we should distance ourselves from one another.”

Sakura took a step closer and he fought the urge to close the distance between them. “Wouldn’t that be suspicious? I’ve been doing so well. It would be strange to stop so abruptly.”

“I don’t know,” he said quietly, truly at a loss. He shrugged and let out a strained, bitter laugh. “This is ridiculous.”

“I know.” She ducked her head and brought her hands to her chest, picking nervously at her fingernails. “I’ve never even called you by your first name. Or seen your face.”

Behind his mask, Kakashi bit hard on his lower lip, praying to the gods that she didn’t try to reach for him. He would be powerless to stop himself from giving in. He had stood in the face of dark and evil wizards, had faced monsters that only existed in some people’s nightmares and he had done it all without fear or a single care. And yet, he was weak against the desire for a girl he had no right to want.

The hate and self-loathing rose through him fast, eclipsing all fire she had ignited within him. It pressed tight against his chest until he could barely breathe. Kakashi shook his head and took a few steps toward the direction he had come from. “I can’t do this. We can’t do this. I’m sorry, I have to go.”

He turned away, closing his eyes as she reached out to him. “Wait, Professor—”

He didn’t stop. The gate to the restricted section shut with a clang behind him and he tried to keep his composure as he made his way down the center aisle between the study tables. At the circular desk, the librarian had returned and was still grumbling unhappily about careless students. She barely looked up at him as he passed, and once he was outside the doors, he took a deep breaths but did not stop.

He had to put as much distance between him and Sakura that he could. Even if he put the entire castle between them, the entire country, he doubted it would be enough. He didn’t know what to do. All he knew was, he couldn’t be alone with her ever again.


 

 

AN- Well...I don't have too much to say. But, you should probably buckle up...it's gonna be a bumpy ride from here on out. 

Chapter Text


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A sky full of thunderclouds sat heavy over the castle and rain pelted the side of the Ravenclaw Tower in violent sheets. It was fitting for the mood Sakura had woken up in on Sunday morning. She had two tests coming up for the next week, and though she knew she should be studying for them, she was in no state to try to concentrate. Not after what had happened Thursday night.

She had hardly ever missed a class in seven years at Hogwarts, but this was different. How could she face him after what had happened? There was only solution; She had faked cramps and skipped all of her Friday classes. She couldn’t sit through an entire day, knowing that she would have to see him again, have to sit and listen to his lecture while knowing that he wanted her. It was too much, and she wasn’t ready to face him just yet.

Despite the fire blazing in the small hearth across her bedroom, she felt no warmth from it. She closed her thick, gray sweater around her and crossed her arms over her chest to keep it in place as she stared out the diamond panes of her window. The rain was so thick she could barely see the quidditch pitch across the lawn.

Sakura leaned her head against the cool stone of the windowsill and closed her eyes, replaying what had happened with Professor Hatake in the library through her head. It was all still so vivid in her memory, which only made it harder to think about. She could still feel the muscles of his chest beneath her palms and hear the sound of his voice as he called her a liar when she tried to deny her feelings. It was still so fresh in her mind that when she opened her eyes, she almost expected him to be standing there again.

But he wasn’t and the fear she had seen in his eyes that night put overwhelming doubts in her that he would ever stand that close to her again. Which was the best choice for them. It was too dangerous for them to be alone together. She knew she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from wanting him. Being in class with him, surrounded by twenty other students, would be hard enough.

Sakura turned away from the window and let out a bitter laugh. At the beginning of the year, she was broken hearted and miserable because of Sasuke. Three months later she was feeling the exact same way for someone else. Which didn’t make a bit of sense. She and Professor Hatake had never even kissed. They had barely even confessed their feelings to one another.

So why did it hurt this bad?

She dropped onto the corner of her bed and glanced to the crumpled photo laying on the bedside table. The photo she had left accidentally in his book, the photo he had found and accused her of using to entice him. It was an absurd notion, one that she was still furious at him over, but it helped cool her anger to think about it from his perspective. He would have been so confused, putting ideas into his own head about why she had left it in the book.

Thinking about him pacing back and forth with the picture in his hands, trying to decide what to do with it almost made her smile. Almost, but it didn’t. She looked down at the image of herself and Ino in their bikinis. Why did she have to be so stupid and leave it in the book? Everything would be normal again between them. They would have their lessons, they would grow closer over time and maybe after graduation, they could have been something. But she had been so eager to return it, so eager to impress him with her ability to read the entire thing as quickly as possible. She had been a complete idiot.

Did she even deserve to be in Ravenclaw? A house of the brightest minds and she had to be one of the dumbest to ever be sorted into it. Then again, did it even matter anymore? If Tsunade ever found out about this, she’d have no other choice but to expel her from Hogwarts. Sakura would be a drop-out, forced to work in fast food and be a lonely muggle for the rest of her life, collecting cats or something equally pathetic.

A knock at her bedroom door startled her and she shoved the picture beneath her pillow, though she wasn’t exactly sure why she was hiding it. It wasn’t like someone was going to dust it for his fingerprints. She made her way to the door and hoped whoever it was on the other side wouldn’t stick around to chat for very long. She wasn’t exactly feeling friendly today.

Thankfully, Shikamaru’s sleepy face was the one that greeted her as she opened the door. He stifled a yawn behind his arm and nodded a hello to her. “We have a meeting this morning. I know how you’re always worried about being late.”

Not today she wasn’t. She had completely forgotten about the monthly meeting with the Head and Co-Headmistress and she dropped her forehead against the door with a soft thump. “Ugh, I forgot. I’ll be out in a minute.”

He pushed away from her door and she shut it quietly behind him. Could she fake sick again and skip the whole thing? Sitting with seven others, listening to Shizune and Tsunade discuss things that she really didn’t care about right now, was the very last thing she wanted to do. Though, sitting alone in her bedroom, thinking about a man that was off-limits to her wasn’t any better. And she couldn’t use the excuse of cramps again.

Reluctantly, she slipped her feet into her boots and ran a brush through her hair before she joined Shikamaru back out in the common room. The excitement from Halloween had died out and the Ravenclaw students were back to being their studious selves. Of course, it only reminded Sakura about the tests she should have been studying for.

The walk down to the Great Hall was a quiet one. Shikamaru wasn’t much for conversation before noon and Sakura was grateful for it. By the time they reached the ground floor, the thundering had stopped, though the rain still pelted noisily against the giant windows of the Great Hall. As Sakura made her way in behind Shikamaru, Tsunade cast a silencing spell on the windows and gave a relieved sighed in the silence.

The rest of the Head Boys and Girls sat at the center table, sharing light conversation with one another. Lee and Tenten were discussing some sort of quidditch strategy and when he noticed Sakura, his eyes lit up. She had her head down, focused on the stone floor beneath her feet and barely paid any attention to him at all. Shikamaru dropped onto the bench with a groan, like a seventy-five year old man, and Sakura followed suite, settling on his left.

It was only then did she raise her head and see the crowd of professors sitting at the Slytherin table near the windows. Her heart was in her throat in an instant, and she straightened her back as she scanned the faces for the only one that mattered to her anymore. And when she found a pair of dark eyes staring back at her, she had to purse her lips to keep from letting out a strangled whimper.

Professor Hatake sat at the very end of the table, next to Professor Tenzō, and had his arms crossed over his chest. And just like she had suspected, it was damn hard just to be in the same room together. It was the reason she had skipped Friday and she wished she had just stayed in her room today as well. Wallowing in her misery was better than being this close yet feeling so far from him. She bit down on her lower lip and studied him in a brief glance. His eyes were half-lidded, and his hair was as unruly as ever, but there was something about him today that made Sakura sigh. He looked disheveled, as if he hadn’t been getting enough sleep. She knew the feeling.

The corner of her lips lifted into a cautious smile, hoping he could see that she felt the same way and that though she was miserable, she was happy to see him. But he didn’t return her smile. Instead, he looked away from her, turning to say something to one of the men to his left and then he laughed. She almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing. He was laughing with his friends while she was feeling like this?

Sakura tore her eyes away from him and stared down at the wood grain pattern of the table. She wanted nothing more than to get up and leave. The muscles of her back and legs were tight with tension, ready to take her far away if she chose to. Her hands gripped the bench beneath her with white knuckles as her heart pounded painfully in her chest.

“Alright, let’s get started,” Shizune’s voice cut through her misery and Sakura lifted her eyes to the two women standing between the small group of students and the professors. “Just a quick announcement first. There seems to be a small bunch of Flobberworms missing in the castle. If you, or any of your peers, find them, please return them to Jiraiya.”

Both Shizune and Tsunade turned their scowls to the professor in question behind them. He didn’t seem too upset about the missing worms and sat with his hands behind his head and a teasing grin on his face. The Headmistress turned back around with a roll of her eyes as Shizune continued. “Now, we all know this month tends to go by rather quickly and before you know it, it will be Christmas. So, we need you to get another head count of any students planning to stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. We need the numbers as quick as you can get them back to us so we can plan for the professors to stay accordingly.”

Despite trying her best not to look his way, Sakura’s eyes betrayed her and when she found him directly behind Shizune, she caught him watching her as well. Her stomach tightened nervously and this time, she offered him no smile before looking away.

Shizune gestured toward Tsunade with a hand, letting her take the floor and the Headmistress clasped her hands together before she smiled to the students. “I’ve been very impressed with the relationships between houses this year. The rivalry we encourage between the four houses has always been one of friendly competition and to reward you, this year we have decided to hold a Christmas festival for the whole school.”

Immediately, the seven others sitting beside Sakura grew excited. Karin, sitting the farthest away from her, clapped happily. “Will it be a fancy dress ball?” She asked, making Sakura roll her eyes.

“Not a ball, technically but the dress will be formal,” Tsunade corrected. “We want to encourage the houses to put together booths for prizes and games, refreshments and—”

“You mean we’re actually doing something fun?” Jiraiya’s boisterous voice interrupted from the group of faculty and Tsunade spun to face him, her silvery cloak swirling around her. He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

Sakura couldn’t see the look on the Headmistress’ face, but she knew it wasn’t a happy one. She ducked her head and stared down into her lap. Perhaps it was her current mood making her feel surly, but a Christmas festival sounded horrific. And though Tsunade had congratulated them on being civil to one another for once, Sakura didn’t buy it. Not when Slytherin, excluding a few of them, made it their mission to bully anyone with muggle parents.

This was an attempt, possibly suggested by the Ministry, to encourage better interhouse relationships, all tied up in a neat package as a reward. She may have been dumb about something, but Sakura saw right through this and it only made her dread it more. People couldn’t be forced into being decent to one another, no matter what the Ministry thought.

Once Jiraiya had shut up, the Headmistress turned back to face the students with only a hint of murder in her gaze. She forced a tight-lipped smile. “Any questions?”

Karin’s hand shot up immediately. “Can Slytherin have a kissing booth?”

Shikamaru let out a long, exasperated sigh and Sakura didn’t even try to hide the roll of her eyes. “Nothing says holiday love like swapping spit with Slytherins,” she muttered, just low enough for him to hear. He let out a snort in response.

“Let’s try to think of something that won’t get us hundreds of angry owls from parents,” Shizune suggested, glancing cautiously to the Headmistress who looked just as irritated as Sakura felt. “Something fun! Like a photo booth.”

“Oh! We call photo booth!” Tenten shouted, exchanging a loud high-five with an excited Lee. Both Karin and Neji pursed their lips and scowled to the Gryffindors.

Before an argument could erupt from the two groups, Sakura lifted her hand and this time, forced herself not to glance toward the professors. Shizune smiled and pointed to her to speak. “When will the festival be?”

“The last night before the holiday break. We’ll need volunteers to decorate, so recruit your friends.”

After a few more questions to smooth out the details, most of which Sakura ignored, the meeting came to an end. Shikamaru stood from the table and stretched his arms over his head, not bothering to hide his yawn. Sakura followed behind him as he made his way to the doors. She didn’t want to look to the table at the far side of the Great Hall, she didn’t want to see him ignoring her, laughing with his friends like nothing had ever happened.

She didn’t want to, but she couldn’t stop herself. She surreptitiously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and lifted her gaze in his direction. He stood between Jiraiya and Professor Umino, and while they were busy discussing something, Professor Hatake paid no attention to them. He kept his gaze on her and she could feel the intensity of it burning through her body. It sucked all of the air from her lungs and her knees nearly buckled beneath her.

“Sakura!” A voice called from behind her and she whirled around to see Lee held up a hand in greeting as he made his way quickly to her.

Sakura glanced back to Professor Hatake, expecting to see him speaking to his friends or storming out of the Great Hall. But he was still there, hands in his pockets, and eyes on her. She swallowed and tried to force a smile to Lee. It was a pathetic attempt, but he didn’t seem to notice and if he did, he didn’t care.

“Will you be attending the Christmas festival with anyone?” He asked her, making her blink in surprise.

“Lee, it’s over a month away.”

He frowned but didn’t let that deter him. “Yes, I know. I just wanted to let you know that I would be happy to escort you, even as friends.”

Sakura’s shoulders fell and she suspected that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She glanced out of the corner of her eye to where Professor Hatake still stood, still watching her, though the look in his eyes had shifted. If she didn’t know any better, she’d guess that he was jealous.

Pursing her lips, she looked up at Lee and made a better attempt to smile as sweet as she could. It worked, judging by the blush that dappled his cheeks. “That’s very sweet of you.” She reached out to touch his arm and the look of joy that spread across his face made her heart squeeze inside her chest. Was she actually using Lee to make her professor jealous? Doing something like this made her feel worse than she already did, but she didn’t stop. “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you, okay?”

He nodded enthusiastically and Sakura had to turn away so he wouldn’t see the sudden frown pinching her face. It was wrong to lead him on in the first place. But to do it just to make someone else jealous, someone she couldn’t even have anyway? She was a rotten person and Lee didn’t deserve to be used like that.

Sakura wrapped her arms around her waist and hurried out the doors to catch back up with Shikamaru. She didn’t bother looking back to see if Professor Hatake was watching her.

.

.

In the weeks after the meeting, Sakura found herself falling back into that same state she had spent so long in at the beginning of the year. The things she enjoyed were no longer interesting, she didn’t care about much and she knew she was being ridiculous about something that barely even happened. But she couldn’t change the way she felt. And she felt like shit.

She just did a better job at hiding it this time.

Considering the fact that not a single friend of hers had stopped to ask her how she was feeling, she figured she was doing a good job at it as well. As far as her friends knew, she was just ready for Christmas break, which is exactly what she assured them of any time she felt she was getting a bit moody around them.

Of course, that was often. Mostly the last class of the day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And if anyone brought up her Occlumency lessons, Sakura was quick to tell them they were going well before changing the subject as nonchalantly as she could. Aside from the fact that she hadn’t said a word to Professor Hatake in over two weeks, things were as normal as they had ever been.

And she still felt like shit.

Because even though they weren’t speaking, and even though he barely looked her way, in the rare occasion when his gaze did sweep to her in the middle of a lecture, Sakura could see he still felt the exact same. The intensity behind his stare, the way he narrowed his eyes on her, the way she would catch him looking at her when the class was working on assignments, it was all still there. And she felt it inside her as well, sitting just beneath the surface of her skin, sizzling like a volcano ready to erupt.

So, when on a Friday afternoon the seventh years were given a pass during the classes after lunch to plan for the Christmas festival, she was feeling relieved to not have to be in the same room as him. The students had to submit their ideas to Shizune by that afternoon for approval and currently, Sakura, Shikamaru, and Ino were sitting at the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall brainstorming ideas.

“Why are you here again?” He asked Ino, making her roll her eyes.

“Two reasons—" she held up her first two fingers, not looking up from the notebook she was doodling in. “One, Sakura asked me to help. Two, because I can’t take anymore of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumb over there.”

Sakura scoffed and glanced between their shoulders to the table at the opposite end of the Great Hall. Karin, joined by the two bitches in question who, thankfully, had stopped giving Sakura so much of a hard time, were holding up green, paper garland that was as thick as their heads. Every few minutes, their shrieks and giggles would echo across the hall.

Ino sighed and shook her head. “They’re doing an evergreen theme. Green for Slytherin. How original.”

“It’s your house too,” Shikamaru said. “Don’t you get a say in things?”

“Not when they’re hell bent on doing things their way. Besides, I think the table was getting a bit crowded anyway.” She sniffed indignantly and Sakura lifted an eyebrow. With a second look to the table, she spotted exactly who had gotten her best friend so annoyed.

Seated beside Karin, with his sketchbook in his hands, was Sai. He was sketching as quickly as they were coming up with ideas and though he didn’t partake in the occasional giggling episode, he didn’t really look annoyed by it either. Sakura scoffed and tapped the tip of her quill into the jar of ink sitting next to her notebook.

“Speaking of green, you’re looking a bit envious right now.”

“Who, me?” Ino put a hand to her chest and blinked in surprise. “What do I care if he associates with people like that?”

It was Shikamaru who responded with a chuckle. “You look like you care a lot.”

“Well, I don’t! He can associate with whomever he wants. I’m not going to throw myself at some guy to get him to like me.”

“Okay, sorry I brought it up,” Sakura mumbled, looking down to the paper in front of her. She tried to ignore the sudden spike of uncomfortable silence that stretched between the three of them, but it was obvious that Ino was quite bothered by Sai’s lack of attention to her, even though she would never admit it.

With a sigh, she read over the list of possible ideas for the third time. So far, they were undecided between a retro Christmas, with silver tensil, huge, glass ornaments, and garland everywhere…or to take the Slytherin route and just throw anything with house colors onto a Christmas tree. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the easiest route, with the least amount of effort on her part and so far, Sakura hadn’t felt like putting much effort into this thing at all.

As she looked up to tell Shikamaru to just pick between the two ideas, Sakura caught sight of the Co-Headmistress sweeping hurriedly into the Great Hall. The words died on her lips as Shizune made a beeline straight for the Ravenclaw table. More specifically, right to Sakura. She felt the color drain slowly from her face with every step the woman took toward her.

“Good evening,” she said breathily with a small smile as she glanced between the three of them. “Sakura, may I speak to you out in the corridor for a moment?”

Panic gripped her spine, preventing her from moving for several seconds. She swallowed tightly and watched her two friends look from Shizune back to her in curious confusion. Sakura felt herself nod, though she had no idea how her brain was even able to function properly at the moment, and she pushed off the bench.

No one paid much attention to them as they made their way out of the Great Hall. The corridor was nearly empty, but Shizune steered them to a particularly quiet spot beside the staircase where there were no other students around to hear. This had her pulse racing and she stared up at Shizune with wide eyes, trying not to panic. A million theories popped into her head about what this could be about, and the majority involved Professor Hatake in some way.

“Is something wrong?” She asked, trying to dislodge the words from the back of her dry tongue.

Shizune shook her head but sighed through her nose. It didn’t reassure Sakura in the slightest. “I’m afraid that for the time being, we’re going to have to postpone your Occlumency lessons. Professor Hatake doesn’t feel like he can give you the attention you need at the moment. He also suggested that you shadow Hana in the meantime, which I full support.”

The ringing in Sakura’s ears was making it hard for her to concentrate on what the woman was saying. He was calling off their lessons? She knew why, but she couldn’t believe he was actually doing this. “Did he say why?”

Again, Shizune sighed and her eyes scanned the area. She dropped her voice and leaned closer to Sakura. “The Ministry needs him to be available to return if they require him and currently, he can’t guarantee that they won’t call him away. It isn’t anything to do with you. In fact, he’s told both Tsunade and myself how much you’ve improved over the last few weeks. Will you be alright with the change? I’ve already informed Hana.”

Sakura stared at the woman, refusing to let the tears that were stinging the back of her eyelids slip out. Her jaw clenched tight and her fingernails dug into the palms of her hands at her side hard enough to break skin. But she didn’t flinch from the pain. She nodded and forced a smile. “That’s fine. I look forward to it.”

“That’s wonderful,” Shizune said with a genuine smile. She put a hand to Sakura’s shoulders and patted her gently. “I’ll inform the Headmistress and hopefully you can start shadowing next week.”

Sakura nodded before telling the woman goodbye. She waited in her absence, staring into the space she just stood, fists clenched tightly. In her mind, his voice was whispering, calling her a liar after she denied feeling anything between them.

Now he was the liar.

She didn’t believe a minute of his excuse. The Ministry didn’t need him. He was just a coward!

As the anger boiled potent and hot inside her chest, Sakura considered doing something tremendously stupid. It was a horrible idea, the worst she had ever had. But she refused to believe a minute of his stupid excuse. Tsunade and Shizune might have believed him, but Sakura knew better. She stormed back into the dining hall and didn’t stop until she was back at her table, standing in front of her friends. Ino looked up at her in surprise. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. I have to go.” She slid the paper over to Shikamaru. “Pick a theme. I don’t care what it is.”

He barely managed to snatch the list before it slipped over the edge of the table and Ino stood to her feet. “What happened?”

“Nothing. I’ll see you later.” She ducked beneath the strap of her bookbag and slung it across her hip, not giving them a second glance before turning back to the double doors.

“Dinner’s staring soon. Do you want me to save you a seat?”

Sakura ignored the question, too furious to respond, to hurt to even care about it in that moment. Her anger fueled her up the two flights of stairs, all the way to the third floor. Her entire body was on auto-pilot, refusing to take orders from any rational part of her brain. What she was doing was crazy, and completely irrational, but she didn’t care. She had to know the truth and there was only one person who could give it to her.

At the end of the hallway on the third floor, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was wide open and completely empty. It was dark, except for the soft glow of the light from his office. Her steps didn’t slow as she crossed into the doorway and slammed it shut behind her hard enough to rattle the hinges. By the time she was halfway across the room, Professor Hatake was darkening the door to his office.

“Sakura? What the—”

“Why are you ending our lessons?” She cut in before he could even finish his question. Her hand gripped the railing of the staircase, but she didn’t take a step up just yet. Though she refused to admit it, his presence was quite intimidating.

The light behind him hid his face in shadows and despite the fact that she couldn’t see the look in his eyes, she could still feel it scorching through her. He didn’t offer her a response and she continued. “I’ve come too far to stop now, and you know it. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching me, then you should at least find someone who is.”

“Is that what you want?”

The word ‘no’ popped into her head but she swallowed it back and shrugged. “I want to learn Occlumency. If you’re not capable of teaching me anymore then—”

“Not capable?” He scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m more than capable. I just don’t want this leading anywhere inappropriate.”

She knew what he truly meant. He didn’t want them to become anything more than teacher and student. But that was fine. If he wanted it that way, then she would never so much as bat an eyelash at him for the rest of the school year. But she refused to let him lie to her about it. “The only place I want this leading to is my career as an auror.”

Professor Hatake sighed and turned on his heel, disappearing into the light of his office. He didn’t shut the door though, and Sakura took that as an invitation to follow him. She stomped up the stairs behind him, well aware that she was behaving like a brat. The sight of a small bag of luggage on his desk, open and full of folded clothes and his wand made her steps falter as soon as she stepped inside his office. She pointed to the bag and frowned.

“Are you leaving?”

“The Ministry needs me for a few days—”

“That is such bullshit and you know it.”

If she could go back in time and tell her younger self that she would one day swear at a teacher in a fit of rage, she would have been appalled. The fact that she wasn’t embarrassed or sorry in the least would have also been surprising. But Sakura kept her narrowed gaze on him, hoping he could feel the full force of her anger through it.

“What, you think I’m running away from you?” His laugh was bitter, and it stung her to the core. “This is what life is like for an auror, Sakura. Your entire life is dedicated to the Ministry. When they tell you to jump, you ask how high. Let this be a lesson for what to expect in your future.”

Her chin quivered and she clenched her jaw to keep it steady. She folded her arms tightly across her chest and shook her head at him, watching him shove a book into the bag. “It just seems a bit convenient that you want to stop our lessons and then you’re called away. Just admit you’re running from this—"

He took the bag and tossed it to the floor, cutting her words off with his sudden outburst. He lifted his arms at his side. “Then let’s continue the lesson right now, shall we? If you can stop me from entering your mind, I’ll continue teaching you Occlumency. If you can’t, then you drop this for good.”

She watched him grab his wand from the desk and she braced herself against the doorframe at her back. She should have been afraid of him. He was far more powerful than she was and capable of destroying her mind with barely a flick of his wand, but for some reason, despite his cruel words to her, she still trusted him. He was acting out of anger and confusion, the same as her. Neither of them were being rational anymore.

She dropped her book bag onto the chair and squared her jaw. “Fine. If that’s what it takes.”

“Let’s get started,” he snapped, leaning over the desk with his palms down over the clutter. Her entire body was tense, pulled so tightly she was afraid she would snap any second. But she refused to back down. Not when he was being like this.

Professor Hatake gave her no countdown this time and as he wedged into her mind, a gasp escaped her throat. Her eyes squeezed tight and she pushed with all of her strength against his invasion, both mentally and physically. It was no use. He was in her thoughts in a matter of seconds, slipping past her resistance with an ease that infuriated her.

Like a film reel out of control, her thoughts cycled rapidly in front of her eyes until they leveled out on the sight of his face. The Restricted Section came into focus around him, seconds before he was pushing his fingers through her hair that night. She could feel the swell of desire rise through her like a fire. And as her hands gripped the front of his shirt, the words she had thought to herself echoed around her; Please kiss me.

Sakura had enough.

She pushed back against his presence and the memory began to crumble around them until he was out of her head completely. Her shoulders heaved with each breath she struggled to take, and she leaned against the wall for support as she glared at him. He didn’t look remorseful for the intrusion into her mind, and instead she could tell he was smug that she hadn’t been able to stop him.

She was at his desk in an instant, slamming her hand down onto the surface. A cup full of pens toppled over, and they clattered to the ground at her feet. “You have no right invading my privacy like that!”

“What do you think Legilimency is? It’s your job to fight against it!”

“How could I? You gave me no warning, no count—”

Much too quickly, he was circling the desk and Sakura retreated back to the wall where she had cowered moments before. The tip of his wand tapped menacingly against the palm of his hand, matching the pounding beat of her heart. “You think your enemies will give you a warning, Sakura? You have to be ready—”

She cried out as he pushed through her mind again and the sound echoed around her as he flipped through her memories. She watched like a prisoner as the Great Hall appeared before her. Tsunade and Shizune stood in the middle of the tables, discussing the upcoming Christmas festival and directly behind them, Professor Hatake sat staring at her. The anger and hurt she had felt that day swirled through her just as strong as it had then.

She tried to resist, tried to push him out of her mind, but he was too strong. The memory tilted forward, cycling fast through the events until her name was being called behind her. Lee’s shimmering form appeared, and Sakura cried out again. The memory trembled but didn’t fade. She heard Lee’s offer to escort her to the festival, felt the need to make Professor Hatake jealous, saw his eyes burning through her. And now, he felt it as well.

With all of her strength, she shoved against him, both in her mind and out of it. She struck her hand out in defense, wanting only to push him away from her but she hit his jaw instead. She covered her mouth with her hands as he stumbled back, head whipped to the side.

For the second time in her life, she had hit a professor.

His quiet chuckle made her tremble from head to toe. He turned his eyes back to hers, rubbing the spot on his jaw she had struck. Before he could haul her down to the Headmistress’ office for punishment, Sakura spun on her heel with intent to flee the office. She didn’t get far.

Professor Hatake snatched her wrist and jerked her back until she was facing him again. He pushed her back into the wall and she gasped at the cold stone that cooled the heat of her skin through her uniform. Like the night in the Restricted Section, he put a hand to the wall near her head, trapping her where she was. Sakura stared up at him the same way as well, eyes wide and heart thundering against her rib cage.

The air between them was thick with tension that she could almost taste. It burned her tongue with every breath she inhaled. And when he spoke, her eyes fluttered closed.

“Why were you trying to make me jealous?” His voice was hoarse and barely a whisper.

Sakura said the only thing she could think of in that moment. “I don’t know.”

He let out a laugh that was barely a breath and she opened her eyes to see him staring at her lips with something dark passing through his gaze. The clench of his jaw behind the mask was surprisingly arousing and she felt a tremor between her legs. Professor Hatake put a finger beneath her chin, lifting her face until they were barely an inch apart and lifted his eyes to hers.

“Liar,” he whispered seconds before capturing her mouth with his.

Too many things were running through her head at once. She was still angry with him, still hurt and confused, but all of that was was quickly becoming eclipsed by the hunger she felt for him. Her hands moved on their own, sliding up the length of his chest, over the collar of his shirt and to the stretch of fabric covering his face. Oh, she realized with a gasp that his mask was still in place.

How did it feel so good to kiss him when she hadn’t even touched his lips?

She curled her fingers around the edge of the mask as he circled her shoulders with his arms, nearly lifting her from the floor completely. The tips of her toes kept her steady and he pulled away just long enough for her to pull the fabric past his lips. He kissed her again, properly this time, and Sakura’s head swam with dizziness and desire.

She had never been kissed like this before.

It curled her toes, made her entire body sizzle beneath his and she didn’t think she’d ever want to stop. The feel of his fingers sinking into her hair, tangling just behind her ear, pulled a moan from her throat that he matched with his own. He eased her lips apart as he tilted his head to the side, just enough so he could touch his tongue to hers.

God, he tasted good, better than anything she had ever tasted before.

Her hands felt greedy, wanting to touch every inch of his body. She raked her nails through his hair with one hand while she dipped the other between them. She didn’t know what she was searching for, only that she wanted to feel his skin beneath her fingers. And though she was enjoying the sounds he made from her fingers in his hair, she wanted more.

The straps of his suspenders fell down his shoulders easily and she moved onto the buttons of his shirt. But she wasn’t the only one feeling greedy.

Professor Hatake lifted her from the floor, pulling her legs open before he stepped between them. He held her against the wall with one hand beneath her ass while the other explored the length of her thigh. She cursed the tights she had put on that morning, but the thin fabric didn’t keep her from feeling the warmth of his touch. And when his hand slipped under her skirt to squeeze the outside of her thigh, she gasped against his mouth.

She pulled away from his lips just enough to whisper. “Professor—”

“Kakashi,” he murmured, pressing another kiss to her lips. “I want to hear you say my name.” He moved from her lips to her throat and gave a quick nip to the sensitive flesh that ran along her neck.

Sakura let her head fall back against the wall and closed her eyes. “Kakashi,” she whispered. He nipped harder and sucked along the tender skin and she gasped, her thighs instinctively pressing on either side of his hips. From deep within his chest, he growled and slipped his hands back under her backside. He lifted her and spun toward the desk, setting her down on top of it.

Papers slipped off the edge and slid across the floor, but he paid them no attention. He was back between her legs, pushing her knees as far apart as they would go and Sakura bit down on her bottom lip. With her thighs spread apart, she could tell how wet she had become and wondered if he could tell as well.

His mouth met hers once more, capturing her in a kiss that she could feel in every inch of her body. It was full of urgency and need and Sakura matched it. Kakashi’s hands reached between their chests and found the buttons of her shirt. He wasn’t as patient as she was, and after it took too long to unbutton the top two, he gave up. He grabbed the bottom and lifted it, stepping back so he could peel it off of her body.

She had never expected to be sitting on his desk, in nothing but a bra and the lower half of her uniform, but now that she was, she really didn’t care. All she wanted was to feel more of him against her and inside her.

She gathered the hem of her skirt around her waist with one hand while reaching for his belt with the other. The front of his slacks stretched tight across his erection and she couldn’t fight the urge to run her thumb over the length. Kakashi moaned against her throat, his hands dropping to her hips. He slipped them beneath her skirt, fingers finding the elastic band of her tights and panties.

As he pulled, managing to drop them an inch lower, the classroom door opened. Both he and Sakura froze, and she brought her hands to her mouth to keep herself as quiet as possible.

“Yo, Hatake!” A familiar, boisterous voice called from below. It was one Sakura immediately recognized as Jiraiya and she could feel panic starting to weave its way through the heat and desire she had felt, destroying them as it went. “You up there?”

“Give me a minute,” Kakashi called from over his shoulder, his fingers falling away from her hips. He quickly replaced his mask around his face and smoothed a hand through his hair while taking a deep breath. He didn’t look at Sakura as he turned to the door.

She didn’t move—couldn’t move.

Her entire Hogwarts career flashed before her eyes and she had to remind herself to breathe. The terror of being caught had completely stolen her breath. Kakashi put a finger to his lips, as if she needed the reminder to keep quiet, and walked out the door of his office. Even in his absence, she stayed as still as a statue. Her legs remained spread open, one foot against the chair while the other dangled above the floor.

The sound of her heartbeat filled her ears, but she tried to listen for the sound of anyone coming up the stairs. If she had to, she would dive beneath his desk and hide.

“I wanted to give you a little preview for the next book before you took off. Figured you’d need some reading material on your stake-out.”

They were still in the classroom, judging by the sound of Jiraiya’s voice and Sakura quickly scrambled to find her shirt. She slipped her arms through and had it buttoned in seconds.

“Thanks,” Kakashi said and she could hear the strain in his voice even from so far away. “I appreciate it.”

“Anytime, kid. Hey, you alright?” A second wave of fear rolled through Sakura and she carefully slipped off the desk. Could he tell something was going on with Kakashi?

“Yeah,” he croaked, letting out a small chuckle. “I just drank a bit too much whisky. Fell asleep at my desk.”

Jiraiya laughed as well. “We’ve all been there. Let me know what you think when you get back.”

“Sure.”

The sound of sandals slapping against the stone floor echoed up to Kakashi’s office and once the door shut behind Jiraiya, Sakura dropped her head into her hands. There was nothing she could do or say to salvage the pieces of what they had been doing. It had been too close of a call and she could only imagine the guilt Kakashi was feeling at the moment.

She quickly tucked her shirt back into the waist band of her skirt the best she could and poked her head around the door frame. Kakashi stood in the middle of the classroom, his hands stuffed in his pockets and his back turned to her. Even from across the room, she could see the stiffness across his shoulders. He turned to glance at her from over his shoulder.

“You should go,” he said, quiet enough that she could barely hear him. But the words echoed loudly in her head. “I have to leave soon anyway.”

Sakura hung her head and pursed her lips to keep them from trembling. She grabbed her bookbag from the chair and made her way slowly down the steps. The dampness between her legs was only a glaring reminder of how close they had come to being caught. A few more minutes and— she didn’t know what would have happened.

That was a lie. She knew exactly what would have happened, what would still be happening had they not been interrupted. She would have had sex with her professor on his desk.

The though made her flinch and as she passed him, she turned back to face him. “I’m sorry.”

He shook his head, not meeting her eyes. “Don’t.”

“Are you going to tell Tsunade?” It was a stupid question, but like usual, she wasn’t thinking rationally around him. He scoffed, making her wince again.

“You think I’ll admit to kissing a student?”

It felt wrong to leave without talking things out. She understood his guilt and confusion at the moment. It was exactly what she was going through, though she suspected it was much worse for him than what she was feeling. With a sigh, she reached for him, unsure what she was even reaching for. He didn’t let her touch him and she dropped her hand to her side in defeat, clenching her jaw to keep her chin from trembling.

“Just…don’t quit because of me. Please. I’ll shadow Hana and I won’t put you in any more awkward situations. You’ll barely notice I exist.” Though it had meant to be a joke, the lump in the back of her throat didn’t let a laugh pass by and she tried to swallow it down. Her voice was a whisper when she tried to speak next. “Just don’t leave.”

He didn’t respond at first, studying her in the soft light shining down from his office. Every second of silence between them hurt worse than the last. Finally, after far too long, he sighed and looked at her. “I won’t.”

By the time Sakura had turned away from him, the tears stung bad enough to make her squeeze her eyes shut. Her chest ached for a breath, but she held it, knowing she wouldn’t be able to hide her sobs if she inhaled. Halfway down the hall, the classroom door shut behind her and she couldn’t hold the tears back any longer.

 


 

 

Chapter Text


 

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He had been back to Hogwarts a grand total of forty two minutes and he was already pacing. After nearly a week spent scoping out a possible dark wizard hideout, and two extra days to clear his head, he thought—hoped—he would have been able to get her out of his mind. Not a waking moment went by where flashes of her parted lips, eyes dark and full of desire, the way she had willingly opened her legs to fit him closer to her sprang to his mind. He was haunted by her and their unfinished business.

That he would never finish.

And now he was back in the castle, back under the same roof as her and the memories of that night were as strong as they were in the hours after it had happened. His office was off limits. He couldn’t look at his desk without seeing her sitting there, wearing nothing but her white, cotton bra and uniform skirt.

Kakashi pressed his palms against his eyelids and sucked in a deep breath, holding it in his lungs until it started it began to ache. He let it out and blinked the spots away from his eyes. At least in his living quarters he was safe from any reminders of her. He took a seat on the worn, antique looking sofa, resting his elbows on his knees before hanging his head.

How could he have been so stupid?

He should have sent her away the moment she slammed the classroom door behind her. But the fire in her eyes, the fury behind her words, it had been too much for him to resist and he crumbled. What a mess he had made of things. He wanted to blame her for it all. That would be the easy thing to do. But no matter how much he tried to be angry or hate her, he couldn’t.

He had wanted it just as much as she had. Maybe more.

Kakashi scrubbed a hand over his mouth and lifted his face to the ceiling. There were far more important things to be thinking about than her, but he couldn’t help it. She was a strange force that had swept into his life like a hurricane, destroying every ounce of his sanity in the process.

And in two days, he would have to see her again. He would have to stand at the front of the class, teaching twenty students about curses or counter jinxes. How would he even be able to focus when she would be in the front row, staring at him with those eyes…those eyes that had looked up at him, begging for him to kiss her.

He stood from the sofa and paced the length of the floor between it and the narrow table he usually drank his morning coffee at. The mug he had used a week ago was still sitting on the corner, a reminder of what his life was like before he had kissed her. They had crossed a line that they would never be able to go back to.

How was he supposed to pretend like things were normal?

How was she?

The hurt in her eyes as she asked him not to quit had been haunting him the last few days. He would never get it out of his head, but god, he wanted to. She had looked so torn, so hurt by him in those moments afterward. He had wanted to comfort her, to promise her that he would stay because he couldn’t imagine not seeing her every week, but he had no idea how to actually say the words. And now he was supposed to act like nothing had happened between them?

He was supposed to forget about how, for the first time in a long time, he had felt excitement burning through him? How was he supposed to forget?

Kakashi snatched the mug off the table and threw it into the stone wall in front of him as hard as he could. The ceramic shattered into a million pieces, raining down over the table and floor like white specks of rain. He stared at the wall where it had hit, a small circle of dust and tiny shards of porcelain stuck to the stone as a reminder.

For several minutes, he stood rooted to the spot with his hands clenched tightly at his side and he was thankful for the brief pause to the chaos of his thoughts.

 


 

The green and yellow sign outside Gladrag’s Wizardwear swung back and forth in the biting November wind and Sakura was glad that she was inside the shop, sitting comfortably next to the crackling fire. Well, physically comfortable. If it had been up to her, she would have spent the Saturday the same way she had spent any free time she had to herself over the last week; cooped up in her room, under a pile of blankets, trying not to think about anything.

The more she thought, the more her heart hurt, and she was tired of hurting.

Spending her day shopping for dresses, listening to her friends happily discuss their dates to the festival and how much fun they would have, only reminded Sakura that she didn’t have a date, she wouldn’t have a date, and the only person she wanted to take her to the festival was the one person who couldn’t. She would never be able to openly dance with Professor Hatake or walk into the Great Hall with her arm around his.

This was exactly the kind of thing she was trying to avoid thinking about. The dull ache slowly made its way back into her chest and she rubbed at the spot just beneath her throat. It had been over a week since she saw him last, since she kissed him last. He was only supposed to be gone a few days and though she had worried he would disappear forever, Shikamaru had mentioned earlier that morning that he was back.

Sakura had tried not to show her interest in the conversation he and Naruto were having, but it was hard to keep her heart from hammering away in her chest at the mere mention of his name. Unfortunately, the boys had split off from the group as soon as Ino had mentioned dress shopping and Sakura had been stuck tagging along to something she didn’t want to do.

Not that eavesdropping about professors was any better.

Currently, Tenten and Hinata were searching through the racks for dresses, openly judging each item they came across. Whether they noticed the scowl of the woman behind the cash register that deepened with every insult they fired to the gowns or not, Sakura didn’t know. Tenten probably didn’t care. As they shoved an electric blue dress that resembled a cloud out of the way, Sakura ducked her head and stared down at her lap.

“Bad breakup?” A gentle voice said to her right, making her head snap up. An older woman with a purple measuring tape around her neck offered her a sympathetic smile.

Sakura nodded and pushed her hands beneath her legs on the plush bench she had occupied for the past half hour. “You could say that.”

The woman hurried to the bench and jerked the measuring tape from around her neck, holding it across Sakura’s body, from shoulder to shoulder. She blinked in surprise up at the woman, not sure how to politely tell her to back off.

Humming to herself, the seamstress ran the tape along Sakura’s hip down to her knee and nodded, hobbling back onto her feet. She wagged a finger down to her with a cheeky smile. “I know just what you need to turn the heads of all the boys.”

“No,” Sakura said with a quick shake of her head. “I don’t want to turn anyone’s head.”

Not a boy, anyway.

Unconvinced, the woman waved her off and stepped up to another circular rack of dresses next to the one Tenten and Hinata were still cycling through. “Oh, Nonsense,” she called over her shoulder. “He’ll take one look at you and regret ever making you frown like that. Trust me.”

Once her head was turned away, Sakura sat back against the wall and rolled her eyes with a huff. Tenten hid a giggle behind her elbow and ducked away before Sakura could shoot her a glare. As her new seamstress friend was occupied finding the perfect dress, Ino threw the fitting room curtain to the side and sauntered out to take a step on the raised platform in front of the three mirrors.

The gown she had chosen, after only ten minutes of searching, was more than likely designed with an adult woman’s body in mind. Her shoulders were left bare, with the sleeves starting at the pit of her arms and stretching all the way down to her wrists. It fit like a dream and Sakura’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. The black material was a perfect match for her milky skin and if anyone would be turning heads at the festival, it was going to be Ino.

She turned her back to the mirrors, gazing over her shoulder at the way her ass looked, and Sakura spotted the slit in the skirt that went far past her knee. She shook her head with a scoff, not sure why it should even surprise her at this point.

“What do you think?” Ino asked, smoothing her hands down the dress that fit tight against her curves.

“I think—" Sakura stood to her feet and moved to the mirrors, leaning a shoulder against one of the frames. “Tsunade would definitely not approve.”

“Yeah, well, what’s she going to do? Make me change?” Before Sakura could answer that yes, that was exactly what the Headmistress would do, Ino shook her ponytail over her shoulder and smiled. “I’ll just have to avoid her the whole night. Have you found anything yet?”

She turned to eyes away from her reflection and settled on Sakura who sighed and nodded toward the rounded backside of the woman still searching for that perfect dress to turn heads. There were already two gowns draped over her arm and judging by only the colors, Sakura didn’t like either of them. “I’ve got a few to choose from, by the looks of it.”

“Good.” Ino smoothed her hair back to straighten her ponytail while also checking her angles in the mirror. “Pick something sexy.”

“Yeah, right.” Sakura pushed away from the wall and found her way back to the bench she had been sitting on since they walked in. The fire was still warm and beyond the door, snow had started to fall. As her friends occupied themselves away from her for the moment, as well as the seamstress, she watched the flurries slowly fall to the street of Hogsmeade.

The snow was beautiful and cold, exactly the way she would describe Kakashi. Saying his name in her head only made her feel that same ache from before and she rubbed at the spot on her chest. Suddenly, the fire offered her no warmth. A shiver rolled through her and she turned away from the snow falling beyond the window.

“Alright, I’ve got just the ones that will look perfect on you!” The excitement in the seamstress’ face was exhausting, but Sakura turned to face her anyway. She glanced at the gowns and tried to resist the urge to immediately shake her head. The woman ignored Sakura’s hesitation and held up the soft, padded hanger of the first option.

It was beautifully made, with a shimmering, gold skirt and beading across the bodice that caught the light with every move. But it was exactly what she didn’t want. It would make her stand out far too much and she had already made plans to be as invisible as possible that night.

So, she shook her head as politely as she could and without being deterred, the woman moved onto the next gown. The green, velvet skirt brought up memories of Halloween night into Sakura’s head, of the way Kakashi had told her that green suited her and she frowned. As much as she wanted to show up wearing his house colors, everyone but he would assume she did it for Sasuke. The thought nearly made her lip curl in disgust.

She shook her head before the woman had even fluffed the skirt out the entire way and with a blink of surprise, the gown was discarded as well. Thankfully the next option was no where near as flashy or extravagant as the last. The color was instantly pleasing; a deep, navy blue that was both comforting and familiar. It was simply made, but beautiful. Satin, heart shaped neckline, a flared skirt that would reach just above her knees. It was perfect.

Sakura stood to her feet and stepped up to the dress the woman draped tenderly over her arm. She touched the soft material, already imagining the way she could style her hair and what jewelry to pair it with. A simple necklace, nothing too much.

“This one. I like this one.”

The woman offered a small, wary smile and Sakura assumed she had only included this one as a last resort, never expecting it to be picked. But she had been telling her the truth. She didn’t want to turn heads, didn’t want to be noticed at all. If anything, she wanted to spend maybe an hour there before disappearing back up to Ravenclaw Tower. A quiet night curled up in front of the fire, trying not to think about things too much while everyone else in the castle would be too busy to notice her absence would be ideal.

“Of course,” the seamstress said with a smile. “I’ll need to take your measurements, of course. Step over here.”

She lead Sakura to a sewing table where patterns and spare strips of fabric were shoved to one side. A big, brass sewing machine sat on the left and the needle was charmed to bob up and down over the material. She was ordered to stretch her arms out and the woman took proper measurements of every length and width of her body.

Once finished, the purple measuring tape slid back around the woman’s shoulders by itself and she scribbled the numbers down on a pad on her wrist. “I’ll send these to the alterations department upstairs and your gown will be ready within a week.”

Sakura nodded and stepped away from the table, giving her room to make her way to the staircase at the back of the show room. Alone again with her thoughts, Sakura returned to her bench and sat down on it, letting her head fall back against the wall with a deep breath.

In the fitting room, Tenten and Hinata were giggling and causing the stuffy, upturned nose woman from the cash register to huff in annoyance. Sakura closed her eyes and ignored the pinch of pain in her chest, not allowing her mind to turn back to thoughts of him. She had already spent too long dwelling on what had happened.

Nothing would change what had happened, no matter how many tears she cried. There was nothing she could do except forget about it.

“You picked the most boring gown,” Ino grumbled as she dropped onto the bench beside Sakura, making her lift her head to stare at her. She had changed back into her own clothes and was slipping her arms into a black sweater.

“Yep.” What else could she say? She didn’t want to start an argument while already being on the verge of tears. Instead, she snatched a catalog off the mantle beside her and flipped through the section of hats and accessories.

“So, we’re back to that?” Ino turned her gaze up to the ceiling with a sigh. “Feeling like shit over Sasuke, having him ruin another month of your last year at Hogwarts?”

“I’m not feeling anything for Sasuke. I just picked a gown that I liked. Is that a crime now?” She snapped the catalog shut and pursed her lips.

“You’ve been moping around for the past week or so. I thought you had moved past this—”

“I have. Not everything revolves around Sasuke, okay? Maybe I have other reasons for feeling this way.” She dropped the magazine onto the bench and turned to the door, already pushing out into the cold before she could even take a breath. The bitter air froze her lungs and left her gasping as she stomped through the fresh snow.

Half of her expected Ino to follow, demanding she tell her exactly what was making her feel so miserable but as Sakura found another bench just outside Madame Puddifoot’s and dropped onto it, she found no one storming after her. The streets were nearly deserted. Everyone had moved into the pubs or shops to find comfort from the cold with only a few local residents hurrying along the street.

Sakura closed her coat around her and stuffed her hands into her pockets. She blinked a few snowflakes away from her eyelashes and ducked her head. The cold was relentless, but she barely noticed. It was hard to feel anything at the moment.

Although, that was a lie.

She felt some things. She felt regret, heavy like a stone in her stomach, reminding her of the way Kakashi had pulled away from her touch in the classroom. It pressed against her stomach and she sucked in another breath, hoping the cold would calm the nausea. It didn’t.

A creeping ache slowly inched across her forehead and she pushed her hair away from her face, smearing the snow through the strands. She had to stop thinking about him. Whatever it was that they shared was over. Dwelling on it brought her nothing but misery.

But how was she supposed to forget something like that? It was all she had been able to think about for the past week. And on Monday, she was supposed to just go back to his class, sit in her usual seat and listen to him teach like nothing had happened?

There was no way…

The headache flared and she put her fingers to the spot in the center of her forehead with a wince. Surely the cold wasn’t making her feel this strange pressure. It was almost as if someone was pushing against her—

Sakura’s eyes widened and she felt panic prick cold beneath her skin. She focused as best as she could, throwing up a mental barrier against whoever was trying to pry into her mind. It was nothing like the way Professor Hatake had done it. Whereas he was gentle and slow, whoever this was poked and prodded at her mind like a novice.

And just as strangely and quickly as it began, it disappeared altogether and she collapsed back against the bench, her breath trembling along with the rest of her. What the hell…Her eyes darted around the streets. A woman was making her way out of the post office, struggling to open her umbrella with a string of curse words.

On the opposite end of the street, a group of professors, none with that familiar masked face, crossed the street in front of Zonko’s. They were engrossed in their conversation and after a moment, the three of them threw their heads back with a laugh that echoed off the building. Aside from that, Sakura was alone in the streets.

She spun around to face the windows of Madame Puddifoot’s. The teacups stacked precariously in the bay windows made it hard to see anyone in particular inside. And those she could see looked too preoccupied with kissing or holding hands to try to read Sakura’s mind.

Ino popped into her head but Sakura frowned. Her skills were far better than Professor Hatake. If Ino wanted to read her thoughts, she would have no trouble slipping in undetected. Besides, Sakura trusted her not to invade her privacy. The longer she sat on the bench, shivering from fright, the more exposed she felt. She jumped to her feet and rushed back to Gladrag’s store front.

She was back inside, the snow collected on her shoulders and head melting from the fire in seconds. Sakura held the doorknob and pressed her face close to the glass. Her breath fogged in front of her face and though she continued to search for anyone looking her way, she found no one.

From the bench behind her, Hinata blinked up at Sakura. “Hey, are you alright?”

Sakura whirled around to face her and realized she must have looked paranoid. She tried to calm her racing pulse and nodded, stepping away from the door. The spot on her forehead was still tingling but the poking sensation was gone.

“Yeah,” she breathed, glancing back to the door. “I—it’s just cold outside.”

“You sure?”

With a nod, Sakura sat back against the wall and stared at the sewing table across the room. The overly friendly seamstress was back behind it, humming softly as she folded fabric and marked along the length with a stick of chalk. Her friends were occupied as well and Hinata jumped up to join Tenten at the mirror as she modeled a floor length red gown.

Sakura’s eyes cut to the surly clerk behind the register who was still glaring at the three girls. None of them seemed to be the one who could, or would, pry into her thoughts. What would be the reason for any of them to know what she was thinking? Even Ino, who was more than capable, seemed much more interested in laughing with Tenten than whatever was happening with Sakura.

Which meant, it was someone playing a prank on her.

It was the only explanation that made any sense. Someone, possibly one of the Slytherin bitches, had seen her alone on the bench and decided to mess with her. It was a failed attempt, thankfully. She was sure no one had gotten far enough in her mind to see anything incriminating. Whoever it was definitely had limited skill, which made her feel a bit safer.

She glanced back to the glass panes in the door and frowned. Whether it truly was a prank or not, she knew she should go to someone and tell them about this. Professor Hatake was out of the question, but was this really something she should bother Tsunade or Shizune with?

No.

She would just have to deal with this on her own.

Her lessons had prepared her enough to feel an invasion coming on and she had stopped it easily enough this time. She just hoped that whoever it was, had decided to give up completely. The twisted knots in her stomach made it hard to believe it was over. Either way, she would have to be on alert from now on and if it happened again…she would have no choice.

She would have to tell Kakashi.


 

Chapter Text


 

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.


 

 

The grunt Ino let out as she landed in the seat next to Sakura was enough to startle the Ravenclaw out of her thoughts. But the distraction was a welcome one. For the past eight hours, since the moment her eyes opened to her alarm clock ringing early that morning, Sakura had one thought in her mind. And that was what the hell she was going to do when she saw Kakashi again.

All day she had worried over it. She chewed her nails down to the quick and any spare moment, her legs bounced with nervous energy that she had kept bottled up since the night he had left the castle. She was afraid that with just one look at him, all of the energy would blow the cork and explode like a badly brewed potion. And she couldn’t deny that half of that nervous energy couldn’t be blamed on just seeing him again.

Especially since Saturday, her mind had been working in overdrive. She had barely slept the past two nights, tossing and turning and trying to go through a list of people who both would try to read her mind and people who could. She couldn’t reach a valid reason why any of those people would want to violate her thoughts. Sure, a simple prank was probably the answer, but it just didn’t sit well with her.

The nagging feeling that it was something more wouldn’t leave her alone and had forced her away from sleep for the past two nights. Which she was sure showed on her face at the current moment…five minutes away from seeing the one person she had missed terribly and the one person that might make her throw up just by being in his presence

With a glance to her friend, Sakura forced a weak smile and hoped Ino couldn’t see the dark circles that sat heavy beneath her eyes. The Slytherin had her own evidence of a sleepless night to deal with and Sakura watched as her friend smoothed the fly-away hair over her head. Her usual high, bouncy ponytail was sitting low on the back of her head today, messy and barely brushed.

“You alright?”

“Yes,” Ino snapped, sitting back in her chair as she glared at the textbook on her desk in front of her. She sighed and closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. I got no sleep last night.”

“I know how you feel.”

“I stayed up studying for Yuhi’s exam that I’m pretty sure I just failed and to top that off—” Ino glanced over her shoulder to the three Gryffindors shuffling into the classroom. As they took their usual seats on the back row, the blonde continued in a quieter voice. “I also stayed up until two helping Sai pick designs for the Christmas festival.”

Sakura’s eyes wanted to widen in surprise. She had to force them out of their tired state and emphasized her low effort with saying, “Wow…How’d that go?”

Ino made a face telling her that it went about as well as Sakura and Kakashi’s last conversation had went. She nodded and turned back to face her own textbooks on the desk. It seemed that neither of them could keep a boyfriend, get a boyfriend, or even develop a crush on someone normal. They were officially pathetic.

“I tried so hard to get him to just talk about something—anything besides the stupid festival and each time, he just stared at me like I was an idiot.” Ino leaned forward and dropped her head onto the desk, looking up at Sakura with eyes sparkling with sadness. She looked like a little, lost puppy, begging anyone to take her home. “I give up on him. Officially.”

There was a thousand things Sakura wanted to say to make her friend feel better, but she knew each of them would be as meaningless as the last. Who was she to even give advice on matters of the heart? The first guy she had ever loved used her and dumped her like she was last week’s trash and the second guy—

The door at the back of the classroom slammed shut hard enough to rattle the glass panes of the window and Sakura flinched. She turned to face the front, focusing on the corner of her desk where a student years ago had carved a lightning bolt into the wood. There wasn’t a force on Earth that could make her look up at Kakashi now.

No, she couldn’t call him that.

It was back to Professor Hatake…the way he would remain forever to her.

From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of him flipping the chalk board around to the clean side of the slate and the hinges creaked, echoing through the silent classroom. She didn’t have to look up at him to know he was in a foul mood today. It radiated off of him and it seemed the entire class felt it.

Well, except Ino.

She slid a piece of paper across the desk as Professor Hatake’s back was turned and Sakura snatched it quick, risking a glance to the board. He charmed the slim piece of chalk to write across the slate and as he turned back around, Sakura quickly looked back down in her lap. Her fingers shook as she unfolded the small slip of parchment.

Are you sick?’

She shook her head and sat forward, draping her elbows across the desk and over her book. She looked to the quill at her right and cursed herself for picking a seat on the front row the first day of class. It made passing notes nearly impossible, especially when someone as sharp and ever-watchful was only a few steps away.

“For the next two weeks,” Professor Hatake started, jerking her attention away from her quill. She made the mistake of actually looking at him this time and what she saw made her heart clench. It seemed she and Ino weren’t the only ones with sleepless nights. “I want to focus on conflict resolution. I know it was touched on briefly last year, but it’s as important as knowing how to defend yourself. Not every situation will require a fight and it’s your job to determine when to negotiate and resolve things peacefully. You won’t last as an Auror if your go-to is confrontation.”

He may as well have been speaking Latin. The words barely registered in Sakura’s head. She couldn’t look away or think of anything aside from how miserable he looked. His dark eyes were lined with red and sunken. Had he slept at all the last week? As horrible as it made her feel, she wondered if she was the reason he looked this way.

At her left, the sound of parchment slowly being torn snapped her attention away from Kakashi and Sakura noticed Ino scribbling another note. As soon as Professor Hatake turned away from them, it slid across the desk and she put her elbow on it.

No offense, but you look like you’re going to puke.’

She scowled and hoped he couldn’t notice. This time, she scooped up her quill and scribbled a quick response before sliding it back as surreptitiously as she could be.

I’m not going to puke. Just tired.’

Ino unfolded it in her lap and wrote back, managing to slip it onto Sakura’s leg as Professor Hatake snatched the chalk from the board.

Well if you do, aim away from—

“Girls,” the gruff voice from the front of the class snapped Sakura’s attention away from the note she was trying to hide, and her eyes lifted to meet Professor Hatake’s. He didn’t seem quite as tired now that he was glaring at the two of them. “Pass notes on your own time. You’re here to learn, not to gossip.”

Sakura’s fist clamped around the note and she ducked her head. It wasn’t like she hadn’t ever been in trouble in class before, but this was so much worse. Her heart was wrenched as if he had told her, in front of the entire class, to shut up and stop being stupid. Which was basically what he had said, just in a much more professional way.

Her chest ached with every breath and for several minutes, all she could do was stare at the lightning bolt on the corner of her desk. It helped take her mind off the fact that maybe she would puke after all. That would certainly get her out of class faster.

Thankfully, the rest of the hour passed uneventfully and after a rather boring lesson on the proper techniques to resolve a conflict, they were dismissed to leave. While the rest of the class stood from their chairs, Sakura remained seated. She tried to resist looking at him but couldn’t help it. He swiped an eraser through the notes he had put up on the chalkboard.

The tension was evident in his shoulders, even beneath the white button up shirt and black suspenders coming together between his shoulder blades. Sakura remembered all too well how it felt to slip them down his arms and—

She bit her lower lip to push the memory away and bent to gather her books. She had told him she would leave him alone, and that’s exactly what she was going to do. Even though she was dying to be near him, to talk to him, and tell him about what had happened, it was for the best if she didn’t torture herself.

Ino was waiting for her at the door and as the last straggler hurried out of the classroom ahead of Sakura, the Slytherin hid a yawn behind her elbow. “I’m ready to eat, and then crash.”

It was a good plan. One that Sakura would do as well. With one final glance into the classroom behind her, catching Professor Hatake making his way up the steps to his office, she turned back to her friend with a sigh. “Me too.”

.

.

“Here you go,” Hana said with a smile as she handed Sakura a pale blue apron. It looked as if it had been through the wash close to a thousand times and the strips of fabric she tied around her waist was frayed on the ends. But she smiled to the woman and smoothed the material down the front of her skirt. “Ready to get started?”

Did she have a choice?

It wasn’t like shadowing Hana was going to be horrible or boring. With the wounds Sakura had seen through her years at Hogwarts, this could be the most excitement she had seen in a while. Well, medical, gory excitement anyway.

Still, as fascinated as she was with the healing magic, Sakura couldn’t help feeling a strange longing for the nervous nights she had spent with Professor Hatake. Even before they had taken things too far, when they were still trying to get used to one another, it had been surprisingly easy to open up to him and just talk. Maybe it had been the connection between them while he was in her head, or maybe it was something else, she didn’t know.

What she did know was that she missed him.

As she followed Hana toward one of the supply closets, Sakura pursed her lips to keep her chin from quivering. She tried to pay attention to what the woman was saying but had trouble focusing. Since the night in Kakashi’s office, from the moment he had asked her to leave, she felt as if she had been on the verge of tears. Any little thing could set her off. She was like a ticking time bomb, but she had gotten good at hiding her misery over the last few months.

She would hold the tears back until she was alone, in the dark of her bedroom, hugging the pillow she brought from home and only then would she let herself cry. Although, the past few days, her tears had been from the exhaustion and the nightmares that plagued her every night. It had gotten so bad that tonight, she had planned to ask Hana for some sleeping draught to help her get some rest.

Some dreamless rest.

Hana threw open the doors to another closet and stepped inside, pointing to the shelves. “This is where we keep basic supplies. Bandages, band-aids, tongue depressors and cotton balls. Every shelf is labeled because when I came in this past summer, these closets looked as if a cyclone had gone off inside them.” She scowled and stepped back out to shut the doors. “I can’t work like that.”

Together, they stepped to a set of cabinets built into the wall. There was a small, silver keyhole beside each handle and Hana reached for a key in the pocket of her apron. “These are the potions, draughts and elixirs. Basic stuff, but we keep them under lock and key just in case.”

Sakura nodded and glanced up to one of the shelves where several corked bottles sat in the corner. The dark purple liquid of the sleeping draughts caught her eye and she stared up at it. Her fingers twitched, aching to just reach up and snatch it for herself. Before she could, the cabinet closed, and Hana twisted the key in the lock before moving onto the next cabinet.

“Along the same lines, this is our—Oh, crap.”

Sakura’s eyebrow arched as the woman grabbed a basket of what looked like broken sticks. The faint smell of lavender hit her all at once and she breathed it deep into her lungs, hoping for the calming effects to take hold.

“I guess I used more than I had thought yesterday. Gosh, and honeywater?” Hana clucked her tongue in disappointment, turning to glance at Sakura. “I was going to put in an order for Wiggenweld potion to Shizune, but it looks like I’m going to need some more supplies as well. Want to run an errand for me? Then I can show you the proper dosages of all the medications!”

Again, did she have a choice?

She smiled as genuinely as she could, which wasn’t much, and nodded. “Sure.”

“Thanks! I know this isn’t quite what you had imagined on your first night, but I promise—” Hana hurried to the broad desk at the front of the Hospital Wing where paperwork was stacked, and supplies were neatly arranged. She dropped to her chair and pulled out a piece of parchment and quill. “Something exciting will come along eventually. Just last week I had two girls who had somehow managed to get their hands stuck together with industrial bubble gum from Honeydukes!”

Sakura didn’t have the heart to tell her that that didn’t sound particularly exciting but, what else was she really hoping for? This wasn’t St. Mungo’s. Industrial bubble gum accident was probably all that she could hope for.

As Hana handed off the list of ingredients, much longer than the three she had mentioned earlier, Sakura gave her another nod. “I’ll be back in just a bit.”

“Thank you so much! Shizune should be in her office. She and a few other professors have Tuesdays off.”

Sakura glanced back at the locked cabinet at the opposite side of the room, exactly the spot where the sleeping draughts sat. At least with this errand, Sakura could ask for a favor in return. A sleeping draught for nightmares without mentioning anything to the Headmistress about it. Hiding her sigh from the nurse, she crossed out of the Hospital Wing and turned to the stairs, keeping her head pointed down low.

She didn’t feel like seeing anyone tonight, especially the one person she hadn’t stopped thinking about for the past month.

 


 

 

The man at Kakashi’s side gave a grunt followed quickly by a sharp hiss of pain. Currently, he was carrying a limping Gai up the stairs to the Hospital Wing after a failed dueling demonstration for the first and second years. As usual, Gai has roped his friend into participating and as usual, got a bit too competitive.

Thinking he had Kakashi disarmed with a quick Expelliarmus, Gai left his right side completely exposed. It only took a well-placed Stupefy spell to win the duel. Of course, if things had been that simple, they’d still be in the classroom, demonstrating the how’s and what’s of a good duel. The spell had knocked Gai completely off the platform, sending him crashing into a wooden chair. It broke his body’s fall, but his ankle had been twisted and head hit the cobblestone floor rather hard.

And now he was leaning against Kakashi, trying not to put weight on his twisted ankle. “Where we going?” He asked, his words slurring from the concussion.

“To the hospital.”

“Why?”

Kakashi sighed and lugged his friend down the hall. The doors to the Infirmary were at the end and he could see them open to the inside. The beds he could see at the moment were empty and he found himself hoping that tonight was not a night Sakura had chosen to shadow Hana.

Not that he didn’t want to see her again. He had been dying to see her, to talk to her, to apologize to her for days. He just couldn’t bring himself to even look at her. Having to scold her and Miss Yamanaka during class the day before had been torture and he knew he had taken out his frustration on her. Usually, he let things like note passing slide.

And the way she had looked at him, surprised by his tone and hurt by his words…Even thinking about it now, a day later, made him flinch.

It would seem that tonight, Hana was shadow free and Kakashi’s sanity was thankful. She lifted her head from the work at her desk as they made their way into the Infirmary and her eyes went wide.

“What happened?” She stood from her chair as Kakashi steered Gai to the first bed he came to. The weight of his body shifted the mattress and he bounced with a smile stretching across his face.

“We, ah, had a little accident during a friendly duel. He fell off the platform, hit a chair, and his head hit the floor.”

At this, Hana stood up straight and put her hands on her hips, the scowl on her face making Kakashi duck his head in guilt. With a cluck of her tongue, she addressed Gai’s ankle first. While she was busy poking her fingers around the muscle and bone, Kakashi used the moment her attention was turned away to scan the rest of the Infirmary.

Nothing seemed disturbed and there was no obvious evidence that Sakura had been here. Half of him was curious about it and though he wanted to ask Hana how things were going with her, he kept his mouth shut. It was better this way. The less he spoke her name, the easier it would be to get over her.

He turned back to Hana and Gai and found her holding the light from the tip of her wand up to his face. She pulled his eyelid open wide and he blinked and frowned in annoyance. “That’s bloody bright!”

“Well, it is a light.” She tapped her wand against the corner of the bed and the light went out. “He’s got a concussion and a sprained ankle. That—” she pointed to the foot hanging off the side of the bed. “Should be easy enough to fix. But I’m going to have to keep him overnight for observation.”

“No, I’m fine,” Gai pushed her hand away and leaned toward the edge of the bed. Kakashi was quick to grab his shoulder and pull him back down. The sudden movement made him squeeze his eyes shut and with a groan, he collapsed back onto the pillow. “On second thought, maybe I’m not.”

“You think? You’ve got a concussion, big dummy.” As he put a hand to his forehead, Hana stood and looked up at Kakashi with a frown. “He’s going to have a headache for sure. I’ll give him something to help him sleep if he can keep a conversation going tonight. I’ll talk to him for a bit, make sure he knows who he is and where he’s at. Stuff like that.”

Kakashi nodded and looked down at his friend. A part of him wondered if he should be the one to stay and do all that. It was his fault that Gai was in this mess. As competitive as the man was, Kakashi was just as bad and that Stupefy had been rather strong. He rubbed the back of his neck and turned to follow Hana to a supply closet and cabinet built into the corner behind her desk.

Before he could join her and ask how long he should stick around, Hana turned to call over her shoulder. “I’m waiting for Sakura to come back with a list of things I needed from Shizune at the moment. Once she’s back, I’d like her to help with the sprained ankle.”

Everything she said beyond ‘Sakura to come back’ went in one ear and right out the other. He froze in place, halfway between her broad desk and the bed that Gai was much too tall to fit in. So, she had been here tonight. The hair on his arms stood on end as goosebumps covered them. His eyes cut to the open doors of the Infirmary. The hallways were clear, and he knew he had to leave before she got back.

He turned and made his way back to Gai, glancing cautiously to the end of the hall where the stairwell sat. He opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by his friend reaching a hand out to grasp his arm.

Gai chuckled and patted Kakashi just below the elbow. “I should have known you’d best me. But all this means is that I’ll have to practice and beat you next time.”

He forced a smile that Gai wouldn’t see and sat on the edge of the bed. “Oh, I doubt Tsunade will allow a next time.”

The laugh from his friend should have been contagious, but he was far too distracted by the sight of that bright, pink hair piled high in a bun on top of Sakura’s head as she turned down the hall. She had a basket of ingredients held in front of her and beyond it, Kakashi could see a blue apron tied around her slender waist. She had her uniform on and it immediately brought the memory of her sitting on his desk, wearing nothing but her pleated skirt and bra rushing into his mind.

She kept her head down the whole way, not even glancing their way as she turned at the doorway and set the basket down on the corner of Hana’s desk. For a brief moment, Kakashi felt almost offended that she hadn’t noticed him. Especially when she was all he could see.

“Oh, there you are!” Hana turned from the cabinet and pointed toward the bed where Gai laid and Kakashi sat. “I told you something exciting would come in!”

He held his breath as she lifted her head and turned their way. Her eyes fell on Gai first but quickly caught Kakashi’s gaze. The shock of seeing him was written clearly across her face and she nearly dropped the bound satchel of lavender sprigs. She caught it quickly at her knees and stood up straight. Even from across the room, he could see the muscles of her throat tighten as she swallowed, and he’d be lying if he said it didn’t stir something inside him to see.

His lips knew all too well what kissing that throat felt like and what sounds she made while he did it.

“C’mon,” Hana said, tugging on the elbow of Sakura’s sleeve. They moved closer to the bed and Kakashi stood up and backed away out of instinct. Not because he was afraid of her, but he knew that it was far too dangerous to be that close. The room was suddenly much too small around them.

For a few minutes, he watched her as Hana instructed her on the proper techniques to care for a sprained ankle. They wrapped Gai’s foot and lower leg in a thick, elastic bandage. When Sakura spoke, Kakashi realized he should have left the moment he saw her. How had he forgotten how sweet her voice was?

“Will he be alright?” She asked quietly. He could tell she was trying her hardest not to look at him.

“I think he’ll live.” Hana lifted her head and smiled proudly, glancing to Kakashi. Her eyes widened as she looked at his left arm. “Oh, you’ve got a cut on your arm!”

Huh?

He blinked in confusion and only looked down once she took hold of his arm and turned it so that his elbow was pointing out. Sure enough, the sleeve of his gray shirt was ripped open about an inch and blood had stained the fabric around it. On his forearm, he could feel a slight stinging and looked through the new hole in what had once been his favorite shirt. It must have happened when he bent to pick Gai up from the floor. He remembered snagging his shirt on the broken chair leg but hadn’t realized he had even been cut.

“It’s nothing, really—”

“Actually,” Hana said, looking up at him. “If you don’t care, this could be a perfect learning experience for Sakura. She needs to practice with all kinds of injuries. Luckily you two came in tonight!”

Yeah. Lucky.

His eyes moved away from Hana’s as she stepped away and he found Sakura on the other side of Gai’s bed, staring up at him. Her eyes were so wide he could see every shade of green inside them. The rational side of his brain was screaming at him to tell them he was busy, to fake a sudden fear of blood and excuse himself as quickly as possible.

Being so close to her again, being touched by her, even in a setting as clinical as the Infirmary would be too much. Just looking at her throat had turned him on. What was he going to do when she was touching his arm and standing so close he could smell her?

Both Sakura and Hana led him to the opposite side of the room to the bed sitting directly next to the supply closet where she had pulled the bandages from. He watched as Hana handed off a cotton ball, a small bottle of liquid and a tray to Sakura. “You’ll have to pull the splinters out first and you can use magic or tweezers. Both are about the same. Clean it with this afterward.”

Sakura nodded through the instructions but Kakashi wondered if she was having as much trouble focusing as he was. She had been relatively quiet since the moment he saw her walking down the hall and he hoped it wasn’t because of him. Though he knew it more than likely was, he hoped she wasn’t angry or upset about him snapping at her in class.

Or maybe, he hoped it was because of that and not for what had happened between them. He didn’t know. Since he first met her, he realized there were a lot of things he didn’t know and couldn’t be sure of.

Sakura turned to him and he pulled his hands out of his pocket, presenting his injury for her. She pointed to the bed and he sat, wincing from the creak of the metal springs beneath him. After laying the various supplies down on the bed beside him, Hana turned to make her way back to Gai.

“Aren’t you going to watch?” Sakura asked nervously, staring over the top of Kakashi’s head.

“I trust you!” Hana called. From over his shoulder, he watched her sit Gai up and give him a rather large dose of a potion. Kakashi faced Sakura once more and found her staring down at him, frozen to the spot.

He sighed and reached down to roll the torn sleeve of his shirt up past his elbow. The fabric smeared his blood further up his arm and he reached for the cotton ball on the bed. Before he could grab it, Sakura snatched it and shook her head.

“I can do this,” she mumbled, and he wondered if she was telling him, or herself.

Her brow furrowed and he stared at the slight wrinkle between them as she slipped her wand out of the pocket on the front of her apron. He watched her point the tip of the slender wand to the injury and his eyes caught the sight of her fingers trembling. It shouldn’t have made his heart skip a beat and it definitely shouldn’t have made him want to reach for her and steady her hand with his.

Instead, he did something equally stupid.

“Why are you shaking?” He asked, his voice too low for the other two in the Infirmary to hear them. Sakura’s eyes lifted to his, only briefly. She quickly looked away, as if she were afraid to look at him for too long.

A scowl deepened the wrinkle on her forehead. “You know why,” she said, just as quietly as he had spoken.

He sighed and looked away from her, forcing himself to stare at the cabinets behind her head instead of her face. “This is a bit unnecessary. It’s barely a scratch.”

“Still,” she said, her fingers finding his forearm. The muscles along his back tensed and he stared at the pattern of wood in the cabinets so he wouldn’t think about how soft her fingers were. “This is good practice for me.”

Another set of bed springs creaked and both Sakura and Kakashi turned their attention to the pair across the room. Hana threw Gai’s arm over her shoulders and smiled at them. “I’m going to walk him down the hallway and back a few times to let the potion work faster. Shout if you need me!”

Kakashi blinked and watched them slowly amble their way out of the double doors of the hospital. The room had felt so small earlier and now, without anyone watching, it felt as if they had the entire castle to themselves.

He turned back to face Sakura who was now kneeling in front of him and he cleared his throat. She had already started to work, focusing attentively to what she was doing. The wand still shook in her grasp, but she was able to pull the splinters up through his skin. They tugged at the tender flesh and he clenched his jaw slightly. After three had been pulled free and dropped onto a spare strip of gauze, Sakura folded it up and put it on the small, silver tray.

“You’re getting quite good at wordless magic.” He hadn’t intended it to come out as a whisper and he felt a bit of relief as the corner of her lips twitched up into a smile.

“I have a good teacher.”

She dabbed a cotton ball onto the top of the uncorked bottle and dabbed it across the wound to clean it. Kakashi wasn’t even sure if it burned. He was too distracted by her delicate fingers and the curve of her jaw to even notice pain. She pressed a clean cotton ball to his arm and reached for the bandage still laying on the bed beside him.

He didn’t know what came over him. The need to touch her was too great to ignore and he reached for her hand, closing her fingers in his. Slowly, she lifted her eyes to meet his and in that moment, he wanted to kiss her more than anything else.

But it was exactly that reason he didn’t. He ducked his head and let go of her hand with a quick clear of his throat. “Listen,” he said quietly, just in case Hana and Gai were making their way back to the door. “I want to apologize…for my behavior that night in my office. I was acting rash and out of anger and I should have never tried to force my way into your thoughts or your—"

There was so much he wanted to apologize for, but the words stuck in the back of his throat. He had spent the last week going over and over every mistake he had made that night and now that he had the chance to tell her how sorry he was, he could barely speak. Knowing he had pried into her mind against her will made him sick, and not just that. He had been forceful in other ways.

It had been a long stretch of quiet and Kakashi lifted his gaze to Sakura’s face, finding her eyes closed and lips pursed. She looked as if she were trying not to cry and his heart wrenched painfully inside his chest. He reached for her face at first and pulled away, settling for her shoulder instead. His touch opened her eyes and she quickly stood to her feet, making his hand drop away.

She crossed to the closet and threw the door open, rummaging around noisily inside. As a few empty bottles clanked together, Kakashi thought he had could a quick sniffle and his shoulders dropped in defeat. He ran a hand through his hair and stood from the bed, collecting the discarded cotton balls and the small tray of splinters to set on the corner of Hana’s desk.

A part of him wanted to just turn and walk away while her back was turned. It would be easier than facing her and seeing her cry over him.

He stood where he was; feet firmly rooted to the stone floor.

When Sakura finally turned back to face him, she had regained her composure and held out a thimble sized container with a flat, red top. “This will prevent scarring.”

Kakashi took it with a nod, knowing full and well he would never use it. What was one more scar to the collection he already had? For several seconds, he simply stared at her. The fact that her eyes swept over any and everything except his face made his stomach clench. How had he somehow made everything worse by apologizing?

He felt like an idiot and knew it was time to go.

He took a step back and tapped the lid to the container. “Thank you, Miss Haruno.”

At the sound of her name, her eyes met his and he stopped his retreat. There was a look on her face that made his pulse race. It was hard to decipher what was hidden behind her wide eyes and if he didn’t know any better, he would think it was fear.

“Professor?” She asked quietly, making him frown. There was definitely something wrong. “I need to talk to you—”

Out in the hallway, Gai’s voice echoed and the sound startled Sakura. “Ah-ha! Nothing will keep me down for long!”

Despite wanting nothing more than to go to Sakura and comfort her through whatever fear she was feeling, Kakashi turned back to the doors and watched Hana and Gai come back into the Infirmary. The limp was gone, and he walked easily on his newly healed ankle, even giving a twirl for emphasis. Hana scolded him for showing off and pointed to the bed he had previously been wallowing in.

By the time Kakashi faced Sakura once more, she had retreated back to the closet and was straightening the supplies. He frowned and took a step toward her but hesitated as she turned toward him. The look of fear and panic was gone, and she looked passive as she had the first time he had ever seen her. It was almost as disturbing as the look she had in her eyes moments ago.

“So,” Hana said as she strolled up to Kakashi. She nodded to Sakura. “How’d she do?”

He looked down at the wound on his arm, now clean of blood and free of splinters. She hadn’t managed to put a bandage on him, but then again, he hadn’t given her a chance. He hid his sigh with a deep breath and nodded. “She did good. Didn’t feel a thing.”

Except misery and frustration from his own doing.

“Great! I knew you’d be a natural at this.”

Sakura smiled at the woman, a small gesture that hid so much behind it. Kakashi waited until they were alone once more on their side of the room before he stepped up to her. This time, despite how badly he wanted to reach out for her, he kept his hands in his pockets. “Are you alright?”

She forced another smile and shook a fallen strand of hair from her face. “I’m fine. Remember to use the aloe cream so you won’t have a scar.”

She stepped away from him and joined Hana at Gai’s bedside, listening to the healer describe the symptoms of a concussion. Her back remained facing him and Kakashi took a deep breath and let it out, feeling defeated. It was definitely time to go now.

He gave Gai a quick goodbye and barely acknowledged his promise for a rematch before he was out the door, making his way back through the castle to close himself up in his living quarters for another night. But as miserable as he was, he couldn’t stop repeating the words she had said to him in his mind. I’m fine. It was a lie. He knew she wasn’t fine because he wasn’t fine.

And whatever she had been wanting to tell him would plague his mind for the weeks to come, just like the memory of her kiss. He didn’t know which was worse.


 

 

Chapter Text


 

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“I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas break,” Tenten mused as she and Sakura stood beside the fitting rooms of Gladrag’s Wizardwear. She let her head rest against the frame of the giant, floor to ceiling mirrors and nodded. Even though each day seemed to drag by, the seconds stretching out into minutes, now that they were a week away from their last Christmas break at Hogwarts, it did seem as if the past few months had flown by.

Though she had been mostly silent for the day, Sakura turned to look at her friend and forced a small smile. “Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

At this, the brunette put a hand to her chest and feigned a dramatic gasp. “You mean you won’t be mourning the loss of all that homework and essay writing we’ll be missing?”

Sakura rolled her eyes and pushed away from the mirrors, making her way to the display rack of brightly colored socks. Most of them had Christmas scenes depicted on them and one pair was lit up like an actual Christmas tree. She flicked one of the tiny, silver bells around the elastic band and scowled at the happy tune that played immediately after.

It wasn’t that she was in a particularly bad mood. She had managed to get some sleep in the weeks since her last interaction with Professor Hatake. There had been no more instances of someone trying to read her thoughts and the more time that passed from the day it had happened to now, made her feel a bit more relaxed. It was becoming easier to convince herself that it was all a prank. And as much as it pained her, she hadn’t had any more interactions with Kakashi either.

They were back to the way they had been with one another at the beginning of the year. Class was normal, she had been good about not letting herself stare at him, and if anyone had suspected anything of them before, they would have a hard time thinking of the two of them as anything but student and teacher.

Her life had returned to a strange, dull normal in the past few weeks.

But the lack of nightmares, insomnia, and drama didn’t exactly make her excited to be back in the clothing store among the endless racks of dresses with half the girls in their year frantically searching for a gown. A few Hufflepuffs were at the opposite side of the store, throwing every option over their arms before racing back and forth to the fitting rooms.

At least Sakura and her friends had gotten a jump on this ‘perfect gown search’ weeks ago and didn’t have to settle. Then again, she didn’t care to settle. If it were up to her, and she wouldn’t receive a scowl of disappointment from Tsunade, Sakura would have been fine wearing her pajamas to the Christmas festival.

What was the point when she had no date, no one that she would even care to dance with, and would be desperate for the night to end by 9 PM? She was only going because she was required, and no amount of tulle and sequins would make her enjoy herself.

The bell above the door chimed and both Sakura and Tenten, who was digging through the bin of discounted socks looked up to see a group of boys come in. The bright, if not a bit flushed face of Kiba and Naruto made up the front of the line and Tenten leaned a hip against the bin. “Come to find the perfect dress, boys?”

Kiba winked and gave her a twirl, finishing with a curtsey that looked a bit too perfect to be his first. “I just hope whatever I find will match my eyes.”

He batted his eyelashes and Sakura’s mouth started to turn upwards into a smile…until she saw the tall, dark-headed boy bouncing in directly behind Choji. The sight of Lee’s face instantly brought up the memory of her using him to make Professor Hatake jealous. And knowing she had been found out by the very man in question only made her face burn hotter.

She turned back to the Christmas socks and hoped he hadn’t seen her, but luck was never on her side when it came to things like this. He made a beeline toward her and Tenten mumbled something that sounded like ‘incoming’ before spinning on her heel to leave Sakura all alone.

“Good morning, Sakura!” Lee beamed, standing as straight as a board as he smiled down at her.

“Hey.” It was all she could offer him, but he didn’t seem too discouraged by her attitude. She glanced to where his group of friends now stood, looking at the men’s section of dress robes while they joked and made fun of one another.

“I was curious if you’ve given any more thought to who you want to escort you to the Christmas Festival.”

Sakura let her gaze fall to the thick, carpeted floor and she resisted the urge to let out a sigh. She knew exactly who she wanted to walk into the Great Hall with, and it was the one person in all of Hogwarts who couldn’t. With a deep breath, she looked up at Lee who was patiently waiting for her answer with a sweet smile on his face.

“No, I haven’t thought about it. I’ve been busy with schoolwork.”

“That’s understandable. But I would be honored if you let me be your escort.” It was easy to see he was nervous to ask her. His hands fidgeted with the sleeves of his coat and the tops of his cheeks grew pink as the words left his mouth.

Sakura stared up at him and knew she owed it to him to think about. A part of her still felt bad for using him to make someone else jealous, especially without his knowing about it. And it’s not like it would be terrible to have Lee take her to the festival. No worse than showing up without a date at all.

Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she tucked her hair behind her ears and nodded. “Yeah, that’s fine. We can go together.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth his face lit up brighter than the Christmas tree socks behind his right elbow. His chest swelled and he stood up straighter if that was possible, and the grin on his face sent a jolt of panic through Sakura. She raised her hands to quiet him before he could make an outburst.

“But, it’s not a date, okay? I’m not looking to date anyone, so this is just us going as friends.” She emphasized the word, just in case he didn’t understand and let out a little breath of relief as he nodded.

“Of course, I understand completely! I am still thrilled and honored to be your escort.”

Sakura winced and shook her head at him. “You shouldn’t be honored, Lee. I’m nothing special, trust me.”

His eyebrows came together in a frown and he opened his mouth to disagree with her, but his words never got a chance to leave his lips. The same seamstress who had helped her weeks ago spotted her from across the store and waved her arm above her head, gesturing for Sakura to join her.

“Sorry, I have to go.” She hurried across the sales floor to the counter where the woman was waiting with a smile as big and bright as Lee’s. Sakura's smile paled in comparison but at least she tried to mimic it.

“We have your dress finished! We took it in an inch on the sides and had to shorten the straps just a smidge.” The corner of her eyes wrinkled, and she led Sakura around the front counter to where a short rack of puffy, black dress bags hung. She rifled through it for just a few seconds before she plucked one of the hangers from the rod and checked the name on the tag. “Ah, yes! Miss Haruno. Right this way and we’ll see how it fits!”

The woman lifted the corner of a thick, dark curtain and Sakura ducked into the back room. It was quieter behind the curtain and there were about fifteen doors making a circle around a small pedestal in the middle. Sakura could hear the seamstresses helping other girls into their gowns and she knew somewhere back here, Ino was having her fitting done.

“Here you go!” The friendly seamstress pushed open a fitting room door and held it open for Sakura to slip inside. It clicked shut behind her, but she didn’t move just yet. “Let me know if you need help zipping it up!”

The body length mirror on the back wall kept Sakura’s attention for a few minutes and she stared at herself, clutching the gown to her chest. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail at the back of her head and half of it was draped over her shoulder. She turned to stare down at the frayed, split ends and wondered if it was time for a haircut.

It hadn’t been cut since right before she and Sasuke had started dating.

She turned away from her reflection and hung the gown on the hook behind the door, pulling the zipper down to the end of the bag. The dark blue tulle nearly burst from the open seam and Sakura pulled it out. The bodice was smooth and satin, and she traced the sweetheart neckline with her fingers. It was beautiful in its simplicity and she felt the corner of her lips lift in a soft smile.

Putting it on wasn’t difficult and she was glad that she didn’t need help with the zipper. She turned back to the mirror and stared at her reflection. The deep blue satin complemented her milky skin and the pink tones in her hair. She had initially thought that she’d have to wear a sweater with it, but since the straps had been shortened, the neckline was at the perfect place on her chest.

Though it sent an ache of longing through her heart, she couldn’t help wondering what Kakashi would think if he saw her in it. Would he even be at the festival? He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would volunteer for something like that, but then again, she had thought that about Halloween as well. She thought of him asking her to dance, his hands resting at her sides and her head on his chest.

Her chest ached at the thought and she squeezed her eyes shut, wishing she could just stop thinking about him.

Behind her, a knock sounded at her door and cut through her miserable daydream. “Yoo-hoo! Everything alright in there?” The overly joyous seamstress called. And while Sakura wanted to scowl over her shoulder to the door, she didn’t. She smoothed her hands down the skirt, made sure her face didn’t show any of the anguish she felt inside and opened the door.

“Oh, you look just lovely!”

Her hand was snatched by the woman and she led Sakura to the circular pedestal in the middle of the fitting rooms. She stretched the purple measuring tape along the outside of Sakura’s leg and nodded in approval at the length. As she circled behind her to measure the straps of the dress, another door opened in the circular room.

“We have a nice selection of pantyhose out front if you want to look. Some with stars and constellations on them. It would be so pretty with the color of this dress.”

The thought of having constellations on her legs made Sakura nearly laugh. That would go against her idea of blending in and not being noticed at all. Instead of telling the woman that, she chose to be nicer about her words. “Maybe. I’ll look.”

“That color looks nice with your hair,” a voice behind Sakura said with quiet confidence and she turned with a frown to look over her shoulder. Standing on the other side of the pedestal with her own seamstress fussing about the length of her gown was Karin Uzumaki. And not only was she smiling up at Sakura as if they were friendly acquaintances, but she had complimented her as well?

Did the fitting area of Gladrag’s exist in an alternate dimension or something? She swallowed and blinked herself out of the momentary daze before smoothing a hand down the front of her gown.

“Thank you,” she managed to mumble before looking down at Karin’s dress. It was a deep, emerald green, with a corseted bodice and a long, flowing skirt with black lace flowers sewn in at various places. It wasn’t Sakura’s style, but it fit the Slytherin aesthetic perfectly. “I like your dress as well.”

It was only fair to compliment her as well.

Karin pushed her glasses up her nose and glanced down the length of her skirt, her mouth twisting into a frown. She plucked at one of the lace flowers. “Really? You don’t think it’s a bit…puffy?”

“No,” Sakura said as her seamstress stepped away to gather some accessories from the display wall behind her. “It’s festive. I like the details on the bodice.”

With another smile, the Slytherin turned to the mirror and studied the different angles of her dress while a woman still working on her measurements complemented the style endlessly. Sakura stared after her and put a hand to her stomach, not too sure what had just happened. Surely Karin was up to something, trying to build Sakura up only to jump out later and…and what, she wasn’t sure.

It wasn’t like Karin had ever done anything to Sakura, besides dating the guy she had been in love with for years. Although now, she was quite certain that it hadn’t been love she had felt for Sasuke. Some demented mix between infatuation and lust. Even the girls who did seem to have it out for Sakura never included Karin in their bullying.

Had Sakura been unfairly hating her all this time because of the actions of those around her? That thought made her feel sick to her stomach and just as the woman stepped back up to her, necklaces and bracelets in hand to accessorize her, Sakura stepped off the pedestal. She ducked into the fitting room and pulled at the zipper of her dress until the straps fell away and the entire thing dropped to her feet.

She took in a deep breath and stood in front of the mirror in nothing but her bra and panties, looking at herself with disappointment. She was no better than the Slytherins she hated and that thought left a bad taste in her mouth, one that she was afraid wouldn’t leave until she rectified the way she had been acting toward Karin.

Sakura quickly dressed back in her muggle clothing, zipped her gown back up into its bag and stepped out of the fitting room. Unfortunately, Karin had disappeared as well, and she couldn’t be too sure which fitting room she had been using. Before she could make her way back to the front of the store and find the girl, an excited Tenten jumped out from the room next to Sakuras.

Her hair was down around her shoulders and she had a grin on her face as she clucked her tongue and pointed her fingers like guns. For a moment, Sakura scowled, not in the mood for any of the Gryffindor’s antics. But her jaw nearly dropped to her chest at the sight of her festival outfit. She had decided against a gown and somehow, had gotten the alterations team at Gladrag’s to tailor a suit for her.

The entire thing was made of deep, crimson velvet material and the jacket cinched the smallest part of her waist perfectly. Beneath was a black, button-up shirt with a pointed collar and she had it open to expose the majority of her chest. Despite the fact that Sakura had never been attracted to girls, she couldn’t help taking a step back and letting her eyes sweep down the length of her friend’s body.

Across the fitting room, Ino was stepping up onto the pedestal to have her dress fitted properly and she let out a low whistle that made both Tenten and Sakura turn to her. “Bloody fucking hell, Ten! If Neji doesn’t jump your bones in that, then I will!”

The seamstress down at her feet, the same clerk from the first time they had tried dresses on who seemed to hate the very sight of all the students, glared up at Ino icily. She shook her head in disappointment and put a hand to her chest. “Why, I never!”

Sakura had to hide her laugh behind her arm and the girl at her side strutted across the room as if she were a high fashion model. She struck a pose and winked up at Ino, both of them ignoring the miserable, woman who looked as if she might come apart at the blatant profanity and flirting. Something like this should have made the Ravenclaw embarrassed to even be in the same room as the two of her friends, but she was thankful for the distraction away from her thoughts.

The less she had to think about the way she had been treating Karin Uzumaki the better. If only she could find something that would take her mind off of Kakashi as well.

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The Great Hall was completely transformed for the Christmas Festival and though Sakura’s nerves were bundled so tightly in her stomach that she feared she would be sick, she couldn’t help marvel at it as Lee guided her through the giant double doors. Snow fell softly from the arches high above them, disappearing just before it could fall on anyone’s head. At the back of the room, three enormous Christmas trees stood, decorated with only snow where the professors usually sat for meals.

Streamers of all the house colors hung from the windows and each house had a giant tree of their own. Sakura was pleased to see the Ravenclaw tree had the classiest decorations, with bronze teardrop ornaments and blue lights weaving through the branches. Instead of a traditional angel as the topper, there was an eagle with its wings spread and talons clutched tightly around the top limb.

At the booth beside the tree, Sakura spied the familiar, bored face of Shikamaru. He sat in the chair behind the table, arms crossed behind his head as he let out a yawn. The tie he was wearing hung loosely around his neck and Sakura rolled her eyes. She opened her mouth to tell Lee she was going to pay her house a visit when a bright flash appeared before her eyes.

Professor Maito grinned as he pulled the camera away from his face. The flash of the bulb left the Ravenclaw blinking the stars from her eyes and she shook her head.

“You’ll want to save these memories for years to come! How about another?” He lifted the camera back to his face and Sakura managed to put her hands up in front of her eyes to save herself from another blinding flash of light.

“Okay, enough with the pictures for now,” Professor Umino said over the music. He clapped a hand to his colleague’s shoulder and smiled down at Sakura. “You two have fun and be sure to come by the Gryffindor booth for your pictures later!”

“Are you alright?” Lee asked once she was able to lower her hands from her face and see properly. With a nod, she let him lead her further into the Great Hall.

To her left was the Gryffindor photo booth where half the houses were waiting in line to get their pictures made with their friends and dates. Tenten stood at the front, acting as the bouncer and she looked just as amazing as she had in Gladrag’s the week before. Her hair was braided in one stripe down the back of her head and she looked as fierce as a warrior.

Everywhere she looked, students were laughing and having the time of their lives. A few had broken off into pairs to dance in front of the Slytherin side of the room where a DJ had been set up. Sakura wondered what rich, snobby parent had paid for that and hoped it hadn’t caused too much of a fuss for Tsunade. Thankfully, Lee steered her away from the rather green side of the Great Hall toward the trio of Christmas trees at the back of the room. They stretched so high that she had to crane her neck just to see the twinkling stars sitting atop them.

But it wasn’t the trees that had her feet nearly come to a stop in the middle of the floor. Standing past the line in front of the photo booth, right behind the long stretch of table where the refreshments stood was the one man she had been hoping to see…and the one she never would have guessed would actually attend the festival. In fact, she had convinced herself that he would be nowhere near the Great Hall and she wouldn’t be tortured with the very sight of him.

Professor Hatake’s arms were crossed over his chest as Professor Tenzō and Jiraiya stood on either side of him, discussing something animatedly. Kakashi’s attention, however, was fixed elsewhere and the intensity of his gaze, looking directly into her own, kept her frozen in place.

Lee looked back at her with a lopsided smile, pulling on the hand she had draped around his elbow earlier. How could she be expected to move closer to him when just his stare made her react like this? It was as if she were stepping into a starving lion’s den. Her mind was in a frenzy and she had a hundred questions she was dying to know the answer to.

Did he like her dress? Could he notice her hair was cut short, even though she had managed to pull it up into a twist at the back of her head? Was he aching to touch her the way she was for him?

Despite the fact that she had managed to speak to him at the infirmary a few weeks ago, and the normal, if not a bit tense, attitude they had toward one another in class, Sakura still felt the way she had in his office, cornered against the wall between his arms. Heat rushed to her face as the sound of the music came rushing back to her ears and Lee pulled her toward the punch bowl.

“Well, don’t the two of you make quite a pair!” Jiraiya’s voice was loud, far too loud for Sakura’s liking and she winced. Though she had let Lee escort her to the festival, she had made sure anyone who brought it up, knew that they were not an item.

She pulled her hand away from his elbow and crossed her arms over her chest, hoping that the three men behind the refreshment table got the hint. One, especially. She didn’t risk a glance up to Kakashi, knowing the look in his eyes would either make her heart burst from her chest or cause her to do something stupid in front of the entire school. Instead, she reached for a cup and quickly filled it with punch. She needed the cool liquid to relieve the heat inside her.

As Lee prepared a small plate of finger foods for himself, Sakura stayed behind and lingered around the punch bowl. She was aware that she had downed an entire cup in a matter of seconds and was going back for a second, but she couldn’t control her nerves. Thankfully, as she refilled her glass, Jiraiya leaned toward her.

“Don’t break his heart too bad. He’s a good kid.”

Sakura’s eyes widened over the rim of her cup and she lowered it. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the look on Kakashi’s face and sure enough, it made the words stop in their tracks at the back of her throat. But they weren’t focused on her any longer. He was watching Lee as Professor Tenzō followed the Gryffindor down the table and the look on his face was one that surprised Sakura so much she felt as if she had been slapped in the face.

He was jealous.

“I’m just messing with you,” Jiraiya laughed, bringing his punch to his lips to take a drink. He winced as he swallowed, and Sakura wondered if he had added something a bit stronger to his own. “I’m sure you’ll break a ton of hearts before the year is over.”

At this, Kakashi’s gaze shifted back to her and Sakura felt her hands clench tightly around the paper cup in her hand, nearly crushing it. A thousand things ran through her mind as she tried to decipher the look behind his gaze. There was so much there. Sadness, regret, and something she had never seen in someone’s eyes before. It left her feeling feverish and shivering at the same time and she struggled to pull in a trembling breath.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Jiraiya lowered his cup and narrowed his eyes on her and she blinked out of her daze. Sakura lowered her head and spun on her heel, needing to put distance between her and Kakashi. But she was afraid that even with the entire castle between them, she would still feel this way.

Before she could even take a step away from the table, Lee appeared at her side and presented a plate of finger foods beneath her chin. “Would you like to try a bite of treacle tart?”

“No, thank you. I-I don’t feel like eating anything.” She was already regretting the punch she had gulped down. She tried not to think about the feel of a pair of eyes on the back of her head, tried not to imagine the way Kakashi was looking at her. Thinking about it only made her breathless and she was already running out of oxygen as it was.

Across the floor, she spied the familiar faces of her friends gathering at the spare space that had been turned into an area for dancing. She snatched Lee’s arm and gave him just enough time to set his plate of food down beside the punch bowl. Ino opened her arms wide at the sight of her and pulled her into a hug.

“You look so pretty! How’d you manage to get your hair up?” She curled one of the loose, pink tendrils around her middle finger and Sakura gave her a breathless smile.

“Hinata helped me.”

From behind her, Lee tapped on her shoulder and Sakura had to force herself not to frown as she turned to face him. He held his hand out, palm up, and she glanced down at it. “Would you care to dance with me?”

She had known this would come up and had prepared herself for it. Just one dance was all she would allow. It was enough to satisfy him, but not enough to give him any ideas about them being anything more than friends. And besides, she needed a moment to lean on someone and let her legs find their strength again.

As if answering his question for her, the fast-paced beat of the song slowed as it shifted into a song made more for dancing close to someone. A quick glance back at her friends told her they were all pairing off together; Ino and Kiba, Tenten with Shino, and Naruto with Hinata. Sakura nodded, took Lee’s hand and stepped closer to him.

Dancing with her head on his chest hadn’t been part of the plan, but she didn’t want him to stare down at her for the next three to four minutes. She kept one hand in his and let her cheek rest against his collar bone while he circled an arm around her waist. He was a gentleman though, and she was happy to note that his hand dipped no lower than the middle of her back.

As the lights dimmed and swirled in a multitude of colors around them, Sakura closed her eyes and tried to keep her imagination from running. She failed miserably. Barely thirty seconds into the song and she imagined the hand at her back was one that had already explored parts of her body. Instead of the thin, flat chest beneath her cheek, she longed for the strength and muscles of Kakashi’s.

Her eyebrows pinched together on her forehead and she opened her eyes to see the crowd of students gathered around them, dancing with their friends and partners. How many of them were imagining someone else like she was?

The couple beside them spun away and gave Sakura a clear view of the table she had fled from only moments ago. Jiraiya had moved away, Professor Tenzō was listening to a student, and exactly where she had left him, Kakashi stood as still as a statue. His arms were no longer crossed over his chest, hands now pushed in his pockets, letting her see the very chest she wished she was pressed up against.

He looked good, possibly the best dressed out of anyone else in attendance. His sport coat was cut perfectly to his body and matched his Slytherin past. It was a rich, forest green and looked almost black under the dim lights. The button-up beneath it was as dark as pitch with a slender tie around his neck.

Looking at him was torture and she swallowed down the sudden spike of desire burning the back of her throat. Her fingers clenched around Lee’s jacket and she took her bottom lip between her teeth. She watched Kakashi turn toward Tenzō, though his eyes never left hers, and walk behind the row of professors that had gathered to pick at the assortment of finger foods.

He stepped around the table and pulled the jacket together at his stomach, fastening the middle button as he walked along the edge of the dance floor. His eyes met Sakura’s, pulling her head away from Lee to follow him as he went. As he stepped around the crowd, she lost sight of him and her stomach clenched tightly.

“Are you feeling alright?” Lee asked over the music, making her turn back to him. She nodded but stepped away from the dance floor in the direction Professor Hatake had disappeared in.

She broke free from the crowd and ignored the protests of a pair of fifth years who probably needed a bit of space. They looked as if they were trying to swallow each other’s faces and Sakura scowled in disgust. She stood on her tiptoes and searched the heads of everyone, searching for that familiar silver hair.

Had he left?

A part of her wanted to run out of the Great Hall and follow him. But she had promised him she would stay away from him and what would she expect to happen anyway? Their affair was over the moment it had begun and the sooner she accepted that, the better it would be for the both of them.

She put her heels back to the floor and let her shoulders drop in disappointment as well. Turning back to Lee, Sakura put a hand to his arm and forced a smile. “Thank you for the dance, but I think I should join Shikamaru at the Ravenclaw booth.”

He nodded and straightened his back with a smile. “Of course! If you’d like to dance again, please let me know.”

“I will.”

She wouldn’t.

Not waiting for Lee to say anything else, Sakura made her way to the Ravenclaw Christmas tree and reached out to touch one of the teardrop ornaments. It caught the light of the bulb beside it and shimmered. She moved behind the table they had set up for their house and dropped into the empty chair beside Shikamaru’s.

He sat up suddenly and blinked at her. The corner of his mouth was damp with drool and he quickly wiped it away. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Don’t sound so happy,” she mumbled, smoothing her skirt out from under her legs. “How has the raffle gone?”

He sighed and snatched the piece of parchment from the table in front of them, turning it so he could read the list of names. “So far, nearly fifty people signed up, but I’m pretty sure they think they’re signing up for us to do their homework and not a free tutoring session.”

Sakura wanted to retort something smart, something just as sarcastic but she didn’t have the strength. She had been at the festival for less than an hour and she was already exhausted. Nine o’clock couldn’t come soon enough.

Together, she and Shikamaru sat with silence between them, watching the rest of the students and professors enjoy the festivities. The dance floor had doubled in size since the slow songs started and she caught sight of a skirt of emerald green and black lace. Karin pressed up against Sasuke, her head happily resting against his shoulder as he swayed them back and forth.

For once, Sakura felt absolutely nothing as she stared at them. No jealousy, no regret, nothing but apathy. They could have been a pair of random third years for all she cared. At least they were free to be with one another.

“Don’t tell me you’re still hung up on him.” Shikamaru’s voice cut through her thoughts and Sakura turned to blink at him.

“I don’t care about Sasuke.”

“Well, then why do you look so miserable? You and blondie are usually attached at the hip at things like this.”

Things like this being the festival and Sakura wanted to remind him that he had been attached at their hip during the last ‘thing’ like this on Halloween. Instead, she ducked her head and looked down at the hands in her lap. She thought about his question and tried to figure it out herself. Why was she so miserable?

Was it the fact that someone had tried to invade her thoughts only a few weeks before? No. That, she could deal with and if it came down to it, she could go to the Headmistress with her concerns. What she couldn’t talk to anyone about was the hole in her chest that only seemed to heal when she was near her professor.

“I did something stupid,” she started, her voice barely loud enough over the music. Shikamaru turned his head to her, his eyebrow raised and telling her he had heard her. “Something that I can’t take back and I’m afraid that I ruined a…a friendship with someone because of this.”

For a long moment, he stayed quiet and Sakura figured he had either fallen asleep or didn’t care enough to respond. She didn’t even know why she was telling him this much. It wasn’t like he was one of her close friends and he made it quite clear that he didn’t care about other people’s problems. He sighed and slid to the edge of his chair, turning to face her as he put a hand down on their booth table.

“There’s not much that can ruin a true friendship and I don’t think you’re stupid enough to do the things that could ruin it. Stop being so hard on yourself all the time.” Without another word, he stood to his feet and stepped around her.

Sakura watched him make his way toward the stretch of table where the food sat. She didn’t know if he would be coming back or not, and she was thankful that he left her alone for the moment. His words sank into her head and she stared down at the silky, dark blue table cloth covering their booth.

Maybe Shikamaru was right. Maybe their kiss and the other things they had done in Professor Hatake’s office hadn’t ruined their friendship. But it seemed almost impossible for their relationship to go back to the way it had been before. She wanted it to, though. It’s all she wanted. Just the chance to talk to him, be in the same room as him again without feeling like she was going to burst open would be enough for her.

Sakura frowned and blinked down at the table. She lifted her hand to her face and touched the spot on her forehead, right above the center of her eyebrows. She rubbed at it, though the familiar push of someone prying into her head stayed put. All of the color drained from her face and she stood to her feet so quickly her chair nearly toppled over behind her.

No, no, no!

Not here!

Why was this happening again?

Her pulse met the quick beat of the song playing from the DJ booth and she scanned the crowd around her for anyone looking her way. Each person she saw paid her no attention. They were far too preoccupied with enjoying themselves.

Sakura’s eyes darted back to the professors lined up behind the refreshment table. She could see the pointed tip of Tsunade’s silver hat standing high above the rest and she took a step in that direction before she hesitated. She couldn’t tell Tsunade about this. It would bring up too many questions about why she and Kakashi were no longer working together. It was too risky. Another push to her forehead and she sucked in a sharp breath. She leaned over the table and used it to keep herself steady.

Whoever was doing this had gotten stronger in the last few weeks. Her lack of lessons had only weakened her ability, but she pushed against it with all of her strength. The opening to her mind slid shut once more and the intrusion ceased immediately after. Sakura’s eyes snapped open and she let out a trembling breath, once again scanning the crowd around her.

Again, no one seemed to even notice her at all, and as she swept her gaze to the corner of the Great Hall that was decorated in silvers and green, she spotted the one person she wanted to see the most. Kakashi had his back to her as he spoke to the girls she had once suspected of trying to invade her thoughts.

Her pulse fluttered as she rounded the table, keeping one hand on the surface to steady herself. She tucked a fallen strand of hair behind her ear and somehow, she put one foot in front of the other, heading right for him. She had to tell him about this. There was no way this was just a prank or a one-time thing.

He had to know, and he was the only one who could help her.

Sakura neared the Slytherin booth, draped in garland made of spruce and silver tinsel strands hung from every corner. The girls beamed happily up to Professor Hatake and with a quick glance to the sign hanging above them, Sakura was afraid she actually would throw up. They had created a kissing booth, despite the Headmistress’ suggestion against it and it took all she had not to roll her eyes.

As she neared the booth, she caught Professor Hatake chastising them about it. “I thought the Headmistress said not to have a kissing booth.”

The main bully, Emi, leaned over the table, her arms pressing her breasts together to reveal the smallest amount of cleavage Sakura had ever seen. “It isn’t a kissing booth! It’s just where we decided to hang the mistletoe!”

Sakura stepped up and caught the attention of the three girls. They leaned back and crossed their arms over their chests in unison. Emi’s lip curled up into a snarl and Professor Hatake shook his head, ignoring their change in attitude. “That’s the same thing—”

“Professor,” Sakura breathed at his right, turning away from the three Slytherins. “I need your help.” Kakashi blinked at her in surprise and glanced cautiously to the other students. The slight hesitation over his face made her rush to continue before he could tell her to seek help elsewhere. “I-I think someone spiked the punch.”

“Ugh!”

“What a tattle-tale!”

Kakashi looked over Sakura’s head to the table of refreshments and frowned. The row of professors standing behind it made him raise an eyebrow in suspicion and he finally let his eyes meet hers. She stared up at him, willing him to notice how pale she was, how badly she needed his help. And when he nodded, Sakura felt her entire body relax just a fraction.

“Right,” he said, glancing back to the girls behind the mistletoe booth. Sakura spun on her heel and lead him away from the Slytherin area. She kept as far away from the dance floor as she could and lead him toward the only corner that had no one around to hear.

She stood beside the Ravenclaw table, her eyes cutting toward the rest of the students dancing just in case someone was still watching her. There wasn’t a single face turned their way and she was thankful this time. “I need to talk to you. Alone.”

Kakashi sighed and looked away from her. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Sakura—”

“Not about us.” His eyes swept back to her, a look of fierce intensity filling them quickly and she took a breath. “Someone has been trying to get into my head. It’s happened twice—Once in Hogsmeade and again just now. It’s really starting to scare me, and I don’t know what else to do.”

“Okay, okay,” he held up his hands to quiet her down and took a step toward her. Though there was enough room between them to keep up the appearance that they were nothing more than student and teacher, Sakura held her breath and fought the need to reach for him. “Let’s find Tsunade—”

“No!” Sakura shook her head, loosening a few more curls from the back of her head. “Not yet. Please, I don’t know what this is, but I don’t want her to worry.”

Laughter broke out toward the crowd of dancing students and a circle had been made to let a few boys show off their moves in the middle. Even the professor had gathered around to cheer and clap along to the song. Kakashi watched Sakura closely, his lips pursing behind his mask and her fingers ached to reach up and touch his face. After a moment, he nodded and glanced quickly away before leaning closer to her.

“Meet me on the seventh floor, in front of the tapestry, in half an hour.”

Despite the music and bass bumping loudly through the Great Hall, she had heard his words clearly. They echoed in her mind as he searched her eyes for a quick moment, and she could see that he was fighting against the need to touch her as well. He blinked himself free of it and turned on his heel.

For the second time that night, Sakura watched him make his way around the crowd on the dance floor and disappear from her sight. She caught sight of his silver hair just once more over the heads of some of the shorter students in the back. He turned toward the Great Hall doors and slipped out and into the shadows of the castle beyond.

Sakura took a seat back behind the Ravenclaw booth and picked at the fingernail polish chipping on the side of her thumbnail. Her back was straight as a board and she struggled against nausea in her stomach. She didn’t know what was worse; the fear of someone prying into her mind again…or the fact that in less than an hour, she would be alone with Kakashi.


 

Chapter Text


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Kakashi paced the length of the room, not focusing on anything particular inside it. He had noticed the fireplace immediately and it was already lit, casting a warm glow throughout the space. In front of it was a thick, woven rug with ornate filigree of rich colors stretching from the hearth to the edge of a sofa that, despite looking as if it were well over a hundred years old, appeared quite comfortable. It was as big as a bed and he hated himself for already assessing that two people could lay down on it as he draped his jacket across the back.

He turned so that the hearth and the sofa was at his back and crossed to the clouded windowpanes running along the back wall. There was a possibility that the windows didn’t exist on the exterior wall of the castle at all and were only on the inside for aesthetic. But whatever magic the room had created the soft glow of the moonlight and the cold from the snow swirling beyond the glass.

Kakashi lifted an arm and propped it against the window frame as he stared at the snowflakes settling along the glass panes. They disappeared instantly from the heat of the fire and he watched a few more land before closing his eyes.

What had he been thinking, asking her to join him here?

It was a monumentally stupid idea, but the words had left his mouth before his brain could stop them from forming at all. As soon as he had said it, he could see the surprise flash through her gaze…along with something else. That fire she was oblivious to, the fire that seemed to only start to peek out from within her when he was near, it had risen in her eyes and he had wanted so badly to kiss her at that moment.

Somehow, he had turned away and made it seven floors away from her. It didn’t feel like enough. He knew she was down in the Great Hall, waiting for the right time to sneak away and come find him and it made him feel wretched.

He was a wretched, miserable person for wanting to kiss her while she was clearly afraid. Someone was possibly targeting her with dangerous magic, and he couldn’t think past his own wants and desires.

Kakashi pushed away from the window and his hands moved to the tie still knotted around the collar of his shirt. He loosened it quickly and let it hang open from around his neck, too distracted to even care about the way he looked.

The clock on the mantle above the fire ticked each second by and he couldn’t help glancing at the time. Ten till nine. She would be leaving the festival soon. And Kakashi figured it would only take her another ten minutes to make it up seven flights of stairs, not leaving him much time to come to peace with his decision to meet here of all places.

The room he had spent much of his fifth year in, nearly an entire month straight as he prepared for his animagus transformation. It looked different now than it had for him and he was almost certain the room changed to fit the needs of the person stumbling into it. When he was fifteen, there had been a small bed with clean sheets every time, a cauldron for preparing the potion and even a desk so he could finish his homework.

None of that was here and Kakashi was thankful for that. If he had walked in and saw a bed, he would have walked right out. The couch was too much as it was, though a small part of him was thankful it was there. He shook the thoughts from his head and looked to the back wall of the room.

There was a writing desk with a quill, ink bottle, and parchment ready and pushed into the corner was an antique wardrobe. The carvings on the side matched the couch and he wondered if they came as a pair. Though all he wanted to do was pace the room and watch the seconds tick down to when Sakura would make her way to the seventh floor, he knew it was best to get his mind off of it.

He crossed the room to the wardrobe and reached out, pulling the door open. The hinges creaked noisily, and he winced before stepping aside so the light of the fire could reach the interior. His face paled at the sight of two plush pillows and a folded blanket on the shelf. There were drawers as well, but he truly did not want to see what they held in them.

He shut the door and scrubbed his hand over his forehead with a sigh. It was best to put the pillows and blanket out of his mind. There was no use for them anyway. They wouldn’t be staying the night, no matter what happened.

With another glance to the clock, now exactly nine o’clock, he crossed to the door and put his hand to the wood. He listened to any sound out in the hallway but heard nothing aside from the clock ticking the seconds away behind him. He opened the door and slipped his head out, glancing both ways just to make sure no one else had decided to take a trip to the seventh floor for a late-night stroll.

Everything was still and quiet and no one was making their way up from the sixth-floor stairwell. He shut it quietly behind him and dropped his forehead against the wood, closing his eyes. His breath was soft and warm against the inside of his mask. He clenched his fists and assured himself that he could do this.

It was frustrating how unfocused and stupid he became when she was near. What about her made him behave so uncharacteristically? No one had ever made him feel this strangely before. He knew she was pretty, but there was more to it. She was kind and smart and the few times he had been in her mind, her thoughts had been so indescribable. Everything was quiet, while at the same time he could feel that fire inside her, lying in wait, wanting to consume.

And it had consumed him against his will.

Even now, knowing how useless it was to resist, he couldn’t stop it. He didn’t want to anymore.

“Professor?” A small whisper of a voice asked out in the hallway and Kakashi’s eyes snapped open. He stared at the wood grain of the door in front of him and held his breath. Fear and doubt and excitement raced down his spine and through his limbs, his fingers tightening.

Did he keep quiet and apologize to her later for disappearing? Or did he let her in and let himself succumb to the flames?

His hand was reaching for the doorknob before he had even come to a decision, giving himself just enough time to take a deep breath before he was pulling it open again. She stood with her back to him, facing the tapestry across the hall and at the sound of the soft creak of the hinges, Sakura turned. Her eyes widened and she stared in surprise at the door frame he stood beyond.

She stepped up to him and put a hand out against the wood beams on either side of the door. “I knew it,” she breathed, her gaze finally meeting his. He couldn’t help smiling at the look of wonder on her face. “This is a magical room, isn’t it? There wasn’t even a door here thirty seconds ago!”

He winced at the volume of her voice and ushered her in quickly, closing the door behind her with a soft click of the latch. His heart hammered in his chest in time with the ticking of the clock; both a constant reminder that it was too late to change anything now. They stood together in the entrance of the room, where the firelight couldn’t quite reach and even in the shadows, he was nearly speechless at the sight of her.

Kakashi cleared his throat and stepped around her, feeling better in the light of the fire. “I’m not even sure what this room is,” he started, pushing his hands into the pockets of his pants. “I stumbled upon it in my fifth year when I started my—”

A slender pink eyebrow lifted in interest, waiting for him to finish his thought. He hadn’t told many people, not even his closest friends about his secret wolf form. He didn’t know if now was the right time to tell her. “When you started your what?”

“It doesn’t matter. Now, are you sure someone was trying to enter your mind?”

She ran her palms up her bare arms and he noticed the goosebumps rippling across her skin. The curiosity faded from her eyes, replaced with the fear he had seen in them half an hour ago. It wasn’t nearly as intense now, but it was still there, and he ached to reach out and comfort her.

“I’m sure. There’s nothing else it could have been.”

Kakashi turned and led her further into the room. He crossed to the opposite side of the sofa and let out a breath as he noticed her keeping the distance of the rug between them. He didn’t know whether to be thankful or unhappy about it. He tried not to show either in his eyes as he met hers once more. “Who do you think could be doing this?”

For a moment, Sakura said nothing and Kakashi watched the light of the fire dance with the shadows of her face. She blinked herself out of whatever thoughts were circling her head as she turned to the sofa and sat at the edge of the cushion. Her back was straight with her knees pressed tightly together, and he could tell she was tense by her fingers fidgeting in her lap.

“Off the top of my head? There are a few people in Slytherin who would love to torment me. Sasuke, Karin, those three bitches that have hated me for years.”

Kakashi forced himself not to scowl at her use of the word ‘bitch’ and listened to her. It was no secret that she had been the target of that group from the beginning of the year, possibly longer, and he was going to let her vent her frustrations about it. With her eyes focused on the fire across from her, he took the moment to look at her dress, following the pencil-thin straps down her pale chest. The color was a perfect fit to compliment her hair and personality and at that moment, he couldn’t recall ever seeing something so beautiful.

He cleared his throat and stepped closer, sure to keep enough distance between them not to tempt himself to do something rash. “Are you sure they would go to this kind of lengths? If you were able to prove it was one of them, it would be grounds for expulsion. Would they risk their future just to play a cruel prank?”

He hoped he didn’t sound like he was defending them. He hated knowing she was a target for their cruelty, but he was mature enough to know there could be a rational explanation for it all. Sakura scoffed and shook her head, one shoulder lifting in a small shrug.

“Honestly, I don’t think they would. And that’s what scares me, that this is something more than a stupid joke and it’s something far worse.”

It was his turn to shiver, and he hoped this had nothing to do with the sudden outbreak of attacks lately. He wouldn’t tell her about them, though. It was best not to worry her further until he could figure this out. Hopefully, they were two separate occurrences.

“Tell me when the first time happened.”

Despite the firelight on her face, he noticed her cheeks flushing and she ducked her head back to stare down at her lap. “It was the weekend after—after you left for a week.”

The week after they had kissed in his office. No wonder she had been blushing at the thought of it. Kakashi swallowed and turned his own gaze down to the rug at his feet.

“I was sitting on a bench in Hogsmeade,” she continued, her voice quiet. “Right in front of Gladrag’s and I was upset. Ino and I had argued and at first, I thought it might have been her trying to read my thoughts and figure out why I had been so quiet all day. But if she wanted to read my mind, I wouldn’t have felt it.”

He nodded, knowing what she meant. Sakura had grown skilled during their lessons, but she wasn’t at the point yet where she could feel even the trace touches of a born Legilimens entering her mind. When he remained quiet, she kept going.

“It was either someone who wasn’t very good at it or something who was new to it. Though I could tell tonight, they had been practicing.”

Her statement was alarming, and their eyes met with an intensity that had him fighting for breathless. The need to protect her was so sudden it shocked him. Knowing someone was out there, targeting her was infuriating, but the fact that they had gotten better and tried a second time…he had to clench his jaw to keep from marching back down to the Great Hall and question every single person in attendance.

“Where were you when it happened tonight?”

“At the Ravenclaw booth. I was alone and it happened right after Shikamaru got up. I-I think they were waiting until he left me alone.”

Kakashi’s fists clenched tightly in his pockets. He almost didn’t want to ask her any more questions, knowing it would only make him angrier. It was important that he found out every detail and as he thought about asking her if he could see into her memory, to catch something she might have missed, Sakura turned back to look down at her hands.

Her chin quivered and he took a step toward her, pulling his hands from his pockets. His chest felt tight and the muscles of his stomach tensed. Somehow, he managed to stop halfway to her, and he resisted the urge to reach out and touch her.

“Why me?” She asked in a whisper that made his eyes close with sorrow. “All I wanted was for my last year at Hogwarts to be quiet and uneventful. I just wanted to graduate and get out of here and start my life. I never meant for any of this to happen, you know?”

“I know.”

Sakura lifted her face to him, and he was surprised to see there were no tears in her eyes. She offered him a weary smile that looked anything but happy. “I’m sorry that I dragged you into this.” She gestured between the two of them with a scoff. “Whatever this was.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I was just as guilty.”

She stared at him for several seconds that he felt stretched on for hours. He hated the sadness in her eyes and smile. She nodded and stood up from her seat on the sofa, smoothing the skirt around her thighs. When she whispered, another shiver ran through him despite the heat of the fire.

“Do you feel guilty for what we did?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t even know how to anyway. If he was being honest, he would tell her he had felt guilty. It wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear, but he couldn’t change his thoughts. He had seen and felt her memory during their first lesson. It had been nothing but flashes of a memory, but he had seen it all and could still recall the anxious pull inside her, the fear and happiness of her first time immediately followed by a pain no one should have to bear.

She had been used and thrown aside and he had done the same. That was what he felt guilty for and even now, he lifted a hand to push through his hair with a heavy sigh. “It’s hard to explain, Sakura.”

She nodded and dropped her gaze to the tie hanging loose around his neck. He watched her study the front of his chest and he hoped she couldn’t see the quickness of his breath. From the hearth, the fire crackled and a log split, sending a dozen embers sparkling through the air.

“I understand,” she whispered. “I wish I could explain how I feel when you’re close to me. It’s like I’m afraid to be near you and even more afraid of being away from you.”

They were too close, barely an arm’s length away from one another, and Kakashi felt as if he were on fire. Everywhere her gaze fell across his body was left feverish in the wake. There was nothing more he wanted to do than to reach out and touch her and it was a struggle to keep his hands at his sides. He stared at the straps of her dress, one dangerously close to falling from her shoulder and his fingers twitched, betraying his command to stay where they were.

He reached up and slipped his middle finger beneath the satin, the back of his knuckle brushing along her soft skin. She was cold, despite the fire, and he let out a tremble of a breath before lifting his eyes to meet hers as he pulled at the strap and let it fall from her shoulder.

His head was screaming at him to stop this from going further. He shouldn’t have touched her, but it was easier to walk away from that than kissing her and if he didn’t stop now, he never would. He pursed his lips and tore his gaze from her, staring at the mantle over her shoulder.

“I know that this is far more complicated than either of us anticipated,” she said, pulling his attention back to her face. “I just can’t stop thinking about you.”

He felt the same way, though he remained silent and let his eyes close.

“Kissing you was like something out of a dream. I never knew someone could make me feel that way.”

Gods, he wished she would just stop talking, stop telling him things his body was desperate to hear her say out loud. His jaw tightened at the feel of her hands reaching for the ends of his tie. He felt her fingers brush against his chest as she pulled it free from his neck with one hand while the other spread warm over his heart.

His pulse was erratic, and he could feel arousal sinking hot into his lower belly, all with a touch of her fingers sliding up to his jaw. She curled them around the edge of his mask and while he wanted to reach out and stop her, to remind himself that this was something he hadn’t let anyone do to him, he kept his hands at his sides. The material of his mask slipped down his face and he let out a breath as it fell around his throat.

Sakura brushed her thumb over the tip of the scar and traced the line of his jaw with her middle finger, pulling another shiver from his body. “I know I promised to stay away from you—” the pain in her voice made his eyes snap open and he frowned at the sad smile on her face. “—But I can’t walk away without knowing if you feel something similar for me.”

There was no stopping him now. No force in the castle, possibly the country, could stop him and he pulled her into his arms with a hand circling around the small of her back. She let out a gasp, a split second breath that he caught on his lips before he kissed her. She tasted just as she had the first time, maybe a bit sweeter from all the punch she had at the festival and he was instantly drunk from it.

He adored the little whimper she let out, letting him know he had surprised her. But she didn’t stay that way for long. Her head tilted to the side and she kissed him back just as fervent and needy. He knew they should slow down to prevent this from going as far as it had the last time, but he couldn’t help it. Without the threat of anyone walking in on them, he didn’t want to stop.

His fingers danced up the satin buttons on her back, over her cool skin and to the back of her neck, tangling in the pins keeping her hair up. A few strands fell against the back of his hand and he frowned, pulling gently away from their kiss. They were breathless and her lips were pink and swollen, but it was her hair that distracted him.

Pink strands fell around her face, framing it perfectly as they brushed the tops of her shoulders. Kakashi smiled and curled a strand around his middle finger. “You cut your hair,” he whispered.

Her cheeks flushed and she nodded, reaching up to take hold of his wrist. “Do you like it?”

“It’s beautiful.”

Sakura pushed herself onto her tiptoes and found his lips again. He let go of her hair and curled his fingers around her neck, cradling the back of her head to guide their kiss. Her lips parted and Kakashi let himself groan at the feel of her tongue gently caressing his. He reached down the line of buttons at her back and found the curve of her ass beneath the satin.

At his chest, he felt her fingers making quick work of the buttons on his shirt. They popped free one by one until she reached the belt of his pants and his stomach twitched as she tugged the fabric up. She pushed it down his shoulders and he quickly shrugged it free, letting it drop to the floor to join the pins that had fallen from her hair.

She found the undershirt he had on and he smiled at the huff of disappointment she let out. He pulled away and reached back, pulling at the loose material around his neck. It lifted away and her eyes widened at the sight of his chest before her hands found him once more. For a moment, he let her study him. She traced a few scars down over his ribs and as her fingers curled into the waist of his pants, her eyes lifted back to his.

Kakashi kissed her again, guiding her back across the rug until the cushions of the sofa touched her legs. His fingers found the straps of her gown and he slid them down her shoulders before sliding around to the buttons on her back. As he popped one free, the memory of hers flashed through his mind, making him hesitate.

All of the pain and regret she had felt her first time was suddenly suffocating and he broke their kiss to rest his forehead against hers. He flattened his palm against her back and reached up to cup her face with his free hand.

“Kakashi?”

He would never get over how much he loved hearing her say his name and it killed him to hear her say it with so much doubt right now. But the thought of the two of them taking this too far and the possibility of her ever regretting it was too much. Despite how badly he wanted to keep going, he let out a sigh and tucked the hair behind her ear.

“Let’s take this a bit slower.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No,” he said with a quick shake of his head. Guiding her down to the couch, he sat beside her and brought her fingers up to his mouth for a quick kiss. “I just don’t want either of us to regret anything. Trust me, there’s nothing I want more than to finish this.”

He could see the protest on her lips, and he leaned forward to kiss her before she could speak. It was a chaste kiss, a reassurance that this wasn’t over, and she relaxed against him. Kakashi laid her back on the couch and hooked a hand behind her knee, draping her legs over his lap. It was hard not letting himself touch the places on her he’d been fantasizing about.

Especially when the skirt of her dress fell down the length of her thigh and her skin was so smooth and inviting. Again, his body betrayed the commands of his mind and his fingers spread slowly over the back of her thigh, stopping before he met the curve of her ass. He knew he would be powerless to stop himself if he let it go that far.

Sakura hooked her ankle around his leg and pulled it between hers until he could feel the warmth of her center over his knee. Her body shuddered beneath his and she sucked in a tiny breath, eliciting all sorts of dangerous thoughts in his head. Like how easy it would be to slide his hand around and dip it between her thighs.

Breathless, he pulled away from her kiss to rest his forehead against her temple, giving her hip a squeeze. “I hope you know how hard you’re making this for me.” He meant it in more ways than once and wondered if she could feel him against her.

“I’m sorry,” she breathed. “I just don’t want to stop.”

Kakashi’s fingers tightened their hold on her skirt and he took a deep breath through his nose, counting to ten in his mind to calm himself down. It was going to take an act of god to keep him from taking this as far as he wanted to. “I know,” he whispered, pressing a gentle kiss to her swollen lips. “Neither do I, but I’d rather not be limited to a couch.”

“There’s always the floor.”

The pillows and folded blanket from the wardrobe reappeared in his head and for a split second, he considered it. In the end, he knew it wouldn’t be a good idea. He wanted her head clear and her emotions to not be pulled so tightly. When things calmed down, he promised himself, they would continue what they started.

For now, he slid in the space between her body and the back of the sofa and brushed the hair over her ear. “I’m not fucking you on the floor.”

Even in the shadow, he could see her eyes go wide and cheeks flush with warmth and he felt himself smile. He hadn’t meant to be so crude, but why tiptoe around the truth? There was no going back now. She ducked her head and nestled it into his chest.

“I’ve never heard you say something like that.”

“Should I not?” He pulled another pin from her hair and dropped it to the floor. How many did she have hidden away back there? She shook her head and peeked up at him, the shyness fading from her eyes to be replaced with a mischievous smirk.

“I liked it.”

Giving her a quick, gentle kiss, Kakashi settled in behind her and draped an arm over her waist. He glanced down the length of their bodies and the corner of his lips lifted. He had been right about two people fitting comfortably on the sofa.

“Are you going home tomorrow?” He asked quietly, bending his arm to lay his head on it.

She nodded and he couldn’t help feeling disappointed about it. He would have enjoyed sneaking her into an inn at Hogsmeade during the holiday, where there would be a proper bed. Sakura lifted her face to him and offered a smile. “But I could stay if you want me to.”

He let out a laugh and traced the back of her arm with his fingers. She shivered and he watched goosebumps appear on her skin. “It’s probably better if you don’t. I’d never get any work done.”

Her eyes fluttered closed and he could see the edge of her eyeliner was smudged a bit. “I missed you,” she whispered, making his hand still over her elbow. “That week you were gone and all this time that I couldn’t talk to you? It was torture. I miss our lessons too.”

“So do I. But I can’t guarantee the Ministry won’t call me away again and I don’t want to promise you something I can’t keep.” He pushed a curl away from her forehead and kissed the spot it had just been. “Let’s just enjoy tonight and after the holiday we can figure all of that out.”

Sakura nodded and closed her eyes, the frown on her brow betraying her. It was clear that she had other things to say, but Kakashi couldn’t answer the questions he knew she had. He couldn’t even answer the ones circling his own head like a cyclone. As she slid closer to him, snuggling her head between his chest and his arm, he let his own eyes close.

He knew he should have been trying to make sense of what had happened, but for now, all he wanted to do was enjoy the moment. There was no certainty that they would have another like this and while his body was still begging for more, he was content with just holding her for the night. His content turned to relaxation and in the moments before they drifted to sleep, he pulled her closer and held her just a bit tighter.


 

 

 

Chapter Text


 


 

 

Sakura buried a yawn into the bend of her elbow. It was her seventeenth yawn in the past five minutes, and she could already tell her best friend definitely noticed how tired she was. Ino had become suspicious around the fifth time, arching her eyebrow as she glanced back at Sakura in line to board the train.

Now that they had found their compartment and settled in with Hinata for the three-hour-long ride back to King’s Cross Station, the Slytherin could openly ask the questions she was more than likely dying to know. Settling back in the seat, Sakura folded her coat and slipped it between her head and the window. If she fell asleep fast, perhaps she could avoid the round of interrogation heading her way.

“You’re awfully sleepy today,” Ino said with a sniff, unzipping her boots before kicking them off. Bits of snow and water droplets fell to the red carpet beneath her feet. “That have anything to do with you sneaking off last night?”

Sakura closed her eyes and settled her head in the most comfortable position the wool coat could offer her. Without peeking to her best friend, she shrugged a shoulder. “I didn’t sneak off.”

“Please. You were out the door before nine o’clock.” She turned on the bench and propped her feet up on the cushion next to Sakura’s legs. “Shikamaru was pissed that you ditched him with the raffle.”

“Yeah, well, he ditches his Head Boy duties all the time. I’m sure he’ll get over it.”

He would, though it would take a few weeks. Thankfully, he could enjoy a quiet Ravenclaw common room over the break and wouldn’t bump into Sakura until January 1st. That was plenty of time for him to forgive her.

Besides, she had much more important things to think about over Christmas break than whether or not Shikamaru Nara was upset with her. The memory of the previous night flooded through her thoughts and she felt a ripple of heat spread across her body. Her eyes opened and she stared at the fogged window stretching out in front of her.

The train whistle blew, Ino grabbed her magazine, and Hinata was busy with reading a paperback book with a woman and man wrapped in one another’s arms on the cover. Silence stretched through the compartment and Sakura felt her eyes close once more, trying to think back to all of the little details of the night.

She still could barely believe it had happened. In the quiet hours of the morning, even while still wrapped in Kakashi’s arms on the sofa, she had to pinch herself to make sure she hadn’t been dreaming. But he was still there behind her, breathing gently against the back of her neck as he slept. The fire had still been crackling across the room, and she was exactly where she wanted to be.

The clock on the mantle had read 3:30 when she woke up and panic spread cold and sudden through her, making her sit completely up. Kakashi shifted on the cushions and blinked up at her in surprise as if he couldn’t believe it had been real either.

“I have to get back to my room,” she had told him in a whisper, hoping to hide the panic in her voice. “I never finished packing and we leave early.”

“Okay,” he whispered sleepily and sat up. Oh, Merlin, he was even better looking when he was sleepy if that could even be possible. “No one will be awake at this time of night anyway.”

She hadn’t wanted to admit that the panic she was feeling was mostly because he was so close to her all of a sudden and all she wanted was to push him back down and climb onto his lap. Her face flushed and she ducked her head to avoid the intensity of his gaze. The feel of his fingers tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear made her lean into his touch and she let out a sigh.

“Could I send you an owl over the holiday?” Her eyes lifted to meet his and she savored the gentleness of his voice. Before she could nod, he spoke again. “Just to make sure you’re alright and enjoying your break.”

The playful tone in his words left her smiling and she took her lower lip between her teeth with a nod. Beneath her, the cushions shifted, and he slid to the edge of the couch, pulling her against his chest as he moved. Her head came to his chest and she breathed his scent deep into her lungs. She wanted to remember everything about him.

The next two weeks were going to be torture to get through. How was she supposed to go home and pretend things were normal when she knew how it felt to kiss him? How was she supposed to not think about the words he had whispered to her the night before?

Kakashi put his palm against her jaw and tilted her head back, closing the distance between their lips. His kiss was slow and every caress of his lips over hers sent her spiraling back into the dizziness of desire and lust. By the time he pulled away, she was breathless but craving more. He had smiled as he pressed a gentle, chaste kiss to her lips and helped her off the couch.

He could have walked her right off the highest tower in the castle and she would have been in too much of a daze to care. Thankfully, he led her to the door of the room instead and once they were away from the light of the fire, he cornered her against the cold, stone wall. It pressed at her back and she shivered, though it had more to do with his body against hers than the temperature.

“Avoid the hall in front of the Infirmary,” he purred against her earlobe. Sakura had been a trembling, quivering mess at that moment. Even after giving her a final kiss that curled her toes, she was begging for more. Unfortunately for her hormones, Kakashi had opened the door enough to peek out before sending her on her way.

She had floated through the darkened hallways of the castle as quietly as she could, not making a bit of noise as to not wake the sleeping portraits hanging on the walls above her. Eventually, she managed to find her way back to the Ravenclaw tower and slipped silently through the door after reciting the answer to the riddle. Though she was still feeling sleepy, she was far too anxious and energized to sleep.

Which was the cause of her current predicament. Trying to find a comfortable sleeping position on a moving train was already impossible. But combine that with the race of thoughts through her mind, some full of worry over who could be targeting her, while most were focused solely on the fact that she and Kakashi were secretly…something and there was no hope for catching up on the sleep she had lost the night before.

With a huff of annoyance, she tried to fluff the fabric of her coat into something more comfortable. The sleeve slipped out from beneath her head and she felt the vibrations of the train even through the thick material. Sakura glanced at the other two girls in her compartment out of the corner of her eye.

Sprawled out on the bench beside her, Ino flipped lazily through a fashion magazine that looked almost identical to the one that had been laying in Gladrag’s a few weeks ago. She had a pair of sunglasses perched on her nose and let out a yawn that made Sakura wonder why she was so tired today as well. Maybe last night had been a late one for the Slytherin too.

Across from them, Hinata’s nose was buried in a paperback novel. The cover was worn but the image of a man grasping a woman was still quite noticeable. Breasts spilling out over the top of her bodice and the rippling muscles of the man’s chest caught Sakura’s attention instantly and she arched an eyebrow.

“Hinata, what on earth are you reading?”

The girl’s eyes widened from over the top of the pages and her cheeks lit up bright pink. “I-It’s a silly romance book that I picked up in Hogsmeade.”

By now, Ino’s attention had been caught and she pushed the sunglasses up her forehead to rest on top of her blonde hair. “What type of romance book?”

“A bodice ripper. A fifth-year told me it was steamy, so I figured I would give it a read.” Hinata squeaked and hid her face deeper into the pages of the book. “It’s graphic.”

Sakura and Ino shared a look before moving to the bench opposite theirs, settling on either side of the Hufflepuff. She flipped back through the pages until she reached a chapter she had previously read. Her face was bright pink as she handed the book to Ino and pointed to a passage the middle of the page. As she read silently for a moment, Sakura couldn’t help recalling the day in Hogsmeade she had discovered Professor Hatake’s similar preference in books.

Did he blush as badly as Hinata when he read something particularly steamy? The thought almost made her giggle and she pinched her lips together to keep from making a sound. Thankfully Ino found the graphic bits and read aloud.

“‘Lord Byron pinned her to the trunk of the tree, holding her wrists above her head so she couldn’t move. ‘You’re mine and always will be,’ he murmured before pressing his lips against hers.’ Yadda, yadda, oh here we go!” She settled back on the bench with a wicked grin. “‘His hardened length stretched the front of his breeches, nearly bursting through the ties and she was wet and aching to see it. With trembling fingers, she untied the front of his pants and his manhood sprang forth, landing with a slap against her palm’…Bloody hell, Hinata.”

“I didn’t write it!” She snatched the book back from Ino and pursed her lips. From her chin to her hairline, she was flushed as bright as a tomato and while the other two giggled at the words, Sakura frowned.

“It slapped against her palm? That makes it sound like a sausage or something. It couldn’t be that big, right?”

They fell silent and stared off at different parts of the compartment, avoiding each other’s gazes. Were they all thinking the same things? Sakura suspected that was the case and with a quick cough, Ino returned to the other bench and mirrored Hinata who returned her face to the pages of her book.

Sakura sat back and stared down at her hands in her lap. She picked at the polish of her fingernail and allowed herself to think back to the only time she had ever experienced a naked male. The night she and Sasuke had spent together was something she had been trying to repress for the past six or seven months, but now, she thought back to it.

Had she even seen him naked? It had all happened so fast. One minute they were kissing, the next he was pulling her skirt down around her ankles and then…he was inside her. No, she thought with a frown. She had looked between their bodies in the seconds before he entered her. Even in the darkness of the bathroom, she had seen him. Of course, she had nothing to compare it to aside from the diagrams of the human body she had curiously looked at a few years before. She knew what they looked like and knew what to expect and when she looked at Sasuke’s she knew it was normal.

But he hadn’t looked thick enough to spring out of his pants and slap her palm.

A thought popped into her mind that made her eyes widen and she glanced quickly to her two friends to make sure they were still occupied with their own thoughts. With excited terror, she couldn’t help but wonder if Kakashi’s would be that big. He was tall, though she wasn’t sure that had anything to do with it.

Oh, what was that saying the older girls used to say? If he’s got big feet, he’s got a big…

Sakura blushed and realized she had never paid attention to his feet. But that was hardly relevant. Even if he was average, and never burst out of his pants, he was still bound to be…experienced. Far more experienced than a sixteen-year-old Sasuke Uchiha was. Kakashi would more than likely know all kinds of techniques while she…She wouldn’t even compare.

Her eyes cut to her two friends and she cleared her throat. Neither of them looked up from their magazine and book and Sakura sighed. Taking a deep breath, she figured she might as well get her question over with before she backed out.

“Have either of you…” Ino’s eyebrow arched and Sakura ducked her head as she dropped her voice. “You know, had sex?”

“Define sex.” The Slytherin said.

Sakura rolled her eyes in annoyance. “You know what sex is.”

“Well, there are different kinds, I mean. Like...” She set her magazine down and shrugged a shoulder. “Oral sex and hand stuff.”

“Fine. Have either of you done any of it?”

Silence fell over the compartment and with a glance to the Hufflepuff on her right, Sakura knew her answer. It would seem the only person among them who was no longer a virgin was her. She didn’t know how to feel about that.

Finally, Ino sighed and fidgeted with the pages of the magazine on the bench beside her. “I’ve done everything…except all the way sex.”

“With who?” The question left her mouth before she could stop it, but at that moment, Sakura’s curiosity eclipsed any modesty she needed for the topic. Her eyes widened and even Hinata was leaning forward, ready to hear the juicy gossip.

Ino scoffed and shook the end of her ponytail away from her shoulder. Her usual calm, cool and collected demeanor had flipped like a switch and she opened her mouth, closed it and opened it again, clearly caught off guard. “He was older than us. Slytherin. You didn’t know him.”

Sakura’s eyes narrowed on her best friend and she pursed her lips. Either Ino was lying and had never done a single thing in the realm of sex, or she had been telling the truth and it was with someone she didn’t want to admit. A million possible candidates flooded through Sakura’s head and while she was dying to know what could make Ino so flushed in the face, she decided not to pursue the answers…not today at least. Instead, she turned to Hinata who took on the shade of a tomato once more.

“I-I don’t want to say.”

At this, Ino sat forward and stomped her foot on the floor of the compartment. “I answered! You have to as well!”

Any other time, Sakura would have jumped to the defense of their painfully shy friend, but her curiosity kept her mouth tightly shut. She wanted to know the answer just as much as Ino did. Not because she wanted to know the details about Hinata’s possible sexual experience with Naruto, but because if she was going to sleep with an older man, she needed to know something other than lying back on the bathroom floor, letting him do all the work.

With a squeak, the Hufflepuff buried her nose back in her book before speaking. The pages muffled her already quiet voice, but Sakura heard her clearly. “I’m a virgin.”

Sighing, she sat back on the bench and chewed nervously at the inside of her lip. There was no getting pointers or tips from her friends it would seem. Despite her disappointment, she reached over and patted Hinata gently on the arm.

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of. I wish I was still a virgin.”

From the corner of her eye, she spotted Ino’s mouth drop open and braced herself for the barrage of questions. She sputtered momentarily, shook herself out of her bewilderment and put her hands up in the air, palms facing Sakura.

“Whoa, wait a minute! You’re not a virgin?”

Hinata turned to stare up at her as well, lavender eyes wide and full of surprise. “When?” She asked in a whisper and Sakura took a deep breath.

“Last year, in April. A week before Sasuke broke up with me.” Their silence rang loudly in her ears and she swallowed, forcing herself to continue though she struggled to say these words out loud. A part of her was still ashamed she had given in so easily to Sasuke and she didn’t want to see the disappointment in her friend’s faces when she told them. “It wasn’t romantic at all. We did it on the floor of the prefect's bathroom.”

“Fucking hell,” Ino muttered with a slow shake of her head.

“I spent most of my summer wondering if I had done something wrong that night and if that was why he ended things.” Sakura let out a bitter laugh. “If I could, I would take it back.”

“No wonder you’ve been so miserable,” Hinata said quietly. She closed her paperback and laid her hands over it on her lap.

“If I had known, Forehead, I wouldn’t have pushed you so hard to get over him. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m fine and I’m very much over him now. I promise.” Only because you’re under someone else, the little voice snapped in the back of her head, making her duck her head to hide a wince. She didn’t want to think about Kakashi like that. He wasn’t some rebound fling to help her forget about Sasuke. He was so much more than that.

“Did you use protection?” Hinata’s words jerked her out of her thoughts and she felt her face burn as blood rushed straight to her hairline.

“No,” she hated to admit it. “But he didn’t…finish inside me. Besides, it’s not like we can buy condoms at Hogsmeade.”

Which brought a whole new thought to her head, one that made her stomach clench with worry. If she were to sleep with Kakashi—the very idea of it making her blush all over again—would he provide the protection? Did he know the charms that Sakura had only read about before? She had never practiced them, never had a reason to.

Her night with Sasuke had been a surprise and she had been far too distracted to even think beyond being with him. That was a mistake she didn’t want to make again. But if Kakashi wouldn’t provide the protection, then it would be up to her.

Sakura turned to the window and watched the landscape pass by the train. She was thankful that the rest of the ride was one of relative quiet, with no more intimate talks or inquiries into her minimal sex life and soon, the three of them were filing one by one out of the train and onto the platform 9 and three quarters.

Ino was quick to say her goodbyes, grab her luggage and apparate home and Sakura suspected her escape was mostly to avoid answering any leftover questions from earlier. Staring at the space the blonde had stood seconds ago, the Ravenclaw narrowed her eyes and swore she would find out the truth about who Ino had been trying to hide from her.

In the meantime, she turned to Hinata and smiled softly. “You don’t have to wait with me. My mom should be here to pick me up soon.”

“Are you sure?” She asked, already bending down to take the handle of her expensive, rolling suitcase. With a nod to confirm, Sakura stood back so her friend could get home with a quick pop in the air.

Once she was alone, she glanced at the others getting off the train, running to meet their parents to return home and if apparating didn’t make her so nauseous—or scare the living hell out of her father—she would have already been home as well. But she had agreed to meet her mother in front of the enormous train station at three.

Sakura pulled her suitcase behind her and stepped back into the muggle area of the station. She blended easily into the crowds rushing to and from with Christmas gifts and frustration written on their faces. Slowly but sure, she made her way outside into the biting cold and shivered as she scanned the cars pulling up to the curb to pick up and drop off.

A man in a station uniform trying to direct traffic blew his whistle to no avail. No one was paying any attention to him and Sakura watched him drop the whistle from his mouth in annoyance. He smacked the hood of a car taking much too long at the front and a shouting match broke out between the driver and the man.

It was always a strange culture shock being back in the muggle world. No wands flicking about, no moving portraits, no magic. Sakura put a hand to her hip where her wand was concealed just as a familiar honk sounded twice from the curb.

The sight of her mother’s blue sedan put a smile on her face and she hurried down the steps, narrowly missing a family of nine who could barely see over the boxes of gifts cradled in each of their arms. “Oop, so sorry miss!” The father said with a crooked smile. He tipped his hat to reveal a balding head of red hair as the children all piled into a car much too small to fit them all.

Sakura met her mother at the trunk of the car and she pulled her into a warm hug, despite the snowflakes clinging to her coat. She took a strand of her shortened pink hair between her fingers. “You cut your hair!”

“I just needed something different.”

“Well, it looks lovely! Come on, let's get back in where there’s heat!” Her mother jogged to the driver’s side and Sakura sank into the leather passenger seat. The heat was blasting from the vents and she held her frozen fingers up to the warmth. “Your father should be getting home soon. How about we watch some cheesy Christmas movies and eat way too much junk food tonight?”

Sakura let her head fall back against the seat and watched the man in the station uniform blow his whistle and wave them away from the curb. “That sounds perfect.”

Traffic was abysmal, but it usually was at this time of year in the city. It took nearly an hour just to get away from the hustle and bustle and Sakura was thankful to see the neighborhoods growing familiar and smaller. But knowing they were so close to home, so close to being under her parent's noses, made her shift in her seat.

Talking about contraceptives while her father was present was out of the question, and she was afraid if she put it off for another day, she’d chicken out altogether. As much as she didn’t want to have this talk with her mother at the moment, she knew it was time to be mature about it. Sniffing, she turned the heat away from her face and looked over at her mother.

“Mum? Can I talk to you about something?”

The woman reached over to turn the wipers on and the gathering snowflakes streaked across the windshield. With a glance of concern to her daughter, Mebuki lowered the volume of the radio until it all clicked off. Quiet filled the car, broken only by the sound of the wipers running over the window. “Of course, sweetie. You can talk to me about anything.”

Embarrassment flooded Sakura’s face and she glanced down to her fingers fidgeting over her lap. Half of her regretted ever bringing it up. Talking to her mother about sex was the last thing she wanted to do, but she knew she needed to be honest with her. Well, about some things. She took a deep breath and tucked her hair behind her ear.

“Would you take me to the clinic tomorrow so I can get on birth control?”

The car veered suddenly off the shoulder before her mother quickly jerked it back onto the asphalt, straightening the wheels. Sakura blinked at her in disbelief but the woman kept her eyes on the road, muttering about a slick spot. After a moment of silence, Mebuki glanced out of the corner of her eye to the passenger seat.

“Are you…sexually active?” Groaning, Sakura dropped her head back against the seat. Her mother held up a hand. “I’m just checking! While I think you’re a bit too young, and you certainly shouldn’t be active in school, I’m glad you’re mature enough to make this important decision for yourself.”

It was as if she had read one of those parent to teen pamphlets centered around talking to your children about safe sex practices. Sakura was definitely regretting ever opening her mouth now. She turned to look at the woman and tried not to pull a typical, whiny teenage response. It wouldn’t look very mature to roll her eyes and complain.

“I’m not active. But I like someone, and he likes me, so I think it would be best to get this taken care of before anything happens.”

“I forget how smart you are sometimes.” Her mother looked at her with a soft smile, but there was a sadness behind it that Sakura knew she’d never be able to understand. “Isn’t there a magical method for contraception?”

“Yes, but it’s not like they teach it to us. Regular birth control is fine with me.”

“Alright,” Mebuki said with a nod, her hands tightening around the steering wheel slightly. “I’ll call and make an appointment for this week.”

“Thanks, Mum…Oh, and can you not tell dad?”

.

.

A few days later, Sakura stared at the brown paper bag she had been handed by the plump woman behind the counter at the clinic. She had kept it tightly closed the entire car ride home from her appointment, though she was damn curious about why it felt so full. So far, she had been back home, back in her bedroom for half an hour and she had yet to open the bag.

It felt strange knowing that the contents of the bag would be used by her so she could have safe sex with one of her professors. Heat flared across her face and she pulled her legs up onto the mattress, crossing them before pulling the bag into her lap. Even just holding it in her hands, she felt overwhelmed and nervous. How was she supposed to actually take the pills?

And if this was overwhelming her, how was she going to feel when it actually came time to do it? Thinking back to how close they had come the night of the Christmas festival made her heart race and she had to take a deep breath to calm herself down. She closed her eyes and tried to remember how she had ever managed to undress him. How had her fingers not trembled as she moved down the row of buttons on his shirt? How did she manage to not melt into a puddle at the sight of his naked chest?

Kakashi’s voice echoed in her mind and she remembered what he had told her in the moments after she had pushed his shirt off of his shoulders. ‘Let’s take this a bit slowerI just don’t want either of us to regret anything.’

In the heat of the moment, when all she had wanted to do was give in to him, he had stopped them from doing something they both could possibly regret. If she felt overwhelmed in the future, she knew he would wait. He wouldn’t pressure her and she trusted him.

Her pulse slowed back down to normal and though her fingers were still hesitant, she unfolded the top of the paper bag and peered down into it. A white, round plastic compact was resting against a folded paper insert on top of a bed of condoms. The red and white squares were loose inside the bag but covered the bottom by at least three inches.

Sakura’s eyes went wide and she pulled one square out to inspect. There had to have been at least 15 in the bag. What were they expecting her to do with them all? She dropped the condom back into the bag and took the pack of pills out instead.

They were arranged in a circle and in the center was a round sticker with a month of days on it. The doctor had given her clear instructions, to start on the pill labeled for the day of the month and to go from there. She popped the pill out marked for the day and put it on her tongue before swallowing the tiny thing easily.

Sakura set the packet on her bedside table and stuffed the bag full of condoms in the bottom drawer of her bedside table. She would have to remember to take it along with her to Hogwarts…just in case. Sitting alone in her room, worrying about future sex with a man who was her professor was going to give her anxiety and the smell of her dad baking sugar cookies had been teasing her stomach for the past half hour.

She made her way into the living room and found her dad at the counter, stirring the ingredients in a large, green bowl while her mother stood on the other side of the room with the telephone pressed to her ear.

“It’s just awful,” she said with a shake of her head. “Let me know if you hear anything else. Okay, buh-bye.”

Mebuki placed the phone back on the receiver and turned to face Sakura with a sad smile. From over his shoulder, Kizashi lifted his eyebrows. “Any news?”

“No. It’s like he just vanished.”

“Who?” Sakura asked, moving into the kitchen to take a seat at the small breakfast table pushed against the wall. Her mother stood by the chair on the opposite side and sighed heavily.

“One of your father’s coworkers went missing about a month ago. Just vanished in the middle of the night and his wife isn’t handling it well.”

“That’s awful.”

“It must be so hard at this time of year. We should drop off some cookies and a casserole for them this week. Sakura, you can help me take it over to them.” Mebuki gave a nod, making the decision for her daughter before turning to the fridge. Before Sakura could protest, knowing that she wouldn’t be much help in a situation like that, something large and angry hit the window above the sink.

Kizashi’s bowl of cookie dough went flying over his shoulder, spilling chocolate chips and flour all over the floor and counter. The owl fluttered its wings against the glass and its claws tapped furiously, looking for a way in.

“What in God’s green earth! A bloody owl?”

Sakura crossed the kitchen in two steps, throwing open the window. A rush of cold winter air poured in around the owl and it paced back and forth over the sill, nipping gently at her hands. The dark feathers framing its face made it look more frightening than it was and Sakura gave it a quick scratch on its head as she took in the letter attached to its leg.

“I thought you told your friends to send letters through the post!” Kizashi wiped the front of his sweater with a towel but only managed to smear the flour and dough further into the wool fibers.

Sakura stared down at her name written in familiar, scratchy handwriting before shutting the window. She had told her friends not to send owls, though she had neglected to tell one in particular. Taking her bottom lip between her teeth, she pressed the envelope to her chest and blinked up at the blob of dough stuck to the ceiling tile.

“How on earth did you manage that?” Her mother asked, craning her neck to look up at the blob. While the two of them discussed ways to clean it up, Sakura slipped out of the kitchen and hurried back to her bedroom. Once the door was shut, she collapsed across her bed and ripped through the envelope.

She unfolded the letter and looked over his handwriting, shaking her head at how scratchy and nearly illegible it was. And she thought he was bad at writing on the chalkboard. How did he manage to make his e’s look like r’s? Unable to keep her smile away, she ignored his chicken scratch and read the letter.

Sakura,

I hope this letter finds you well and you’re enjoying your holiday so far. The castle feels much lonelier when I know you’re not here. I almost wished I had tried to convince you to stay now, though I know that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea no matter how much I want it. Have you had any more incidents? I’ve been thinking about them and it seems most likely that it’s a student. If it is, trust me, I will personally see to it that they will be found and dealt with.

I’ve instructed my owl to stick around for a return letter if you want to write one. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours, KH’

She had to read it at least three times and each time, she felt herself swooning harder and harder. How could he be so sweet when he had said so many dirty things the last time she had spoken to him? All of the apprehension she had felt earlier about the two of them being together flew right out the window, leaving her with so much filling her chest, she was afraid she’d burst.

With her middle finger, she traced the word ‘yours’ and hoped he meant it.

Sakura scrambled off of her bed and hurried to the desk pushed beneath her window, scanning the surface for any spare paper. Beneath a stack of books, she found an old notebook from elementary school and after flipping through endless pages of doodles and assignments, she found a blank page. She took a seat and found a pen before writing her response to him.

Kakashi,

I’m doing well, but I wish I was back at Hogwarts already. I miss the castle…among other things. If you feel like taking a trip to London in the next few days, let me know. I could show you around. About the owl—it might be a good idea to send letters through the post. I’ll include my address and a stamp just in case.

No more incidents, thankfully. I’d feel safer with you though. I wish I had stayed. We could be in our secret room, lying in front of the fire together right now. I think that would have been the best way to spend the holidays. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours, SH

P.S. Your handwriting needs some work’

She second guessed every word she wrote but in the end, she decided against crumpling it up and redoing the whole thing. She wrote her address in the bottom corner and found a stamp among the stationery on her desk. Dropping it and the folded letter into an envelope, Sakura lifted the window and shivered from the cold wind swirling in. The curtains billowed out around her desk and she leaned forward, peering into the darkness.

She whistled and a breath later, the soft flap of wings sounded from above. Kakashi’s owl landed silently on the windowsill, blinking its large, dark eyes up at her. It nibbled at her fingers as she attached the envelope to its leg and she frowned. “I don’t have any treats for you. But I will next time. I promise.”

After another scratch to its head, the owl rustled its wings and turned away from her. It took off silently into the night and Sakura found herself staring out into the yard. The Christmas lights her father had hung earlier that week twinkled in a rainbow of colors, making the snow on the ground glow. Another breeze brought the chill into Sakura’s room and she lifted her hands to the window to close it.

But she hesitated, squinting into the darkness.

The neighborhood was lit with Christmas lights and she could see right down to the empty street. Two houses down, a car horn honked and the brake lights lit up the driveway in red as it backed out onto the road. Nothing seemed strange or out of place but Sakura couldn’t shake the feeling that something was out there.

Was it her paranoia creeping back in, settling icily across her back at the thought of someone targeting her? Even if it was a student who had been trying to read her thoughts, and even with Kakashi’s promise to find the culprit, it was unsettling knowing someone out there wanted to possibly harm her. And if they went to the lengths they had at Hogwarts, under the noses of some of the most powerful witch and wizard professors in the country, what would stop them from following her to where she’s most vulnerable?

Sakura shut the window and pulled the curtains closed over it. She wished she could get the letter to Kakashi back and tell him how she was feeling. But she couldn’t tell him about every time she felt paranoid.

Sitting back in her desk, she chewed her thumbnail and stared at the drapes covering her window. Maybe she should have stayed at Hogwarts after all…

 


 

 

Chapter Text


 

A SPECIAL thanks goes out to both Mummapaintstheblues and TipsyRaconteur for helping inspire me for this chapter, and for convincing me not to delete it :) Love you ladies!


 

 

“Alright,” a familiar voice said behind the booth Sakura sat at. “Whose bright idea was it to get ice cream in the middle of winter?” Even though it had only been a little over a week since they had seen one another, it was nice to hear Ino’s sarcasm once again. The blonde dropped into the seat across from Sakura with a bounce and glanced around the ice cream parlor.

“It’s never too cold for ice cream,” Sakura said as she pulled her hot fudge Sundae closer to her. “But they did just put out some fresh brownies.”

Ino looked up to the counter and tapped her chin in thought. “A brownie does sound quite delicious. Oh, here comes Hinata and Ten.”

Outside the window they were sitting next to, Sakura turned to see their other two friends huddled together as they hurried across the street. The bell above the door announced their arrival and barely a breath later, Tenten was dropping into the booth next to Sakura. She rubbed her hands together and eyed the gooey, fudge Sundae on the table.

“Isn’t it too cold for ice cream?”

Sakura ignored her and dipped out a large spoonful before taking it into her mouth. Across the table, Hinata’s eyes lit up as she looked at the counter and she clapped her gloved hands together. “Oh! Those brownies look delicious!”

“Get me one if you’re going up there.” Ino all but shoved her off the booth and Sakura scowled at her from over her bowl. “What? She doesn’t mind.”

Once they each had their own dessert—Tenten deciding it wasn’t too cold for ice cream after all—they sat around the table and discussed the gifts they’d gotten for Christmas. Hinata showed off her new leather gloves with faux fur as soft as the real thing around the wrists. But it was what was hanging from her ears that caught Tenten’s attention.

“I see you got some new earrings as well,” she said with a wink.

Hinata’s face blushed crimson and she tucked her hair back so the rest could see. A silver broomstick hung from each ear and on the handle was a yellow gemstone that caught the light above them and twinkled. Ino moved in closer for a better look and whistled low. “They’re gorgeous!”

“Thank you,” Hinata said quietly, ducking her head.

“Looks like whoever got them for you likes you quite a bit.” Tenten’s words were teasing and they made Sakura and Ino share a glance with one another.

“Naruto?” Sakura asked, hoping she didn’t sound too incredulous. She wasn’t jealous. She was just beyond surprised that Naruto had finally gotten the hint that the girl had been crushing on him since they were eleven. It was a bit hard to believe, but Hinata nodded and there was no mistaking the blush across her face.

“It’s about time. But, he had a little help picking them out,” Tenten said with a wink.

Hinata nodded and gave them a small smile that cut through the teasing rather quickly. The other three shared a look and Sakura leaned forward. “Everything okay?”

“Of course, I just—” She turned her lavender eyes to each of them and sighed, sitting back against the booth in defeat. “The earrings are great and I love them, but what’s a girl got to do to get—I don’t know! A kiss or something?”

Sakura’s eyes widened and she pursed her lips to keep from laughing. The situation wasn’t funny and she knew just how long Hinata had been waiting for Naruto to notice her. But hearing her outburst was so uncharacteristic that she struggled to swallow the laugh.

Across the table, Ino crumbled the rest of the brownie back into its plastic wrap and crossed her arms over her chest with a huff. “I know exactly how you feel.”

“Yeah,” Tenten added. “Me too. It looks like our love lives are pretty pathetic.”

With a shared look between the four of them, they fell into a silence and only the noises of the soft music playing throughout the ice cream parlor could be heard. Sakura frowned as she looked into her nearly empty bowl of ice cream and swirled the spoon around the chocolate fudge in the bottom. She thought back to the letters she and Kakashi had written to one another the last week. Did they mean as much to him as they did to her?

It wouldn’t be the first time she read too much into a relationship, if there was a relationship between them in the first place. The longer she thought about it, the more confusing it became. There was no relationship. He was her professor; she was his student. Beginning a relationship would be dangerous and stupid and a monumentally bad idea.

But if it wasn’t a relationship, what was it? An affair? Could it even qualify as an affair if one of them weren’t married? Sakura bit her bottom lip and swirled the spoon harder in the melted ice cream and fudge until the colors combined to make a truly disgusting concoction. She pushed the bowl away and let out a breath of frustration before looking up to her friends.

“Let’s get some air.”

None of them put up much of a fight and after sliding out of their seats, Sakura led them out of the little restaurant and out into the cold air. She shook the hair from her coat and buttoned it up her chest before stuffing her hands into the warm pockets.

“Anyone want to join me in Quality Quidditch Supplies? Dad gave me a gift certificate for Christmas and it’s burning a hole in my pocket.” Tenten bounced excitedly on the balls of her feet and eyed the store front down the block.

There was already a crowd heading that way and judging by the number of people going in and out of the shop, Sakura was sure she didn’t want to be a part of it. The sensation of dread slithered up her spine as she stared at the numerous faces and figures in the shop windows. She couldn’t risk being so packed in with other people if something were to happen…or if someone were to try to force their way into her mind again. Just thinking of it made her shiver harder than she already was.

Before she could voice her hesitation to be among a crowd that size, Ino and Hinata agreed to join Tenten on the basis that she join them in Gladrag’s.

Sakura pointed a thumb over her shoulder in the opposite direction while they discussed their plans. “I’ll wait for you guys in the bookstore.” She gave them a smile and waited while they turned to make their way up the street. Only Ino stayed back, her eyebrow raised and lips pursed in slight suspicion.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m not in the mood to face those crowds.”

With a nod, she turned to catch up with Hinata and Tenten and Sakura watched them disappear into the dense crowd. Alone on the sidewalk, she glanced quickly to the surrounding faces making their way up and down the street and turned on her heel. Obscurus Books was at the opposite end of Diagon Alley and usually had books a bit more advanced than what students preferred, but Sakura was eager to find out anything she could about Occlumency.

Although, she was fairly certain none would give her the answers to the questions she had. It didn’t hurt to try.

On her left, the offices of the Daily Prophet loomed and she glanced casually over the newspapers taped to the inside of the windows. Each had a breaking headline from history, ranging from the announcement of Tsunade Senju as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts to a Dragon escape over East London. A newspaper stand was set up at the corner of the building displaying the latest edition and Sakura came to a stop in front of it. She frowned as she stared at the picture of a man on the front page before lifting her gaze to the headline above him.

‘Search for Missing Wizard Ends After No New Leads’

She looked back down to the man’s smiling face, though unlike other pictures on the page, it didn’t move. He was balding slightly and had a bit of pudge to his face but his smile was warm and friendly and alarmingly familiar. It was the same picture Sakura had seen in one of her father’s muggle newspaper. The same man who worked with her father.

He had been a wizard?

A sudden swish of black fabric caught her attention out of the corner of her eye and she straightened, looking back in the direction she had come from. The tail end of a cloak slipped between the Daily Prophet office and the tea shop next door and Sakura’s eyebrows furrowed. Had someone been watching her?

Without thinking, she moved toward the narrow alley and blinked in surprise. Between the tea shop and the Daily Prophet, the alley was empty. There was a few crates toppled over near the back door of the tea shop and from where she stood, she could see a small section of Knockturn Alley beyond the buildings. A few hooded figures moved between the darker shops but none wearing black cloaks.

Maybe she had been mistaken. Frowning, Sakura took a step back but before her heel could meet the sidewalk, a soft whispering met her ears. It sounded almost like a child, coming from right behind the Daily Prophet. She could see a door leading into the building with two steps in front of it, but aside from usual trash and random crates, there was nothing else.

…see you?...they can’t know…”

Fear gripped Sakura’s spine and she put a hand against her stomach to calm the sudden rush of nausea. Her pulse raced and she took a step forward, reaching for the wand in her pocket. Her footstep on the cobblestone echoed between the two buildings and the whispering was instantly silenced. Still, she pulled her wand from her pocket and positioned it in front of her.

From behind her, a dog barked loud enough to make her jump and Sakura whirled around to point her wand right in front of a black, wet nose. She stared down into the dark eyes of the dog and let out a shaking breath as it cocked its head to the side in confusion. “You scared the hell out of me,” she mumbled, lowering her wand to her hip.

The dog let out a whine and lifted a muddy paw to its nose and if Sakura didn’t know any better, she’d think it was actually apologizing to her. It stood up and backed out of the entrance to the alley, letting out another excited bark. She crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. First it apologized, now it was wanting her to follow it?

She glanced back to the alley behind her, to where the whispering had been coming from and the small section of Knockturn Alley that she could see. It was empty and even as she craned her ears to listen, she could hear nothing but the normal sounds of shoppers and families enjoying their time before school started back.

With a defeated sigh, she turned back to the dog and joined it back on the sidewalk. Its tail was wagging happily and it inched forward to nuzzle her hand with its nose. She patted the fluffy, grey fur on its head and rubbed its black ears. “You’re awfully friendly,” she told it, kneeling down to scratch along the underside of its head.

“There you are!” A familiar voice called from down the street, making her and the dog turn to blink in surprise. Ino had her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. “This doesn’t look like the bookstore.”

“I got distracted.”

Tenten hurried around Ino and gasped with delight at the sight of the dog. Its tail wagged, but not as enthusiastically as it had before. That didn’t stop Tenten. She dropped to her knees and rubbed her hands over its ears and down its back.

“Look at this sweet boy! Oh, wait—” She quickly glanced between its legs to confirm the dog’s gender and Sakura raised an eyebrow as it whined and shifted away from the overzealous girl. “Yup, he’s a boy! Aren’t you a sweet boy? Yes, you are! Who does this handsome boy belong to?”

“Ugh,” Ino stepped back and dusted the bottom of her new pea coat with her hands. “You’re getting dog hair all over me.”

“I don’t know whose it is. He just came up to me right before you did.” Sparing a glance over her shoulder to the alley, Sakura frowned and wished she hadn’t been interrupted earlier. She was still feeling anxious and jittery and if her hands weren’t clenched, she knew they’d be shaking. “It’s getting late. I should probably get home before my mom starts to worry.”

“We just got here,” Hinata said with a sad smile. “Can’t you stay a little while longer and apparate home later?”

“My dad already had a mild heart attack from an owl the other day. I think suddenly appearing in the living room would do him in.” At her side, the dog barked and jumped to his paws. The sudden movement nearly knocked Tenten on her backside and she reached out to clutch Ino’s coat to steady herself.

The dog took off in the opposite direction and disappeared around the corner, leaving the four girls stunned. “Looks like he had to get home too,” Tenten grumbled as she stood.

Ino clucked her tongue and dusted the dog hairs that Tenten transferred to the wool coat from her gloves. “I could walk with you, if you want.”

“Don’t bother. I’m going to ride the bus anyway.”

Not to mention, she needed a moment alone with her thoughts. She felt as if she had been bombarded with so much in so short a time span that she was going to need a while to come down from the adrenaline.

“Is a muggle bus as unappealing as it sounds?”

“No,” Sakura said with a crooked smile. “It’s worse. You should all avoid riding a muggle bus whenever you can.”

The three of them laughed and with a quick round of goodbyes, Sakura made her way alone back through the Leaky Cauldron and into the streets of London. They were just as busy on this side of the pub as it was on the other and she weaved her way through the rush hour crowds.

The sun was setting over the city and Sakura was thankful that she’d be home before it go too dark. Even without all of her paranoia, it wasn’t usually safe for a girl to be out by herself so late at night. Then again, at least she had learned a few tactics to use on any ne’er do well thanks to her Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. The thought of him brought a small smile to her lips as she found the bus stop at the corner.

Kakashi would probably be an even mix between proud and worried if she had used what she learned in his class, though she seriously hoped she wouldn’t have to. Still, as much as she bitched and complained at the start of the year about his teaching methods, she was glad to know a little self-defense. With a quick glance around the covered bus stop, she spotted an elderly woman with a bag of knitting supplies and a kid who was completely wrapped up in whatever music was blaring through his earbuds. He banged the beat of the song on his knees with two pencils and Sakura settled back on the bench.

Several more people stepped up to wait, each looking more innocent and distracted by their own lives to pay attention to Sakura, and she was beginning to feel a semblance of normalcy by the time the bus rolled to a stop in front of them. Maybe she had imagined the whispering back in Diagon Alley. It was entirely possible, with all of her paranoia lately.

She took a seat toward the front and hugged her jacket tighter around her waist, glancing once more to the assortment of people riding the bus with her. No one looked suspicious or out of the ordinary and she let out a sigh of relief as the doors shut with a creak and the vehicle lumbered forward into traffic.

Slowly, people exited the bus at different stops and Sakura watched the old woman shuffle by with her bag of knitting supplies. The kid was next to get off, though he slowed in front of her to give her that typical teenage boy head nod that she didn’t respond. He rolled his eyes and hopped off the bus and Sakura was thankful that her stop was only two blocks away.

The sky was an inky purple overhead and slowly fading into bright orange toward the west, darker than she preferred, but with the Christmas lights still glittering through the neighborhoods, it wasn’t so bad. Sakura stepped off the bus and wrapped her scarf around her neck, tucking it under her chin. She kept her head ducked as she moved through the familiar streets.

Most of the people were getting home from work, joining their families for dinner, and Sakura found herself wondering what the family of the missing man was doing right now. Had they opened their Christmas gifts or was it too hard for them? It ached her heart to think about and she took a deep breath of the winter air, blowing it out in a puff in front of her face.

Somewhere behind her, a car horn beeped twice and she glanced back to see a man in a business suit and wool coat hurry up the front porch of his house. He slipped inside the front door and Sakura faced forward again.

Her feet slowed to a stop and she slowly turned to look over her shoulder. The streets looked exactly the same. Trees topped with snow, white picket fences, and cars parked in driveways. Nothing was out of the ordinary but there was something unmistakable creeping up the length of her spine. It was icy and prickled at her skin, despite the three layers of clothes she was wearing.

After a moment of studying her surroundings and finding nothing to provoke this feel of dread, Sakura continued making her way through the next few blocks to her house. She tried to tell herself that it was that same paranoia making her panic, making her feel things that weren’t actually there. But even as she crossed the street and moved into the subdivision she had lived in most of her life, she couldn’t help recalling one of Professor Hatake’s lessons…and a word of advice in particular.

Trust your instincts

Her instincts were telling her something was there. It was behind her and it was coming for her and knowing it was, made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

At the corner, she whirled around with her wand stretched out in front of her, pointing it frantically in the direction of any shadow or tree branch moving with the breeze. There was nothing. In the distance, a dog barked and she could hear a truck’s horn from the highway. She had to get home. It couldn’t protect her from everything, but she would feel safer.

She kept her wand at her side, grip tight around the end of it as she cycled through a list of spells she could fire off at an attacker. The houses she passed gave her some relief. She was getting closer to home and closer to safety but the sense of dread weighed heavier on her with every step she took. Despite the frigid wind biting at her face, sweat beaded up along her back.

Her eyes darted to her sides. Was that a shadow? A cloak?

She dug her heels into the sidewalk and whipped her wand out again, spinning in every direction. “Leave me alone!” She shouted as loud and as intimidating as she could. Another dog barked at her outburst, but no shadowy figures stepped out to attack her. Whimpering, she spun on her heel and took off into a run around the next corner.

Her house was lit up in bright, festive lights at the end of the cul-de-sac and she let out a crazed breath of a laugh. It was so close she could almost hear the evening news that would surely be playing on the television by now. At her back, the pressing fear had grown closer and she could almost feel the touch of fingers to the back of her neck.

Tears stung the corners of her eyes and her legs ached as she pumped them harder, the sound of her footsteps matching the beat of her heart. Even through the haze of tears, she could see the white fence that lined her front yard and the gate was wide open…with a shadowed figure stepping right through.

Sakura let out a gasp and fumbled with her wand as she tried to slow to a stop in time. Her feet were still running on her adrenaline and she managed to poke the tip of her wand into the soft, plushy belly of whoever was outside her house seconds before colliding with them. The two metal trash bins he had been pulling out to the curb toppled over noisily at their tangled feet.

“Sakura! What on Earth?” Her father’s voice was an instant comfort and she gripped his arms as he steadied her.

“Dad!” She was breathless as she managed to spin around and blink in the direction she had been running. The terror that had gripped her so completely was fading but she still held her wand out in front of her, just in case something jumped out of the shadows to attack the both of them. Like the times before, there was nothing.

She had been running for no reason, terrified of nothing. Her brow pinched together in confusion and she bent over to rest her palms against her knees. She shut her eyes tight and dragged in several deep breaths.

“Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Her dad placed a hand on her back and leaned down to check on her. Sakura nodded and stood up to clutch her cramping side.

“I-I’m fine. I just…” She glanced over his shoulder to the darkened streets of their neighborhood. “I freaked myself out walking home. Thought someone was following me.”

He frowned in concern and looked out at their surroundings for a moment. “There’s no one out there, pumpkin.”

“I know,” she breathed with a nod. “I’m sorry for knocking the trash over.”

Together, they stooped to pick up the mess of empty canned foods and wrapping paper before stuffing it back into the bins. Kizashi pushed it down and secured the lid once more before guiding her back through the fence. Her heart was still hammering like a drum as they stepped inside the house. Sakura hung her coat up on the rack just inside and dragged in another shaking breath, ignoring the look of concern from her father.

“Oh, good,” her mother said as she poked her head around the archway leading into the kitchen. “Just in time for dinner.”

“I’m not hungry. I kind of got full on junk food.” Sakura put a hand to her stomach. She was beginning to regret the enormous Sundae she had eaten in Diagon Alley. A brush with terror didn’t mix well with sugar and dairy apparently.

“Well, shoot.” Mebuki moved into the living room and put her hands on her hips. “I suppose I could pack up the extra portions and take them to the Hakodas.”

The mention of the family made Sakura freeze and she chewed absently at her lower lip. Her parents moved into the kitchen again and left her standing in the center of the living area. The television was muted but the evening news was playing just as she figured it would be. Slowly, Sakura stepped toward the kitchen and leaned a shoulder against the side of the archway.

“Hey dad?”

“Yup?” He asked as he set a spoonful of vegetables on his plate.

“That guy, the one who’s missing—” Both her parents stopped preparing their plates and turned to look at her with furrowed brows. “He worked with you, right?”

“Not in my department, but we worked for the same firm. He handled the collection department. Why do you ask?” He set his plate on the table but didn’t take a seat. Sakura watched him grip the back of the chair and lean on it.

“I saw his picture today in Diagon Alley, in the newspaper. They said he was a wizard.”

Both of their jaws dropped and they shared a look before her mother turned back to her. “We had no idea. But, this is good news! This means there are people on both sides looking for him!”

Sakura winced and looked down to her feet. “They called the search off for him.”

“Oh, dear…”

The small kitchen was filled with a sudden spike of sadness and Sakura, still feeling the last remnants of her adrenaline coursing through her, wanted nothing more than to escape to her room and crash. Though a hot shower was definitely another top priority for her. She forced a smile and backed away from the kitchen. “I’m going to take a bath.”

Her mother held up a finger and crossed back into the living room where a roll top desk stood against the wall. “This came for you today while you were out.” She handed over a slender envelope and Sakura stared down at the messy handwriting spelling out her name.

Even after everything that had happened that day, the corner of her lips lifted in a smile. She took the letter and looked up at her mother who held a very cheeky look on her face. The woman leaned in closer and cast a quick glance back into the kitchen to make sure Kizashi wasn’t eaves dropping.

“Is it from the boy you like?”

Boy

Sakura had to swallow to keep from telling her mother that Kakashi was definitely not a boy. Instead, she nodded and held the envelop to her chest, fighting the blush that crept up her face. With a wink, her mother returned to the kitchen and sat down at the dinner table. Once they were occupied, Sakura hurried to her room and shut the door behind her.

As much as she was dying to take a shower and wash the day away, she needed to read his words more, needed the comfort she hoped they’d bring her. Her finger ripped into the sealed paper and pulled the letter out to unfold it.

‘Sakura,

Did you have a good Christmas? I hope you got everything you asked for. I’ve been thinking about what you said in your last letter, about lying in front of the fire together. Maybe soon we can have another chance to do that.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to receive a response from you this time. The Ministry is sending me to London, but I won’t have a chance to see you unfortunately. Your offer is quite tempting, though. Tempting me is what you do best, but I like it. I will see you when you get back to the castle this weekend. Stay safe.

Yours, KH

P.S. I will try to work on my handwriting. You’re not the first person to complain’

She read it twice and had to take a seat on the edge of her bed the second time around. How could he make her feel such a wide variety of things with just a few sentences? She was disappointed she wouldn’t be able to respond to him, which meant she had three days to convince herself that what had happened today had been nothing but her overactive imagination. With a sigh, she folded the letter back up and slipped it into the edge of her suitcase. It would be nothing but trouble if her parents found it while she was back at Hogwarts. There’s no way they would believe Kakashi was just another student if they happened upon his letters.

.

.

Three days later, Sakura stood on the Platform 9 and 3 quarters with her suitcase sitting beside her legs and a bag of extra clothes hanging at her side. She had gotten more than she expected for Christmas and was both eager and dreading wearing her new outfits at Hogwarts. On one hand, she was glad to finally have something other than hand me downs, while on the other, it was nothing compared to the outfit Hinata was currently decked out in.

A cashmere beret set on top of her black hair while her black sweater matched in both color and material. Paired with dark, designer jeans that hugged her hips and legs, and she looked as if she had stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. Sakura tried not to be jealous but couldn’t help wishing she had something similar to show up in.

The black, long sleeved shirt she had received from her great aunt fit her nicely and made her look as if she had some kind of curves to offer but her self-consciousness forced her to tug on an oversized sweater to hide behind. It hung from her arms and shoulders as if it were made for someone triple her size.

With a soft pop behind them, Hinata and Sakura whirled around to see Ino’s sleepy face. She buried a yawn into the bend of her elbow and sighed as she stepped up to lay her head on Sakura’s shoulder. “A two week break isn’t nearly long enough. I’m in no mood to ride a train for the next few hours.”

“Well,” Sakura started, turning to stare at the long, red train in front of them. “How about we don’t?”

“What? You want to apparate?” Ino asked incredulously, lifting her head off of her friend’s shoulder to give a look of doubt.

“I thought it made you sick.”

“It does.” With a shrug, Sakura reached for the handle of her suitcase and clicked it into place. “But I’m in no mood for a train ride either.”

Ino scoffed and situated the strap of her bag further up her shoulder. “That eager to get back to homework and essays?”

“Something like that,” Sakura mumbled, pulling out her wand before giving them a quick glance. “Ready?”

Ino took hold of her elbow with one hand and Hinata did the same on the other side of her. Together, they held their wands out and with a pop, they disappeared from the platform. Sakura held her breath and eyes shut through the process and when they landed on their feet on the platform in Hogsmeade, she realized her mistake.

Sure, they were only a short carriage ride away from the castle, but her stomach was flopping angrily and threatening to send her breakfast back the way it had come. She groaned and swallowed her nausea as Hinata straightened her beret. One of the wheels of Sakura’s suitcases had been left behind on Platform 9 and 3 quarters and she let out a sigh in annoyance. “This was new luggage…”

“Well, you shouldn’t have left it behind,” Ino called over her shoulder with a laugh. Unfazed by the sudden jerk through time and space, she bounced toward the carriage house and requested one for the three of them.

An attendant loaded their bags and luggage onto the carriage and shut the door once they had settled inside. The cart, pulled by nothing, lurched forward and Sakura turned to stare out the glass pane window of the door to her right. She couldn’t hold in her nervous energy anymore. Her foot bounced against the seat and she picked nervously at her bottom lip.

Somewhere ahead, in the depths of the castle, Kakashi sat waiting for her and she was desperate to see him again. Not just to tell him about what had happened, though she hadn’t exactly made up her mind about telling him or not, but because she had missed him. It wasn’t fair that each time they kissed, something happened to separate them from one another.

First, he had been called away by the Ministry for an entire week and the next, Christmas break kept them apart for two weeks. The letters they had sent had done little to satisfy her and she was craving more…so much more.

In the bag she kept at her side, right in the front pocket, sat the round, plastic compact full of her birth control pills. She had brought a two month supply with her and her mother had assured her she would send the rest when she picked up the prescription. Sakura decided she wouldn’t tell Kakashi about it, just in case he was still having reservations about taking things to the next level.

As much as she appreciated his control and desire not to pressure her into something she’d regret, she didn’t need it. She wasn’t going to expose him if things didn’t work out and she hoped he’d trust her enough not to. There was just as much riding on her secrecy as his.

“So,” Ino’s voice broke through her thoughts and she blinked in surprise. “What’s your plan for getting Naruto?”

Sakura frowned, unsure of what she even meant, until she realized the question had been for Hinata. The girl sighed and played with her fingers over her lap. “I’m not sure. What can I even do?”

“Pull him into the restricted section—”

“You need a permission form for that,” Sakura offered, though her advice was ignored.

“—Or an empty classroom. Kiss him after a Quidditch game, write him a sexy note, walk up to him and say ‘Naruto, take me now’.”

Hinata giggled and buried her blushing face into her hands. “I can’t do any of that!” She looked up with a shake of her head and scowled playfully. “What are you going to do to get Sai?”

“I just told you,” Ino said with a sniff and crossed her arms over her chest. “I plan to do all of that. Kiss him after a Quidditch game, pull him into an empty room, and tell him to take me now.” They all shared a giggle, though Sakura felt the gears in her head turning with sudden inspiration. She turned back to look out the window once more, glancing through the trees up at the castle. “This year, we will get the boys we want. Maybe even Sakura can find one to sink her teeth into.”

Sakura rolled her eyes. “No thanks. I’ve sworn off boys.”

“I’m sure you’ll change your tune before graduation.”

Don’t hold your breath, Sakura thought to herself. She didn’t want boys any longer. What she wanted was a distraction from all the bullshit she had been dealing with the last month and only one person could give her. One man. And with Ino’s brilliant, if not a bit immature suggestions, Sakura found herself devising a plan to get exactly what she wanted.

 


 

The small hut at the edge of the grounds was a bit too warm, thanks to the fire raging in the wide hearth that took up half the northern wall. The logs crackled and hissed and the two men sitting on either side of the table in the center of the room knocked back two more shots of Fire Whisky. Kakashi grimaced as he set his glass down on the table and didn’t bother replacing the mask around his nose.

It was sweltering without it and he knew adding alcohol to the mix wouldn’t give him any relief. Thankfully, Jiraiya put the legs of his chair back onto the floorboards with a chuckle and reached to open one of the swinging windows behind him. “Thought you could drink like the rest of us, Hatake.”

“I can,” he managed to croak, reaching for the neck of the bottle. It was going to be his last shot of the night. He had already taken two too many as it was. “But its been a while since I’ve had something this strong.”

Jiraiya propped his feet on the arm of another chair and leaned his back with a lopsided grin stretching across his face. “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that excuse before.”

Kakashi recapped the bottle and stared down at his filled shot glass, debating on whether or not he should take it. Gods knew he needed a stiff drink after the week—or maybe months—he’s had. But he still wanted a clear head. It was the first night the students were back in the castle after all, and the brief dinner that he attended just to see Sakura hadn’t been enough to satisfy him.

She had been much too far away but he caught her looking several times and each time her lips would curl into a small smile that made him want to cross the Great Hall and sweep her up into his arms. It had been torture. And the ache was still bothering him two hours later.

He snatched the shot glass from the table and knocked it back, eyeing the desk behind Jiraiya out of the corner of his eye. Another grimace and he wiped the back of his hand across his lips. “I see you’ve been busy,” he said, nodding to the stack of hand-written pages littering the desktop.

Lifting another shot himself, Jiraiya sighed and downed his liquor. “It’s mostly bullshit. I haven’t had the time or resources to do any research. What with my responsibilities as a professor these days.”

It was clear by the tone of his voice that the novelty of teaching the youth of the future had worn off and in its place was what all the other professors had been feeling for the past few months. This time of year, the burnout was real. Kakashi smirked and stared down into the empty glass in his hand.

“What about Hogsmeade? Nothing to research there?”

“Bah!” Jiraiya dropped his feet to the floor with a loud thud and snatched the bottle again. “Those witches don’t know what they want. Someone to chase them around and buy them gifts or drinks, more than likely. Who has time for that?”

Kakashi shifted on the chair and returned his glass to the table, declining Jiraiya’s offer to refill it. He crossed his arms over his chest and turned to stare into the rampant flames in the hearth. “What about your contacts? Heard anything from them lately?”

“A bit. There was some trouble with a dragon not too long ago. It was resolved before the muggles got wind of it.” Jiraiya took a deep breath and heaved a sigh. “Other than that, it’s been relatively quiet.”

“Which makes me nervous. I’ve worked with the Ministry long enough to know that no news of dark wizards, isn’t good news.”

Jiraiya let out a snort of a laugh and capped the whisky bottle. They’d had enough to drink and the turn of the conversation called for a more sober mind. He slid the bottle to the side and put his elbows on the table. “Didn’t you go to London this last week? What’d you find there?”

The thought of London made him sigh and push a hand through his hair. The Ministry had sent him an urgent message requiring him to follow a lead that led absolutely nowhere. Of course, he had stumbled upon a nice surprise in Diagon Alley, though he had stayed undercover through it. The thought brought a small curl to the corner of his lips before he sighed.

“Not a damn thing. We get leads, little hints of activity, but when we follow up, there’s nothing to find. It’s like they’re trying to make us go around and around in circles for some reason.”

“Maybe they’re hoping the Ministry stops taking the threats seriously,” Jiraiya suggested. “They can’t keep sending their Aurors out for no reason and these wizards know it.”

“Possibly. It still makes no sense. Every bit of information we get is taken seriously. Even if a thousand tips come in tomorrow, the Ministry would investigate them all to the fullest.” Kakashi leaned his head back and let out a deep breath. The effects of the alcohol were already swimming through his head and he chuckled softly. “I feel like the Christmas festival was just last night. I barely got a break.”

For a moment, Jiraiya was quiet. Kakashi watched him roll the shot glass back and forth over the weathered wood of the table He glanced to the bottle and grabbed it by the neck, refilling his cup for one more shot. “You know,” he asked while capping the bottle. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about that night.”

“What night?”

“Of the Christmas Festival.” He lifted the shot to his mouth and Kakashi felt the slow creep of fear settle through him. It didn’t mix well with the alcohol. Jiraiya met his eyes over the rim of his shot glass before downing the thing in one gulp. “Where’d you disappear to so early? It was barely nine when you left.”

Somehow, through the haze of whisky working its way through his system, Kakashi managed to keep his face devoid of any emotion. He gave his friend a shrug. “Ah, I just didn’t feel like being there anymore. I’m sure Tsunade had a lot to say about me ducking out early.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and wracked his brain for any excuse to leave this conversation early as well. He met Jiraiya’s gaze and felt his poker face starting to crumble, forcing a laugh to bubble from his throat. “Figured I’d rather pass out in the peace and quiet of my office rather than a party with a bunch of teenagers.”

The lack of proper undercover work had made his skills on keeping his face stoic and unmoving start to slip. Sweat gathered along the small of his back and he assured himself that Jiraiya knew nothing. Unless he had snuck out of the party and followed Sakura up to the 7th floor. A jolt of panic zipped through him but his senses caught it in time before it made him do or say something rash. There’s no way he would have left a party to follow a single student through the castle.

“I figured,” Jiraiya said with a chuckle. It reassured the other man and he let out a small breath of relief. Until the next words left Jiraiya’s lips. “But, you know? I thought you’d go to your office, so I swung by to have a few drinks with you and you weren’t there.”

Kakashi laughed and folded his hands behind his head. He kept his eyes on Jiraiya’s, knowing it was far more suspicious not to make eye contact when lying. “What’s with the third degree? I stepped out for a while to take a piss. It was probably when you stopped by.” The clock on the mantle above the fire struck 9 and Kakashi leaned forward with a sigh. “Shit, I should probably get back to the castle before I’m too drunk to walk through the snow.”

“Right. Of course.” He didn’t believe a word Kakashi said. It made him flinch inwardly and as they both stood, the younger of the two offered a lazy wave goodbye.

“See you.”

“See ya, kid.”

The cold of the winter night met him with force but he welcomed the blast of frigid air. Even with the door open, the warmth of the fire was enough to add to the sweat at Kakashi’s back and he didn’t find relief until he was back on the narrow trail leading to the castle. Halfway up the slope of the hill, he glanced back to the hut and frowned.

There was no way he knew anything. It wasn’t possible. The room wouldn’t have revealed them and if the door had opened, he was a light enough sleeper to be alerted awake by creaking hinges. Nothing had happened, no one suspected them. Kakashi was just paranoid.

He closed his coat around his waist and pulled the mask back up around his face. In the snow, the lights of the castle glowed softly and each of the lamp posts on the path offered enough light to find his way back into the courtyard. He kicked the snow from the heels of his boots and ducked into one of the side entrances.

Though his body was aching to return to his living quarters and find solace in the bed, possibly with more whisky, he was also hoping to bump into someone specific. At the thought of seeing her in the hallways, after curfew, alone, his body was aching for something else and he hurried out into the main stairwell.

It was empty except for the hundreds of portraits staring down at him and he wondered if she would be passing through here at all. He wasn’t sure if it was her night to patrol the halls for anyone sneaking out of bed, but he figured it wouldn’t hurt to wander around just in case.

He made his way up to the second floor to check in the infirmary. The lights were dimmed and Hana wasn’t at her usual spot at her desk. None of the beds were occupied and judging by the quiet of the wing, he figured he wouldn’t find what he was looking for there. Was he being ridiculous?

After the conversation he had with Jiraiya, the last thing on his mind should have been where he could bump into a girl that might get him thrown into Azkaban. Then again, she was of age and consenting—hopefully. He scrubbed a hand over his forehead and found the stairwell once more. This was ludicrous. No matter how badly he wanted her, he couldn’t be careless. Not now. Not after the suspicion he had seen in Jiraiya’s eyes as he spouted lie after lie to the man.

Maybe it was for the best for him to retire to his room with a good book. He could take care of that ache by himself, with the help of his imagination and the pages of Make-Out Tactics. Of course, he’d have to swing by his office to retrieve the book first.

He doubled back and hurried up to the third floor, finding his way easily through the dark hallways with the light of the full moon glowing in through the windows. The door at the end of the hall was shut and locked, just how he had left it earlier that day. He used his wand to unlock it and slipped inside, heading for the stairs at the back of the room.

He never made it to the stairs.

A single parchment laying in the center of his desk caught his eye and he stopped in his tracks, blinking down at it. He distinctly remembered cleaning his desk off the last night of class. Had someone left him a note?

Kakashi reached down and pulled the page toward him. Even in the dim light of the moon shining through the windows, he recognized the handwriting and it made his heart skip a beat. He moved closer to the windows and stared down at the words Sakura had written him.

There’s a student out of bed in the Restricted Section. She might need to be punished.

He swallowed hard and glanced around the room, just in case he was being tricked by some evil, unforeseen force. When no one popped out to arrest him for his perversions, he felt the corner of his lips lift in a smirk. She was going to be the death of him, but it was a death he would enjoy every minute of.

Abandoning his search for his trusty book, Kakashi turned on his heel and folded the note into a square as he went. He touched the tip of his wand to the corner and watched as small, hungry flames consumed the note. A note like that, while at first glance might look like an innocent suggestion from another professor, would be rather incriminating in the wrong hands. It was best to prevent that from happening.

The journey to the library was quiet and he encountered no other person out of bed. Even the professors were holed up for the night, getting their last fix of freedom before the semester started on Monday. Knowing that there would be little to no interruptions tonight threw fuel on the fire already raging inside him.

He pushed through the library doors and paused at the front desk, glancing into the offices behind it. The lights were off and the door was shut. Madame Utatane, thankfully, was an early sleeper on nights when she couldn’t be disturbed by students. Kakashi sent a silent prayer up to thank the heavens and he made his way through the towering stacks and never ending study tables.

Directly passed the Muggle Studies section, he found the familiar gates of the Restricted Section and the lock hung to the side, open and inviting. He took a deep breath and looked through the shelves, hoping to catch a glimpse of her through the gaps between the books. There was a soft light glowing from the back corner, but she was well hidden.

As quietly as he could, Kakashi slipped in through the gate and made his way through the maze of dusty bookshelves. And around the section on the proper technique of shrinking heads, he found exactly who he was looking for. Sakura sat on one of the tables, her legs swinging back and forth as she read from a book open on her lap, the chain still attached to the shelf at her right.

Her eyes didn’t meet his, but he caught sight of the smile twisting her lips as he leaned a shoulder against the nearest shelf. The chains rattled softly and still, she didn’t lift her head. Instead, she spoke, reading the words on the open page.

“I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer. Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale. Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry, Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.” With a thump, she closed the book and finally looked up at him. The fire in her gaze made his breath stop and he found himself biting his lip behind his mask. “Now, why would Shakespeare need to be hidden away in the Restricted Section?”

Muggle literature wasn’t one of Kakashi’s strengths and he shrugged a shoulder. He had heard of Shakespeare, knew he was a 17th century poet and playwright, but had no familiarity with the specifics of his works. Judging by the words she had softly spoke, he might change his mind.

Kakashi pushed away from the shelf and slowly made his way to her. He took the book from her lap and slipped it back into the large gap where it belonged. “You know,” he said quietly, folding his arms over his chest. “The door to my classroom was locked. Care to explain how you left that note?”

The smile that stretched her lips was mischievous and he wanted to kiss it right off of her. He kept control of himself and instead, studied her face in the soft glow of the desk lamp. Her hair was down and straightened, though a small section was pinned back above her ear.

“I suppose I need to be punished for that.”

Gods, her words made him clench his jaw, made the fire of desire lick at his insides and left him nearly breathless. He lifted his hand and curled a finger beneath her chin, tilting her head back as he stepped closer to her. “That wouldn’t be a very good idea, Miss Haruno. I wouldn’t want you to be too loud and catch someone’s attention.”

She slid closer to the edge of the desk and parted her knees so they were on either side of his hips. When she spoke, her voice was a whisper. “It’s a good thing I already put a silencing charm on the whole Restricted Section.”

He couldn’t help the groan that rumbled deep within his chest and he dipped his head toward the stretch of her throat above her shirt collar. She wore her school uniform and as much as he had wanted to see her in something more casual, he wasn’t complaining about the ease of access to her thighs. He pushed his hands beneath the material of her skirt and pulled her closer to him.

Even through his boxers and pants, he could feel her warmth and it sent a shiver of arousal coursing through him like a lightening bolt. He moved to her ear and pressed a kiss to the lobe. “A table isn’t much better than the floor, but you’re making me want to fuck you anyway.”

“Professor Hatake,” she purred, making his hands grip the flesh of her hips harder. “That’s awfully vulgar of you. As Head Girl, it’s my duty to make sure everyone is on their best behavior. Whatever shall I do with you?”

Oh, she was teasing him so deliciously, so torturously. He loved every second of it, though it was rare for him to be the one being teased. With a breathy moan, he used his grip on her to pull her harder against him and the gasp she let out made his lips curl into a smile. She could feel every hardening inch of him against her center and he gave another grind into the warmth between her legs.

Sakura’s head fell back and he caught it with one hand, fingers curling through her hair. She pawed at his shoulders, her hands slipping beneath his coat to spread across his chest and he smiled wickedly against the muscles of her throat. He leaned toward her ear once more.

“Can you feel what you do to me?”

The only answer she could give was a whimper and he wanted to taste the desire on her lips. He pulled his mask down around his neck and pressed quick kisses along her jaw until he could capture her lips with his. She sank into his arms and kissed him, matching his hunger and intensity perfectly. There wasn’t a part of her that he didn’t want to touch and his hands roamed down her body, over her legs and back up beneath her skirt.

He ground his hips into hers and drank in the sharp cry of desire she let out. The press of his cock against his pants was almost unbearable and each push against her center made desire spike white hot through him. With another gasp, her lips fell away from his and the wrinkle between her brow made him chuckle.

“How does it feel so good when we’re still wearing clothes?” She whispered, fingers reaching to grip the fabric of his coat in front of his chest to pull him back against her.

Kakashi nearly lost all control in that moment. All of the tension surrounding the two of them, the last few weeks when all he could think about was her and how it felt to kiss her, it was suddenly too overwhelming to ignore. His breath was shallow and pulse racing as he dipped his head back to her throat to kiss hungrily at her flesh.

“I could make it feel even better,” he murmured, lips passing like ghosts over her neck. She shivered in his arms and he nipped at the sensitive skin just beneath her ear.

“Yes,” she whispered as her fingers raked through his hair. “Please.”

His hands were moving before his brain could even catch up and just like the night in his office, he found the hem of her panties beneath her skirt. She didn’t stop him and as she lifted up off the table to give him room to tug them down, he groaned. He could already smell her and it drove him mad with lust.  The pair of white, cotton panties fell quickly to the floor and he was hard as a fucking rock knowing she was now completely exposed for him.

But despite how badly he wanted to bury himself inside her, he had other plans for tonight.

If she thought she could tease him and get away with it, she was sorely mistaken. He gathered her skirt and pushed it to her hips, pausing long enough to sear her lips with another kiss. When he broke away, she was panting and practically writhing on the table top.

“Do you trust me?” He asked, hands caressing the tops of her thighs gently. Her eyes opened and her lips parted in surprise. She was quick to nod, but he wanted to hear her say it.

“Yes,” she whispered with another nod. “I trust you.”

He took a step back, ignoring her whimper of protest and stripped his coat off. He draped it over the table beside her and loosened the top button of his shirt, giving him enough room to slip it, and his mask over his head completely. The look she gave him was full of hunger and while he wanted to give her enough time to study his body, he had other pressing matters to attend to.

Kakashi took hold of her knees and pushed them open as wide as they would go. The fabric of her skirt hung between her thighs and he stepped between them, pushing it back up around her waist. He could see a nervous excitement on her face and he paused long enough to make sure she wasn’t having second thoughts.

When she made no protest, he returned to her throat and pressed soft kisses along her neck and collar bone. His fingers moved expertly over the buttons of her shirt until it fell open and he could see that familiar white bra he had seen once before.

Her chest rose and fell with every ragged breath and judging by the beat of her heart he could feel at the pulse of her neck, he knew she was ready. Slowly, he lowered himself down to the floor until he was on his knees in front of her and he looked up one final time to see her eyes flutter close. She fell back against the wall behind her and gripped the edge of the table one either side of her hips.

The small squeak she let out as he lifted her skirt made him smirk and he pulled her closer to his face, breathing her scent deep in through his nose. He wondered if she had ever touched herself while thinking of him. Gods, he hoped she had.

With his thumb, he traced the slit between her legs and brought it to his mouth, tasting the wetness that came away from her. He could feel the tremble in her legs as he draped one knee over his shoulder and his eyes lifted to her face seconds before he replaced his thumb with the flat of his tongue. She let out a gasp and arched off the wall, her fingers finding purchase in the hair at the back of his head.

Pain stung from her grip, but he liked it. It drove him onward and he slipped his tongue between her folds, pausing to lap slow, teasing strokes over her clit. Sakura sucked in a breath and immediately followed it with a strangled cry that echoed off the books around them, testing the strength of her silencing charm.

He pulled back enough to let out a soft laugh. “As much as I love hearing you moan, you might want to be quiet.”

“Silencing charm,” she replied in a single breath. “Don’t stop.”

He grinned and returned his mouth where she was needing him. He gripped her thigh with one hand, pulling her legs open wide, before dipping his tongue back into her pussy. This time, he was ready for her to arch into him and he kept her steady as he curled his tongue around her clit and sucked.

He lifted his gaze to her face, catching the pinch of concentration between her brows and the whimpers that parted her lips. He flattened his tongue against her, and she fell back against the wall, her hand moving to her bra. She pulled the fabric down and the sight of her nipple made him regret not spending more time there. A mistake he wouldn’t make in the future.

Kakashi moaned as she pinched the taut bud in her fingers and her hips quivered against his face. He circled a hand around her other thigh and held her in place as he lapped and sucked and licked. Every drag of his tongue over her slick folds was better than the last and the sounds she made, the broken moans and breaths that came out in quick, short puffs added to the throbbing ache in his cock.

He tried to control himself, but in the end, he couldn’t. He hurried through the button and fly of his pants, reaching in to pull his cock free and as it filled his palm, he moaned deep against her. The vibration on his lips made Sakura’s breath hitch and the twitch of her hips over his tongue only made him want more.

He stroked his length in time with each swirl of his tongue around her clit and a quick pass of his thumb over the tip came away slick. Gods, he was already close. But then again, that wasn’t very surprising knowing he had refrained from touching himself for the past few weeks, knowing it would never compare to her.

Above him, Sakura pinched her bottom lip between her teeth and whispered something he couldn’t hear, though he took it as her begging him not to stop. He worked his jaw, lapping his tongue flat over her for a few strokes before returning to the swirl of the tip around her sensitive bud. Each breath and every gasp and moan brought him closer to the edge and he pumped his fist faster over his cock.

Tension gathered hot and tight within him, but he refused to come this quick—not before her.

He slowed his strokes and focused his concentration solely on her. Everything about her in that moment was something he wanted to remember for a very long time. From her parted lips, chest rising and falling with each breath and the stretch of her body above him as she arched and shuddered; it all painted a picture that could make him come just by looking at it.

He felt his own hips twitch and he picked up the speed of his strokes once more. She was close and he wanted to come with her.

“Oh, fuck,” she whispered, her mouth moving through more words though no sound escaped her lips. Only when he sucked her clit into the curl of his tongue and kept his pace steady did she make another sound. “Kakashi…please.”

His resolve was slipping fast. He could feel his cock pulsing hard and thick in his hands and with every stroke down and back up, he was losing control.

Sakura’s thighs trembled while the rest of her body went rigid. Her mouth fell open and for a few brief seconds, Kakashi watched, silently urging her to come for him. With a strangled cry, her body quivered in on itself and she bucked her hips into his tongue. She rolled back and forth in time with the waves of her orgasm and he allowed himself to find his own release.

As he lapped at her slick sex in the last throes of her orgasm, he gave the final pumps over his cock and found his own orgasm. It was strong enough to make him let out a low groan and he pulled away from her, dropping his forehead against her thigh. He panted breathlessly as the last of his seed dripped over the cobble stone floor of the Restricted Section.

Even as he sat back on his heels and slipped his cock back into his boxers, he was still struggling to catch his breath. He looked up at her and watched her slip off the edge of the table. She knelt beside him, her hands spreading warm and trembling over his chest and shoulders. She searched his eyes, her own half-lidded with the remnants of their desire before pressing her lips to his.

Whether she tasted herself on his tongue or not, he wasn’t sure. He reached his clean hand toward her and pushed his fingers through her hair, holding her steady, exactly where he needed her. Their kiss wasn’t anything like the one before. All of their hunger and need and lust had faded and all Kakashi could taste on her lips now was something that eclipsed everything else.

There was a neediness in her kiss, a desperation for him that he could feel sinking through him like a hot knife. Even when she pulled away and touched her forehead to his, he kept his eyes closed as he stroked her hair. He couldn’t explain it, didn’t exactly want to, but he knew that in this moment, he was happy, and he never wanted it to end.

Sakura brushed the back of her fingers across his jaw and the sound of her soft laugh opened his eyes. She was blushing bright enough to light the entire library and Kakashi smiled. “What?”

“Nothing,” she whispered, curling a strand of his hair around her middle finger. “I just didn’t expect such a nice welcome back.”

He laughed and ducked his head this time, leaning to the side to reposition his legs. He ignored the signs of his age and pulled her into his lap. She sat with her legs on either side of his hips, her head resting in the crook of his neck and shoulder and gods, it felt good just to hold her.

Everything melted away in that moment. All the stress, all the fear of someone catching them, the worry he felt for her safety. In that moment, it didn’t exist. He wanted to live in that moment, never wanted to leave, and as he stroked the hair down the back of her head, he ignored the little voice in the back of his head that told him it couldn’t last.