The fifth floor was so quiet that one could've heard a pin drop if they were listening closely and intently. All of the students had retired to bed for the night a mere few hours ago. Some earlier than others and some later than others, but for two students it was now becoming routine to remain awake after the scheduled curfew all the way up until an hour or two after midnight depending on how long their secret rendezvous would last.
Two distinct pairs of footsteps made their way quietly through the fifth floor, walking side by side as they did so. The shorter of the two followed the taller one's lead since she wasn't very familiar with the route to the entrance of the Ravenclaw common room, but had wanted to walk the taller girl there despite having no knowledge of her way there.
The fifth-year Ravenclaw didn't mind it, however, because she had been waiting on the seventh-year Slytherin to volunteer to walk her back to her common room for a little while now. After having already done it a couple of times before, Maki was sure that Nico would've learned the way by now, but apparently that wasn't the case.
Normally, the redhead would've been irritated by such a thing, but since the fact that it was Nico, who barely even remembered to do her homework and turn it in on time, along with the fact that Maki herself had only walked Nico back to the dungeons maybe once since they had began this whole ordeal, the fifth-year Ravenclaw realized that she didn't have any room to speak out on this particular issue.
Nico yawned as the two began to climb the spiral staircase that lead to the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room before she spoke through said yawn, scratching the back of her neck as she did so.
"Think anyone's still awake in there?" She asked.
Maki shook her head. "Highly doubt it. All of the prefects should be in bed by now since it's nearly three in the morning."
"That's a new record for us, though," Nico rubbed the sleepiness out of one of her eyes. She still had a long way to go back to her own common room after dropping Maki off here, so the small Slytherin couldn't afford to be sleepy right now with the long road ahead. "We've never stayed up this long together before."
"Morning will definitely come early for us." The fifth-year Ravenclaw said.
Nico sighed at that. "Yeah, and I have Potions first thing. Slughorn will be on my case the whole time."
"He won't be if you stay awake." Maki said, throwing a small, playful grin in the direction of her secret lover, which made Nico scoff.
"Easier said than done, you know."
The pair reached the top of the stairs, and Nico made to reach for the door handle to the common room only to come into contact with the smooth wood of said door, patting around the surface for any source of means of entry. She turned her head away from Maki to actually look at what she was reaching for and saw there wasn't any trace of a knob or handle.
"How the hell do you even get in here?" She asked as she looked the door over from top to bottom.
Maki sighed and shook her head at Nico's antics. Honestly, if the Sorting Hat had chosen to place Nico in Ravenclaw instead of Slytherin, the dark-haired female would not have survived. The redhead could picture it now. A first-year Nico in Ravenclaw robes camping out outside of the door to the Ravenclaw common room because she couldn't figure out a way inside, waiting on one of the other Ravenclaw students so she could hitch a ride by the backs of their robes for a way in.
No, Nico was far from Ravenclaw material, but Maki wouldn't have her any other way.
Silently and calmly, the redhead reached to the bronze knocker that had been fashioned into the shape of an eagle and knocked once before it spoke to her.
"I always run, but never walk. I often murmur, but never talk. I have a bed, but never sleep. I have a mouth, but never eat. What am I?"
Maki looked from the bronze knocker to Nico. "Do you know the answer?"
Nico put her hands up in defense. "If you're relying on me for this one, then you'll never get into the common room tonight. You're shit out of luck, princess."
The redhead formed her mouth into a solid line and hummed at Nico's reply before turning her head back toward the knocker, looking the small Slytherin into her ruby colored irises as she gave her answer.
"Well done, young Ravenclaw."
And with that the door swung open at the drop of a hat, leaving Nico speechless as she looked between the door and the fifth-year Ravenclaw in almost disbelief.
Maki moved to twirl a strand of scarlet hair, cheeks coloring red at the look she was being given. "What's with that look? You've seen me answer these riddles before."
"I have," Nico agreed, crossing her arms with a small grin. "And it's pretty hot if you ask me."
That made Maki's cheeks flush even more, which was very uncharacteristic of her in these situations when they were alone. Maybe the fact that they were right outside the common room with the door wide open made her self-conscious? That had to have been the reason.
But as the two gravitated toward each other for one last goodnight kiss before they would have to part ways, a figure darted forward from around the corner of the open door like lightning and a booming voice shouted in their direction.
Nico felt her legs lock together at the mercy of the spell and was sent tumbling down the spiral staircase before she could even attempt to regain her balance, groaning and moaning at every step she came into harsh contact with.
If the offending wand hadn't been pointed toward Maki, she would've already been on her way down to check on her fallen secret lover, who would most likely be covered in bruises come daylight or at the most would need to take a trip to the hospital wing if she had broken something, which was a definite possibility.
But at the recognition of long blue hair and stern amber eyes piercing her gaze, Maki felt relieved but not so relieved at being caught by a still in school uniform Umi.
"What are you doing out of bed this late?" She questioned in her authoritive prefect voice instead of the normal tone she used when they would hang around together.
Maki visibly gulped. Umi was absolutely not to be messed with while on prefect duty. Her authoritarian attitude gave her a low tolerance to lies and poorly made up excuses, which made her an absolute terror among the entire student body and not just the house of Ravenclaw alone.
"I think the same could be said for you, couldn't it?" Maki reasoned carefully. "Prefect duty should've ended hours ago, right? So why are you still awake?"
Umi was not deterred in the slightest as she answered quickly and clearly. "Tonight was my turn to patrol the library, and as I was making my way back to the common room, I was asked by one of the Hufflepuff prefects to assist in helping clear a classroom of ectoplasmic buildup, which took longer than I initially expected. I just arrived here about fifteen minutes ago."
The gears of Maki's intelligent mind were working overtime despite the fact that it was a little after three in the morning. There was just something about Umi's story that did not quite add up. If prefect duties ended around midnight or a little before that time, combined with her helping another prefect rid a classroom of ectoplasm afterward, which could have taken at least maybe five to thirty minutes at the most depending on how much there was and if the Skurge charm was used.
This timeline the fifth-year Ravenclaw had pieced together in her mind placed Umi's estimated time of completing both prefect patrol and the removal of the ectoplasm in between the times of one o'clock and one-thirty. It was already a little after three, and the blue-haired Ravenclaw said she had arrived fifteen minutes before she heard them, which would have placed her arrival to the Ravenclaw common room around two forty-five.
If Maki's conjecture proved to be correct about the estimated time of Umi finishing both tasks, then what on earth was she doing between that time and her stated time of arrival here? The trek back to Ravenclaw Tower from the library certainly did not take an hour and fifteen minutes. Nothing added up here.
But then Maki noticed a particular detail about the Ravenclaw prefect's blue hair thanks to the light of the lit torch on the wall and couldn't help but voice her concerns aloud.
"Umi, did you just get out of the bath?"
"Who the hell takes a bath at the ass crack of dawn?" Nico piped up from the very bottom of the stairs, eavesdropping on the conversation between the two Ravenclaw students at the top of the stairs while laying flat on her back, legs still locked together in place.
The blue-haired sixth-year sighed, moving the offending wand away from Maki and letting her arm fall to her side at rest with said wand still in hand. "It's very difficult to find a suitable time during the day for a bath."
"If it's because of Nozomi and Eli, then I totally get it. I wouldn't want to take a bath while they're in there, either," The dark-haired Slytherin visibly shuddered at the thought of the gross things they undoubtedly did in the Prefect's Bathroom when no one was in there with them. "Thank god I'm not a prefect. Now, can one of you get a move on and help me out here? I think I'll be okay enough to stand up."
Both Ravenclaw girls made their way down the spiral staircase hurriedly with Umi leading the way, wand at the ready for the counter spell to the Leg-Locker curse.
And once the pair made their way to the bottom of the stairs, Nico was laying on her back with her arms splayed out on either side of her body, staring up at the ceiling since that was pretty much all she could do with her legs being locked together and undoubtedly sore from the tumble she had taken.
Umi flicked her beech wood and dragon heartstring wand at the invisible binding on Nico's legs, breaking the curse and giving Nico a sigh of relief at the feeling of being able to use her legs again.
"My apologies, Nico," Umi bowed slightly in her direction. "I was just about to change clothes and settle in for the night when I heard the door to the common room open."
The small Slytherin managed to stand to her feet and hissed slightly in pain when her back popped. "It's cool. No worries. I'm pretty sure I haven't broken anything, so we're good. Accidents happen."
"You're living proof of that, wouldn't you say?" Maki commented, resorting back to their bickering facade to which Nico fell back into with ease as well.
"Umi?" Nico prodded, grabbing the blue-haired Ravenclaw by the shoulders and looking her directly in the eyes. "That spell you cast on me? Take Maki back up the stairs and cast it on her so maybe when she falls down the stairs, it'll shatter that fragile ego of hers."
"Cut it out. Both of you. It's too early for this. I'm not even going to ask why you two were up past curfew in the first place because of that very reason. I'm exhausted, I have a headache, and classes start in just a few hours. Maki, if you hurry on up and get into bed, I won't deduct any house points. Nico, go back to the dungeons as quickly as possible, and I won't inform Nozomi or any of the other Slytherin prefects about catching you out of bed as well. I'm letting you both off with a warning, but if I catch either of you out of bed again, then I will deem the necessary punishments. Now go on. Both of you."
Both Nico and Maki looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes, sharing that same sense of relief at not being caught and that Umi was willing to forget this all even happened. It wasn't every day that Umi let a student off with a simple warning, let alone two students, and they intended to take full advantage of it. But they both also made a silent pact to never stay up this late ever again. It would definitely come back to bite them both whenever they had to wake up for class in the morning.
Both of them said their silent goodbyes and did as they were told, Maki climbing the stairway back up to the Ravenclaw common room and Nico making a direct beeline for the Slytherin common room down in the dungeons of the castle.
When both were out of sight, Umi let out her own sigh of relief at not being caught as well.
Maki was definitely intelligent, and if Nico hadn't been here as a primary distraction for the redhead then she surely would have deduced that one doesn't typically spend that long of a time taking a simple bath as Umi had spent tonight lest the water turn cold as ice. She had completed her prefect rounds and assisted in removing the ectoplasm, which did take longer than she had initially expected. She just didn't necessarily state how long it had taken, though, but what she had disclosed to Maki earlier was all the redhead needed to know anyway.
And yes, she did take a bath after all of that, but that was all she had done. Maki knew she had taken one because of the wet state of her hair, and that was all the redhead had figured out. Nothing more, nothing less.
And as Umi climbed the staircase to the Ravenclaw common room, she couldn't help but think of the reason why she had bothered to spend that long in the Prefect's Bathroom, and that reason may or may not have included a certain sixth-year Hufflepuff who also had privileges to the same bathroom because of her own prefect status.
But no one really knew what really went on the whole night turned morning except the blue-haired Ravenclaw prefect.
And maybe or maybe not Kotori Minami.