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On Fear: Boggarts and the Dichotomy of Self

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The countryside passed by in a cascade of greens, yellows, and browns. It was an image Jeongyeon had taken in well-over a dozen time by now, and yet it never failed to fill her chest with anticipation. She wished, ever so briefly, that she owned a pensieve. It would be nice to revisit this memory next year, when her September 1st would probably be just another day at work.

A finger poked her side for the third time in the last two minutes, but she did her best to continuing ignoring it. She could hear the voices of her friends around her, the cabin swelling with the noise of summers apart being shared. She could hear Momo bragging to Tzuyu about all of the amazing places her and Sana went this summer, Mina gently chiming in when it was an adventure that she had also been on. Chaeyoung and Dahyun’s voices carried above the rest, yelling about whose trip to France had been more impressive.

There were only three voices missing from the chorus of sound, and one of those could be attributed to prefect duties, which meant that Jeongyeon was one of two people not joining in the chaos of the moment. Jeongyeon missed Jihyo — she really did — but her ears were grateful for her absence.

By this point in the ride, she had done her shouting, and she was content to let the voices wash around her as she admired the scenery. It was clear though, by the finger once more digging into her side, that the second silent member of the cabin had other plans for her. She continued to stare out of the window, determined not to let Nayeon win.

Nayeon remained undeterred.

Jeongyeon felt Nayeon’s chin come to rest on her shoulder, tried not to flinch as Nayeon shuffled closer, all but pressing Jeongyeon into the side of the cabin. They entered a tunnel, and all of the colors she had been admiring disappeared. She could see her reflection in the window now, as well as the smile on Nayeon’s face.

“See,” Nayeon said, voice just shy of a whine, “even the train is telling you to pay attention to me.” Even without her reflection in the window, Jeongyeon would’ve known there was a smirk on her face. The arm that had been controlling the offending finger moved, sliding to wrap around her waist. Nayeon was doing a splendid impression of a koala at this point.

She had never really seen them together from this perspective, Jeongyeon realized. Their reflections were slightly blurry, but she could see them well enough. Well enough to briefly think about the picture they made. In the dim light of the train, their gold and green accented uniforms actually seemed to go well together.

And then there was Nayeon herself.

It was one thing to know that Nayeon was draped around her, to feel the warm press of her cheek into Jeongyeon’s shoulder or the familiar weight of her arm across her waist. It was another thing entirely to see it for herself.

Nayeon looked like she fit next to Jeongyeon all too well, like she belonged there. But Jeongyeon could accept it for what it was: her years of being in love with Nayeon fooling her into thinking they magically fit together. It wasn’t the first time it had happened over the last four years, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last. She tried to move her eyes away and break this particularly hopeless train of though, but she found herself unable to stop taking in the sight.

Nayeon lifted her head, and Jeongyeon watched, almost as if hypnotized, as her mouth drew closer to Jeongyeon’s ear. “I know you’re just looking at me using the window.” Nayeon’s voice was coy, breath ghosting over Jeongyeon’s ear. Jeongyeon could feel embarrassment beginning to bloom in her chest, and she did her best to remain stoic.

Nayeon’s eyes met hers in the window’s reflection. “What’re you afraid of? Just admit that you like me already.”

Jeongyeon flinched away from the window, the sudden panic overtaking her too much to handle. She whipped her head around, denial and defensive laughter already on her lips, but her rebuttals faltered when she realized her mistake. Now, instead of seeing Nayeon through the muddled filter of a reflection, she was seeing her face-to-face.

And Nayeon was extremely close. And smiling widely.

“You’re way too easy to mess with,” she said, laughing. She leaned back, and Jeongyeon felt the pressure in her chest ease slightly.

“I wasn’t exactly preparing for you to attack me,” Jeongyeon shot back, rolling her eyes. She figured her heartbeat would be back to normal in a few minutes. Hopefully. “I was trying to enjoy the view. It’s our last time taking this train ride. I want to make it count.”

The playfulness in Nayeon’s eyes faltered, but it returned as she spoke. “Then spend it with your friends, not staring out a window.” She gestured around the cabin. “The memories to make are in here, mopey.”

“Don’t call me mopey,” Jeongyeon grumbled, tucking herself tighter against the cabin wall. “Besides, I’m listening to everyone’s conversations. I’m not missing anything.”

“Um, hello,” Nayeon said, leaning in closer once more. The familiar smell of her conditioner flooded Jeongyeon’s nose, and she did her best to ignore the fluttering it set off in her stomach. “I’m here, not talking—”

“For once.”

“—which means that you should be paying attention to me,” Nayeon continued, not missing a beat. “I’m much more exciting than trees. Also, I want candy. Hand it over.”

Laughter bubbled in Jeongyeon’s throat. “You were annoying me because you wanted candy? Seriously?”

Nayeon pouted, and Jeongyeon scowled. She hated that face. Absolutely hated it. It made Nayeon look weird, with her puffed out cheeks and wide eyes and her tendency to press against Jeongyeon whenever she was doing it. It made Jeongyeon want to throw something out of a window, sometimes herself. Sometimes Nayeon. The worst of it was that Nayeon knew how much Jeongyeon hated this face, and she frequently deployed it to hold Jeongyeon hostage until she relented.

Her shoulders slumped with a sigh. “What do you want,” she asked, reaching for the bag she had stowed beneath the seats. “And don’t say everything.”

“Twixes, please,” Nayeon answered, smug.

Jeongyeon glared at Nayeon as she blindly rifled through her bag. “I’ve told you at least one hundred times. The plural of Twix is Twix, not ‘Twixes’.”

“And I’ve told you,” Nayeon said, slipping her wand out of her robe pocket, “that the online told me that it’s Twixes.”

“First, it’s called ‘the Internet’. Second—”

Accio Twixes!”

Jeongyeon watched with no small amount of horror as multiple packs of the requested candy came flying out of her bag. They landed on Nayeon’s lap, arranged in a neat and golden pile of mockery.

“See,” Nayeon said, eyebrow raised. “Magic says it’s Twixes. And now all of them are mine.”

Jeongyeon groaned, letting her head fall against the window. The rumble of glass against her head would get annoying eventually, but she needed all the support she could get right now. Nayeon laughed, and Jeongyeon turned her head just enough to watch her begin to unwrap one of her many prizes.

Despite the noise already in the cabin, the sound of the wrapper opening acted like a signal, and suddenly everyone’s eyes were locked on Nayeon, who remained focused on her winnings. Jeongyeon knew that they were seconds away from chaos breaking out, and she turned to get a clearer look at everyone.

Chaeyoung and Dahyun locked eyes and nodded at each other, exchanging a flurry of hand signals that Jeongyeon knew meant nothing but trouble. Momo’s wand appeared in her hand, and she could see Mina, Tzuyu, and Sana eying the candy intently.

She really should look into getting a pensieve.


//

Jeongyeon sat down with a huff, glaring down at the robe that had made this ‘getting on a magical train thing’ such a mess. She could deal with a gigantic trunk or a zoo’s worth of animals, but if she tripped over this robe one more time, she was going to light it on fire.

She hadn’t learned that spell (yet), but this whole ‘Surprise, you can do magic!’ thing had started because she accidentally lit her annoying neighbor’s tree house on fire after he stole her hula hoop. She was sure she could muster up a few more flames for her dumb robe.  

She had been thrilled to find an empty cabin, but now she wasn’t really sure what to do. She reached for her backpack, but she let it drop down onto the seat next to her when she remembered that she didn’t have any of her games with her. Because magic people didn’t understand how computers worked, or whatever.

She had books she could read, but she found them just a little too intimidating. It all still felt like a dream, sometimes, and reading books about magic potions and moving paintings didn’t really help. She looked around the cabin for a few more seconds, quickly growing bored of its plain interior. Her eyes turned to gaze out the window, and it was then that she satisfied.

It wasn’t much, but something about the way the trees sped by was comforting. It grounded her. She could see that she was leaving home, headed somewhere new and exciting that was hopefully worth it.

Her head whipped around when the cabin door slammed open, and Jeongyeon watched as a dark-haired girl huffed and stomped her way over to the cabin’s other bench. Jeongyeon noticed two things: First, this girl had on a plain black robe, which meant she was a first-year. Second, she was mad. Really mad.  

Jeongyeon wasn’t really sure if she should say anything. The girl was sitting across from her with her arms crossed, kicking her trunk every five seconds and muttering under her breath. Jeongyeon wanted to make friends, yes, but she didn’t know if she wanted to make this particular friend. She wasn’t even sure she had been spotted yet, and she briefly eyed the door. However, her fear of tripping made her stay put.

After about thirty more seconds of angry kicking, Jeongyeon cleared her throat. She really didn’t want to come off as a sneaky weirdo, and she really didn’t want to scare this girl and her very angry legs.

The angry girl’s head shot up, a look of surprise on her face. It only lasted for a second, though, and then Jeongyeon was given a look as severe as it was curious. “Hi,” Jeongyeon managed, proud of how steady her voice was. She could almost feel this stranger’s eyes picking her apart. “Are you okay?”

There was that look of surprise again. The girl’s arms relaxed slightly, falling to her lap. “Yes. My apologies. Our butler packed my trunk wrong, so I’m two robes short this year. I only found out right before I was boarding the train. That man is deeply incompetent.”

Jeongyeon blinked, and then blinked again, wondering if the girl in front of her would fade away to reveal one of her dad’s friends that was always talking about interest rates and fancy cars. The girl remained, though, just as serious and stoic on the third blink as she was on the sixth.

“That really sucks,” Jeongyeon said, finally snapping out of it. “I have some candy if you want some. All kinds.”

Her mom would be proud of her offering her candy to a complete stranger, Jeongyeon thought. Her mom absolutely would not be proud of the fact that Jeongyeon had only packed two pairs of pants so that she could jam in a bunch of sweets that she really didn’t want to go months without, but Jeongyeon wasn’t too worried about it. She was sure there was a pants creation spell somewhere out there.

“Candy,” the other girl asked, clearly curious. Her face finally relaxed as well, looking more like what Jeongyeon would expect an eleven year old to look like. “What do you have? Chocolate frogs? Cauldron cakes? Flavored beans? I’m a fan of sugar quills, personally.”

Jeongyeon blinked. Did magical people eat their pens? “Um, no. But I do have Twix, if you want one?” Jeongyeon lifted up her backpack and shook it gently, smiling as the other girl’s eyes followed the motion.

“I’ve never heard of that before,” the stranger said, standing up. “Is it imported?” She stepped closer, stopping when she was right in front of Jeongyeon and her bag.

“I guess so,” Jeongyeon answered. “I’m Jeongyeon, by the way. So you’re not taking candy from a stranger.” Her name seemed to bring the other girl up short, and that weird air of formality appeared again.

“Apologies for not introducing myself sooner.” As she spoke, the girl’s spine stiffened in a way that couldn’t have been comfortable. “I’m Im Nayeon, of the Im family. Your family name?”

There was a weird emphasis on the word ‘Im’ that Jeongyeon couldn’t quite place, and she wondered if they just said that name differently in the magical world. It made more sense than eating quills, at least. “It’s Yoo. Yoo Jeongyeon.”

A moment passed, one in which Nayeon intently studied her face, and Jeongyeon wondered if there’s some sort of custom or tradition she’s missing here. None of the pamphlets she was given had any instructions on special greetings or introductions.

“Yoo,” Nayeon said, speaking as if she was testing each letter individually. “I’m not familiar with that name amongst magical families. You must not be a pureblood, then. Your mother is magical, then? What’s her name?”

“I don’t really know whose side I’m magical on,” Jeongyeon said, shrugging. “My magic kinda just showed up.”

Once again, Nayeon’s hand stopped short of Jeongyeon’s bag. Her jaw dropped slightly, and this time the look of surprise lingered. “You’re a muggleborn?”

Jeongyeon felt defensiveness flare. She had been told about the weird blood purity thing, but she had also been told it was much less worse than it used to be. It would be just her luck to meet a jerk during her first train ride there. She opened her mouth to say something back, but the sudden smile on Nayeon’s face stopped her.

It was full of joy. There really was no other way to describe the smile Nayeon was directing at her. Jeongyeon was too stunned to do anything other than continue to hold her backpack open.
‘    
“That explains why you didn’t react to my”—Nayeon shook her head—“Nevermind.”Her smile was smaller but still very much there. “So what is it you were saying about these Twixes?”

Part of Jeongyeon wanted to ask about why Nayeon had stopped herself, but she also liked her a lot better when she was smiling. Smiling Nayeon looked nice and much more like someone Jeongyeon would maybe want to be friends with. The choice was a simple one.

“First of all, the plural of Twix is ‘Twix’. Second, they’re maybe the greatest candy in the universe.”

//

Jeongyeon furrowed her brow as she focused on the parchment in front of her. This next part was crucial, and its success would make or break what she had been working on for the entirety of class. It was her first day of N.E.W.T. Defense Against the Dark Arts, and she wanted to make sure she made the most of it.

“…self-select your own groups of 2-4 for this project,” Professor Ok continued, “but please choose wisely. You’ll be working with this group for the entirety of the year. We’ll discuss topic selection once you’re in your groups.”

Jeongyeon didn’t look up from her parchment as she continued to work. She heard rustling and whispers from the other students around her, but she wasn’t concerned. She knew exactly who she’d end up with.

And so. She waited. And focused. Her sketch of Tzuyu declaring a pygmy puff Minister of Magic was incredibly close to being finished. As she continued to draw, the noise increased, voices darting across the room as groups formed. Jeongyeon tried her best to shade in the fur of the pygmy puff, muttering an enchantment to make her ink a bit lighter.

She didn’t look up when a shadow crossed her desk, just raised her free hand in a half-hearted greeting. “Took you long enough to get over here,” she said, adding another heart above Tzuyu’s head. “Old age slowing you down?”

The shadow crossed its arms. “Please,” Nayeon scoffed. “I just wanted to see if you’d actually get off of your ass and try to make a group with me. Instead, you just sat here.”

Jeongyeon leaned back, meeting the half-hearted glare of her best friend with an easy grin. “We’ve been partners in every single Hufflepuff and Slytherin class since first year. Why would that change?”

Nayeon’s eyes fell to Jeongyeon’s masterpiece, and she didn’t miss the small smile that tugged at Nayeon’s lips. “Maybe today was the day I had decided I was sick of you.” Nayeon’s hand slid across the surface of the desk, pulling the parchment closer to her. “I’ll have you know that I’m very popular.”

Jeongyeon rolled her eyes, unable to deny the statement but also fully unwilling to agree with it. “Well thank you for beating off your numerous suitors so that we could work on this project together, Lady Im. I’m truly honored.”

Nayeon’s eyes shot up from the drawing, locking with hers. “Listen, Yoo—”

“Hey!” They both turned, taking in the sight of a grinning Sana and Momo. “We were wondering,” Sana said, inclining her head towards Momo, “if you’d like to do a four person group. It’s our last chance, and I think it could be fun!”

Momo nodded solemnly. “Please don’t leave me alone with Sana.” The request was somewhat dimmed by the fact that Sana’s blonde hair was currently getting lost amongst the gold of a Hufflepuff scarf. In addition to that, a very small piece of silver and green fabric was sticking out of Momo’s pocket.

Sana’s smile didn’t falter, if anything, it only grew. Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow and spoke, wanting to verbally drive the point home. “Sana slept over last night. And will probably sleep over for like half of the year.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Momo deadpanned. “Please save me.”

“Hold on a second,” Nayeon interjected, stepping into Jeongyeon’s line of sight. “I was specifically told last night that there were to be no first-day sleepovers!” She turned, shooting a glare at Jeongyeon. “Did you lie to me?”

Jeongyeon leaned back in her chair, torn between wanting to glare at Momo and wanting to escape while she still had the chance. “I mean, I didn’t say it was a house rule or anything. I just wanted to—”

“She didn’t want you to see her room when it was messy,” Momo chimed in. “Sana and I spent the whole evening watching her organize things.” Sana nodded in agreement, throwing in a compliment to Jeongyeon’s organizational talents.

Nayeon was looking at her now, eyes sharp and full of something that Jeongyeon couldn’t quite parse. But it made her wary all the same.

The truth, the actual honest truth, was that Jeongyeon needed some space after spending hours in close company with Nayeon on the train. There had been a moment of reprieve during the sorting, but it was gone the moment the food appeared. Over the years, Hufflepuffs had gotten used to Sana and Nayeon appearing at their table, and the two girls across from Jeongyeon and Momo had gamely slid over to make room for them.

Coming back after the summer was always an adjustment for Jeongyeon. It was true that her summers weren’t completely Nayeon-free, but they gave her time and space away from the intoxicating force that was her best friend. The space didn’t make the burning warmth in her chest any dimmer, didn’t let her forget that she’s had feelings for Nayeon since she was fourteen. What it did was allow Jeongyeon to fool herself into believing that Nayeon’s impact on her was less than it actually was.

So coming back to Hogwarts, coming back to days (and nights, when Nayeon inevitably got her way) full of Nayeon, was always a harsh reminder that, no, Nayeon’s impact on her was in fact not as little as she had thought. She needed time, even if it was full of a giggling and bickering Sana and Momo, to adjust to coming back to Nayeon, Nayeon, Nayeon.

Jeongyeon let her brain run on autopilot, unable to think past the next word out of her mouth. “Well, I’m sorry that some of us don’t like living surrounded by piles of clothes! But anyway, yes. Let’s do the group project together.”

Nayeon opened her mouth, but whatever she was going to say was cut off by Professor Ok calling for everyone’s attention.

They settled into their seats without another word, but Jeongyeon could feel Nayeon’s eyes boring into her the entire time Professor Ok was explaining their topic selection criteria. As such, she was only mildly terrified when she was yanked into a broom closet after they had been dismissed from class.

One moment, she had been waving goodbye to Sana and Momo, and the next, she was looking into the eyes of a very serious Im Nayeon, lit only by whatever light could slip under the crack in the door. Jeongyeon let out a breath, heart still hammering in her chest. She fumbled for her wand, a soundless Lumos filling the darkness between them.

“What,” Jeongyeon hissed out, “the fuck! Why are you pulling me into a broom closet? I have Charms after this!”

Nayeon rolled her eyes, shifting to try and get into a more comfortable position. “Please, Park loves you. You could show up an hour late and she’d still call you a prodigy.”

Jeongyeon hoped the dim light hid her blush. “It’s the first day!”

Nayeon waved away her concerns, and Jeongyeon let herself slump against the wall behind her. When Nayeon got like this, stubborn set to her brow, the fastest way to deal with it was just to go along for the ride.

“What’s up with you today?” Nayeon’s voice was harsh, and Jeongyeon could only stare in confusion.

“Um. Nothing.” Jeongyeon swallowed. “What’s up with you?”

Several seconds passed, ones in which Jeongyeon’s curiosity and concern grew as Nayeon continued to just look at her. Jeongyeon could feel the air between them growing heavier, and she didn’t like it. She took a step closer, making note of the way Nayeon had one arm wrapped around her waist. “Nayeon,” she said, keeping her voice gentle, “what’s wrong?”

Nayeon shook her head, and it looked to Jeongyeon like she was shrinking into herself. More time passed, and Jeongyeon took the final step that would bring them toe to toe. She tried again, genuinely concerned at this point. “Nayeon?”

“Just tell me if you’re mad or whatever. I don’t want to start our last year off like this.” The signals coming from Nayeon were mixed, with her voice loud and brash but everything else screaming ‘anxious’.

“What,” Jeongyeon breathed, hand loosely wrapping around the arm Nayeon seemed to be protecting herself with. “What are you talking about?”

Nayeon let out a shaky laugh. “We only saw each other twice this summer, and you would barely look at me on the train. Then you lied about me staying over, and I know you weren’t actually worried about your room being clean. You don’t care about your image, not with me.” The knot in Jeongyeon’s throat prevented her from saying anything, from asking Nayeon about the way her voice cracked on that last word.

Nayeon continued, her words speeding up. “And then today you kept your head down and half-ignored me when I showed up, and then you said yes to working with Sana and Momo. Which is fine! But this is our last year together and you and I—”

Clarity slid into aching focus. The breath in Jeongyeon’s lungs caught, halted its movement for an eternal second, until the hint of tears in Nayeon’s eyes drove her to do something.

The hand around Nayeon’s wrist tightened, pulling until Nayeon had no choice but to step into Jeongyeon’s arms. Her words cut off, instead replaced by the almost desperate way Nayeon gripped at the back of Jeongyeon’s robes. For a moment, the world seemed to move in slow motion, and Jeongyeon felt the shuddering breath Nayeon took as her tears began to wet Jeongyeon’s neck.

“Just because it’s our last year at school doesn’t mean we’re going to stop being friends,” Jeongyeon said. She felt Nayeon shake her head in protest. “Wait, it does? Because if we signed a contract along those terms, I definitely don’t remember.”

A wet chuckle. Nayeon’s exhale skittering across Jeongyeon’s neck. “I’m scared. I just feel like we’re running out of time.” Nayeon’s voice was razor thin, and it terrified her.

The flash of terror, as brief as it was, hollowed her out until she could hear her heartbeat echoing in her ears. “Time for what?”

Nayeon shook her head again, sunk even further into Jeongyeon’s hold. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. I got too inside my own head. I’m sorry. Can we just”—Nayeon paused, shifted in place as she tried to find the words—“stay here for a bit longer. I know you have class. But.”

Jeongyeon nodded, pressed her lips to the side of Nayeon’s head. “Yeah, take your time. Like you said, Park loves me.”

Another wet laugh.

Jeongyeon extinguished the light on her wand and let it slide down her sleeve. She didn’t really need it anymore. She adjusted her hold on Nayeon slightly and settled in. Her heart rate was slowly beginning to return to normal, and emptiness in her stomach was easing with every steady breath Nayeon took.

Eventually, when Nayeon finally pulled away and sheepishly told Jeongyeon that she was free to go, Jeongyeon just laughed, reaching out to wipe at the drying tear tracks on Nayeon’s cheek. “You know, I think I figured out a good creature for us to research.”

Nayeon sent her a small smile. “Funny. I was thinking the same thing.”

//

There are,” Jeongyeon wrote, “many misconceptions surrounding the boggart (Speculum Timore). Primarily, it is widely assumed that the boggart shows the viewer their deepest fears. We propose that, in reality, a boggart skims surface level thoughts and builds its projection from there, creating something more shocking than it is cataclysmic.

Jeongyeon levitated the parchment over to Sana. “Here,” she said. “How’s that?”

Sana read the paragraph, eyebrow climbing higher as she did. “Wow, ‘cataclysmic’? Very nice. That’s at least 20 points in Scrabble,” Sana said, smirking.

Jeongyeon laughed. “I don’t get out of bed for anything less than 40.”

She heard Nayeon huff from across the table but ignored it in favor of reaching to take the parchment back. “I’ll pull together the rest of my brain cells and prepare the rest for tomorrow’s class. Should only take another half hour.”

Sana and Momo nodded before beginning to gather up their things from the table. “Hey,” Nayeon protested. “What about Momo and I? It's our research proposal. Don’t we get to read it?”

Jeongyeon looked up, took in Sana and Momo’s amused glances and Nayeon’s pout. “Well, Momo and I room together, so I was going to show it to her then. And you’re still sleeping over tonight, right? You’ve been complaining all week about how I owed you one after my ‘utmost betrayal’.”

Nayeon blinked. “Oh, right. Yeah, okay. Nevermind then.”

Jeongyeon heard Momo snort in amusement, but she let her eyes linger on Nayeon for just a second longer. There was a faint blush of embarrassment on her cheeks, and it made Jeongyeon smile.

“I won’t be in tonight, actually,” Momo corrected, standing up. “I’m doing overnight community service, but I trust you with the writeup.”

“Hey,” Sana exclaimed, slapping Momo’s shoulder. “You were the one that asked if we could share tonight!”

“I,” Momo declared, adjusting the silver and green scarf around her neck, “would never do such a thing.”

Sana rolled her eyes. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, as long as it’s with me. Point being: Momo is at Slytherin tonight. Other point: We’re about to be late for Divination. Bye!”

Jeongyeon watched her friends round the corner, not missing the way their hands found each other right before they disappeared from sight. The fond sigh Nayeon let out told her that she had also seen it.

“One day,” Jeongyeon said, “one day they’ll just say they’re together.”

Nayeon hummed, beginning to pack up her own things. “I don’t know. I think it’s kind of sweet that they’re so certain and stable without officially saying anything.”

“I suppose,” Jeongyeon agreed, wrinkling her nose, “but people still ask them out, like, every week. I think I’d find that annoying.”

Nayeon’s eyes met hers as she handed Jeongyeon a quill she had forgotten on the table. “I think,” she began, fingertips brushing against Jeongyeon’s, “that, if I loved someone the way they loved each other and if that person loved me back in the same way, I wouldn’t really care about who knew or not.”

Jeongyeon felt the hair on her arms stand on end, not because of the way Nayeon had just needlessly ran her fingers over the back of Jeongyeon’s hand, but because of the way Nayeon was looking at her. It was soft, and open, and it was the exact same look Nayeon got anytime she talked about love and romance. Jeongyeon could only hope that the person who would one day be the direct cause of that look would be deserving of it.

“Sap.”

“Puff.”

“I thought we agreed that saying what house the other was in wasn’t an insult!”

“We did, but your face still turns red when I do it. So…”

//

“Jeong, are you asleep?” Nayeon’s voice pulled at her awareness, gently coaxed her out of the haze of sleep she had been slipping into.

She grumbled, briefly tightened her grip around Nayeon’s waist. With any luck, Nayeon would ask her a simple question that she could answer in unintelligible mumbles, and then she could return to sleep. She had been so comfortable, so ready to give over to unconsciousness.

Nayeon shifted in her arms, wriggling around until Jeongyeon had no choice but to wake up enough to realize that Nayeon was trying to turn around. With no small amount of effort, she lifted her arm, letting it drop back down once Nayeon completed her spin. She really hoped that had been the issue, but she doubted anything would be that simple.

It never was with Nayeon.

Nayeon moved in closer, slipping one of her legs in between Jeongyeon’s and using the new position to lay an arm over Jeongyeon’s waist. Jeongyeon, far too tired to pretend to be annoyed, accepted all of this with a content sigh. She was comfortable before, and she was comfortable now. And she really hoped Nayeon would let her go back to sleep.

“Jeong.” A gentle hand cupped her face, thumb stroking over her cheek. “I know you’re not totally asleep. I have a question.”

Jeongyeon grumbled again, used the hand not trapped under Nayeon to tap her waist in a sign to continue. The stroking motion Nayeon was doing felt nice, and she supposed she could put up with a question as long as that kept happening.

“What’s Scrabble?”

The unexpectedness of the question was enough to pull her into full semi-consciousness, and her eyes fluttered open to take in a curious, and sleepy, looking Nayeon. Her eyes were only half open, and the hand that had been cupping Jeongyeon’s cheek had fallen to the wayside, now fiddling with the collar of her sleep shirt.

“Excuse me,” Jeongyeon said, voice half-muffled by the pillow. “You woke me up to talk about Scrabble?” She found herself absentmindedly tracing shapes into a small patch of exposed skin right above Nayeon’s hip bone. “Please say sike.”

Nayeon tried to pout, but it was interrupted by a small yawn. “I wanna know. You and Sana were laughing about it earlier.” Every word Nayeon spoke was followed by her curling in even closer to Jeongyeon, something as endearing as it was amusing.

She couldn’t really find it in herself to be annoyed, not when it was clear that Nayeon had been fighting to stay awake just to ask a question she had deemed important. Early on in their friendship, it became very clear that Nayeon had no accurate knowledge of muggles, to the point that Jeongyeon found herself explaining simple things whose knowledge of she took for granted.

It had culminated in Jeongyeon giving Nayeon a journal for her birthday in their second year, saying that she should use it to take notes and study. It became a running joke amongst their friend group over the years, even if Jeongyeon never saw that journal again.

(Nayeon had laughed and begun chasing Jeongyeon around the lake with it, and Jeongyeon had pretended that she hadn’t seen tears spring to Nayeon’s eyes at the very idea of getting a gift from a friend.)

“Nabongs.” Nayeon’s eyes fluttered shut at the utterance of her nickname, and Jeongyeon felt something in her chest lurch. It would hit her at the most random of moments, sometimes, just how much affection she held for the girl in front of her.

The small sigh that Nayeon let out as Jeongyeon pulled her closer told her everything she needed to know. “I’ll give you notes on Scrabble for your journal tomorrow, okay? Let’s go to sleep.”

“It’s important,” Nayeon murmured, words barely audible. “It’s you so it’s important.”

For a moment, one desperate, aching moment, Jeongyeon wished that she was someone who could hear those words and not feel as if their heart was in a vice grip. She knew Nayeon would say the same thing to any of her close friends.

“Sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”

Still, though, the words tugged at Jeongyeon as she watched Nayeon finally give over to sleep. Despite her best efforts, they were the last thing she remembered thinking about before she slipped into unconsciousness.

//

“So,” Jeongyeon said, drawing the word out, “who wants to go first. We should have a set order, right?” She looked around the room, meeting the slightly nervous eyes of her project partners. “We probably should’ve picked the order a few weeks ago when we decided we were doing this, huh?”

Sana shrugged in agreement. “That wardrobe is extremely creepy looking. I’m not exactly thrilled about opening it.”

Jeongyeon glared at the object of their apprehension. It was a wardrobe that towered above all of them, dark oak looming above them. There were a few stains that looked just a little bit too much like blood spatter for any of their comforts. It had been easy to sell Professor Ok on their chosen topic, and he had given them access to a boggart with no small amount of excitement.

They had all been excited too, at least at first. But as they each took a look at the shaking wardrobe in front of them, Jeongyeon had felt the nervousness grow. It was times like these that she wished there was a spare Gryffindor around, but she had a feeling Jihyo (and Nayeon) would try to skin her alive if she brought Chaeyoung with her to a boggart viewing.

“I’ll do it.” Momo’s voice cut through the heavy silence. “Might as well get it over with, right?” Jeongyeon turned with a raised eyebrow, half-surprised. Momo met her gaze steadily and nodded, wand in her hand.

“Okay,” Jeongyeon said, walking over to the wardrobe. “I’ll open this on three. Nayeon, Sana, stand a bit off to the side so that it targets Momo, but get ready to step in. Once we have this thing out, we’ll have to cycle through all of us. Got it?”

Jeongyeon received three quick nods, and with that, she placed her hand on the doorknob. “One, two, three!”

She flung the door open, careful to step to the side as she did so. Over their six years of rooming together, Jeongyeon had learned quite a bit about Momo, from her tendency to dance in her sleep to her paralyzing fear of bugs and heights. As a result, she expected a giant cockroach, maybe, or possibly a wobbly bridge.

What she didn’t expect was to see a very stern looking man come strolling out of the wardrobe, clipboard in hand. There was an air of arrogance to him, and Jeongyeon disliked him on sight. She watched as Momo’s face paled, a small noise of shock leaving her as her knuckles whitened around her wand.

“Madame Hirai,” the man drawled, eyes flicking over Momo dismissively before returning to his clipboard. Momo took a shaky step back, lips trying and failing to form the spell. “It appears that you have, to no one’s surprise, once again failed too—”

Riddikulus!” Sana’s voice was cold as she cast the spell and stepped in front of a very troubled looking Momo. The man barely had time to become decked out in a jester’s costume before the boggart took notice of its new target.

It shifted again, and Jeongyeon was once again surprised by the outcome. Sana, wand raised and arm still thrown out protectively in front of Momo was now face-to-face with herself. The boggart looked just like the real Sana, except for the fact that the real Sana had a determined scowl on her face, while the boggart was wearing a grin.

Sana didn’t flinch, just studied what was in front of her. “Weak,” she spat. The spell left her lips readily, and the boggart changed, shifted until it was a picture of Sana surrounded by kittens and puppies. Jeongyeon smiled despite her confusion.

Sana moved back, a grim satisfaction on her face as she pulled Momo with her. Jeongyeon wanted to check-in on Momo, but she also really wanted to see what Nayeon’s boggart was. Also, she knew Sana would have things well in hand.

Years ago, Nayeon’s fear had been her parents yelling at her for something or other. While Jeongyeon wouldn’t exactly be surprised at seeing them again, Nayeon’s ability to deal with her parents had grown in leaps and bounds over the years, to the point that it was mostly a non-issue.

Nayeon stepped forward, firm set to her lips as the boggart turned in her direction. It shifted again, this time stretching itself until it filled a quarter of the room. Jeongyeon watched, fascinated.

And then Jeongyeon nearly dropped her wand.

She was looking at herself and Nayeon standing on the steps of the train station, talking about their summer plans. She braced herself, prepared to watch one of them get gravely injured, but instead they just hugged and went their separate ways. The scene then began again.

Right. Nayeon really wasn’t looking forward to their school year ending.

As the scene started up for the fourth time, Jeongyeon looked over at Nayeon in concern. She hadn’t said a word, and Jeongyeon was half-preparing herself to step in. But Nayeon didn’t look terribly frightened. She was staring intently at the scene playing out before her. There was a strange smile on her lips as the boggart began its fifth run-through, one that looked like a mix between pained and amused.

Nayeon raised her wand and pointed it. “Riddikulus.” The fake Nayeon and Jeongyeon began to dance a jig, and Jeongyeon had to commend Nayeon for her creativity. They looked impressively ridiculous.

“You’re up, Jeong,” Nayeon said.

Jeongyeon nodded and moved to stand in front of the boggart. They had agreed to discuss their boggarts after everyone had gone through. She needed to focus.

The dancing forms of herself and Nayeon turned to face her, their grins shifting into something sinister as the boggart began to change. Years ago, Jeongyeon’s original boggart had been herself being laughed at for not being good enough at magic.

When the boggart presented her with a picture of her and Momo’s room strewn with trash, her first instinct was to laugh. The noise got caught in her throat when realized what she was looking at.

The room was in complete and utter disarray, but even then Jeongyeon could see what was missing. The drawing Chaeyoung had given her, way back when she was just a small first-year, was no longer hanging on her wall. The scarf Mina had knitted for her two winters ago was not in its customary place: curled around a plushie Momo had gifted her during their second year as roommates.

The pieces fell into place after that. Her room was full yes, covered in garbage that made Jeongyeon’s skin crawl, but it was also painfully, painfully empty. With a half-shouted Riddikulus, the room rearranged itself until it looked like a playroom.

“All together,” she ordered. Four voices cried out in almost perfect harmony, sending the boggart back into the wardrobe. A muttered Alohomora from Nayeon sealed the deal, and then it was just the four of them, staring at a shaking closet. They drifted towards the center of the room, but still, no one spoke.

“Well.” Momo’s now steady voice broke the silence. “Anyone want some chocolate? The house elves are always down to share.”

“Count me in,” Nayeon muttered. “But we should probably share our stuff first. Professor said we needed to keep good records if we wanted this to work.”

Sana nodded. “Okay. I’ll start.” She spoke quickly yet steadily. “The me I was looking at had dead eyes. Fake smile.” Her voice softened. “Also wearing the wrong scarf.”

Momo’s fingers tangled with Sana’s, and Jeongyeon fought the urge to reach out with a similar comfort. However, she resisted. She could tell that Sana just wanted to move along.

“Mine was my old magic instructor from when I was a kid,” Momo said, shifting on her feet. “He was a dick. Very old school pureblood. He didn’t like that I’d rather be on a broomstick than inside practicing dueling stances.”

“I hope he’s dead by now,” Nayeon muttered, and Jeongyeon couldn’t hold back her laughter.

Momo smiled. “You and Sana agree on that.”

“Of course I do,” Sana said, voice tinged with anger. “That man was a menace! He’s lucky he got fired before I met you.”

Momo tugged Sana closer, pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “I know, but it’s okay. He’s gone now.”

If it were anyone else other than these two being this gross in front of her, Jeongyeon would already be in the corner making gagging noises. But as it was, she had spent years of her life watching Sana and Momo orbit clumsily around each other until they finally fell right into place. As long as it kept leaving that look of quiet awe in Sana’s eyes, Jeongyeon figured she could put up with a few mushy moments.

“Mine represented the school year ending.” Nayeon’s voice was blunt, and Jeongyeon saw nothing else to do but continue with herself.

“I think,” Jeongyeon began, “that mine represented my life kind of falling apart. The room was gross, and things were missing.”

“I noticed that Ryan wasn’t there,” Momo murmured.

“Yeah.”

Silence fell again. They all looked at each other, gazes heavy. “Does anyone want to talk about anything,” Nayeon asked. “I think we’d all understand if someone needed to.”

Sana shook her head. “I’m okay for now.” Jeongyeon and Momo nodded in agreement. “It might be worth talking things over in a day or two if anyone ends up needing to. We have to meet to write this up anyway.”

“The next time we do this we’re doing it in pairs, right,” Momo asked. “Should we decide on those now? It’s two weeks from now, but still.”

“I think you two should split up,” Nayeon said, gesturing at Sana and Momo’s intertwined hands. “I fully understand why Sana stepped in, but we need to make sure that we get proper results without interference.”

Sana puffed her cheeks out. “I can control myself!”

“No you can’t,” three voices chimed with varying degrees of amusement.

“Not when it comes to Momo,” Jeongyeon continued. “Nayeon’s right.”

“Fine,” Sana huffed. “I’ll go with Jeongyeon. We can use it as bonding time.”

Jeongyeon let out a breath as Sana enthusiastically wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “We don’t need bonding time! I’ve known you for forever.”

“Yes but you still refuse to cuddle with me, so clearly there’s some emotional distance we need to work through.”

Momo and Nayeon burst into laughter, and Jeongyeon did her best to glare at them despite the fact that Sana’s arms were now wrapped around her head.

“You all suck.”


//

“Any predictions for this evening,” Sana asked, swinging their linked arms. “I’m hoping I can focus enough on a clown to have myself come out wearing a red nose.”

Jeongyeon chuckled. “Do you really think you’re going to have the exact same base fear as last time?”

“I think so,” Sana answered. “I wasn’t thinking too hard about it last time, but, that’s what we’re experimenting with, yeah?”

“I think a horse is just going to come galloping out of that wardrobe towards me.”

Sana winced. “Your broken leg from horse camp?”

“Yup,” Jeongyeon sighed. “My dreams of being a horse girl were dashed so quickly, but it’s okay because a year later I found out I was a witch.”

“Excellent point,” Sana said, shooting Jeongyeon a smile. “My mom introduced me to unicorns before my dad told me about horses. I was underwhelmed, to say the least. Every time I saw a horse on TV, I couldn’t help but think it would have been better if they were unicorns.”

They continued to talk as they made their way to their destination, only falling silent when they got to the door. Jeongyeon would be lying if she said she wasn’t nervous, and the tight grip on her arm told her that Sana felt the same way.

“You handled your boggart really well last time,” Jeongyeon said, nudging Sana’s shoulder with her own. “I don’t know why you look nervous.”

Sana worried her lower lip between her teeth, and Jeongyeon raised her arm to pull her into a side-hug. “I think I only did so well because I was protecting Momo. I had nightmares that night and the next.” She shook her head at Jeongyeon’s reproachful look. “It wasn’t an issue after that! I swear. I would’ve talked about it otherwise.”

Jeongyeon hummed. “I’ll believe you, but one more incident and I’ll have to rat you out to Nayeon.” Her arm jolted from the force of Sana’s flinch. “Exactly. Consider yourself warned.”

“What about you, though,” Sana asked. “Expecting the same messy room?”

“I guess,” Jeongyeon said, running her free hand through her hair. “I don’t really know what else it could be.”

Sana shifted underneath Jeongyeon’s arm. “I have a question, actually. Well, not really a question. A statement.”

Jeongyeon waited for Sana to continue, meeting her gaze with a raised eyebrow. “I’m surprised Nayeon wasn’t in your fear.”

“Why?” Jeongyeon was able to keep her voice steady, but a low rushing filled her ears. “Why would she be there?”

Sana stepped away, let Jeongyeon’s arm fall. The look she directed at Jeongyeon told her that this wasn’t going to be a fun conversation.

Over the years, Jeongyeon had kept her feelings for Nayeon suspended in a delicate avoidance when it came to her friends. Most of them knew; she had been sent far too many sly and sympathetic glances over the years for her to be able to convince herself otherwise. Still, only Momo and Jihyo had dared to speak directly to her about it, and Sana’s crossed arms told her that a third person was about to join that club.

When Sana continued to just look at her, Jeongyeon tried to weasel her way out of it, knowing it was in vain. “Momo didn’t show up in your fear.”

Sana raised an eyebrow, voice dry. “Did you just compare yourself and Nayeon to Momo and I? Is that really your best attempt at not talking about this?”

“This what?” Jeongyeon wouldn’t mind, necessarily, telling Sana about it. She trusted her, so that wasn’t an issue. No, her concern was rooted in the fact that Sana was relentless on behalf of the people she cared about. If Sana had finally decided that she was going to concern herself with Jeongyeon’s feelings towards Nayeon, it meant that this wouldn’t be the last Jeongyeon heard of it.

“This thing that apparently leads to you basically saying that you feel the same way about Nayeon that I do about Momo, who, by the way, was in my fear. I told you that my scarf was wrong.” Frustration bled into Sana’s voice. Jeongyeon decided it was time to change tactics.

Her eyes darted to the Hufflepuff scarf around Sana’s neck. She let out a laugh, reaching to playfully tug on it. “Fair point.”

Sana didn’t budge, didn’t crack a smile. She just looked at Jeongyeon and waited.

(In their fifth year, a 7th year Ravenclaw had gotten it into his head that teasing Dahyun was a good way to spend his time. Sana had proceeded to spend the rest of the year charming his food to taste like ash.)

“Okay, fine,” Jeongyeon said, crossing her arms. “I’m in love with Nayeon. Is that what you wanted to hear? I’m in love with her, but nothing about that scares me. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

It wasn’t often that Jeongyeon was able to surprise Sana, so it was with a reluctant satisfaction that she watched her friend’s jaw drop. Her heart was trying to beat itself out of its chest, yes, and her hands were now sweaty, but Sana was now reduced to just blinking at her. She considered it a fair trade.

“How is there nothing to be afraid of,” Sana asked incredulously. “You’re in love with her, and she has no goddamn idea. We’re graduating, Jeongyeon. Graduating!”

Jeongyeon let her head meet the door with a small thud. “Sana,” she said, not quite meeting her indignant eyes, “Nayeon and I aren’t happening. I’m not afraid because I know that as well as I know anything. There’s no clock counting down above my head. We’re as unlikely in here as we are after we graduate.”

A sudden tiredness settled beneath her skin. She’d had this argument with Momo and Jihyo many times over the years, and every time, she walked away further entrenched in her ideals. She wouldn’t change her mind. She didn’t want to.

Sana opened her mouth once more.

“Drop it, Sana.”

“Jeongyeon, you—”

“Drop it.”

The pity in Sana’s eyes made Jeongyeon want to lash out, made her want to explain that she was content like this. She knew Sana wouldn’t understand, just like Jihyo and Momo before her. It was enough for Jeongyeon to love Nayeon. Not all feelings needed to be acted upon.

Sana relented with a sigh, turning towards the door without another word.

Hours later, they stumbled out of the room, stomachs sore from laughter at the ridiculous situations they ended up putting their boggart in. She had never before imagined a horse doing backflips, and it was quite a sight to watch red-nose wearing Sana dance around the room while performing a soulful rendition of “The Thong Song”.

Before they parted, Sana pulled her into a hug, which in and of itself wasn’t unusual, but Jeongyeon could read unecessary comfort in the way her hands skimmed over Jeongyeon’s back. She chafed at the idea, but Sana’s arms around her were familiar and warm. The softness of Momo’s scarf beneath her chin was reassuring, and Jeongyeon found herself fully melting into the hug.

She didn’t need the comfort, but the hug eased the phantom ache in her chest all the same.

//

Jeongyeon stepped into the common room, lesson on transfiguration matrices already slipping from her mind. Her mind was becoming occupied with thoughts of her roommate and best friend. She was curious to see how Momo and Nayeon’s boggart trip had gone earlier this afternoon. If it was anything like hers and Sana’s had been, Jeongyeon was looking forward to hearing the chaos that had unfolded.

She wondered if either of their base fears had changed, or if Nayeon had been able to let Momo handle her fear on her own. She had promised that she would, but Jeongyeon knew how deep her protective streak ran.

“Jeongyeon!”

Jeongyeon turned, smile easily coming to her lips when she saw who had called her name. “Hey, Wonpil. What’s up?”

“I just wanted to let you know that Nayeon’s here.” He fiddled nervously with the pages of the book he had been reading. “She went upstairs almost two hours ago. She looked a bit upset, I think. Not sure if Momo is up there.”

Jeongyeon’s brow creased with worry. Had things with the boggart gone wrong? If Nayeon came back without Momo…

She threw a hurried “Thank you!” over her shoulder before heading up the steps. It wasn’t terribly unusual for Nayeon to be waiting for her in her room, especially not now that her and Momo shared a two-person room. But the fact that Wonpil thought she had been upset was troubling.

She pushed open the door to her room and, for just a second, forgot how breathing worked.

Momo wasn’t here, just Nayeon. Just Nayeon, sound asleep in Jeongyeon’s bed. She approached the sleeping girl in slow steps, levitated her bag to the floor with a cushioning spell to boot. She wanted to laugh at herself, scoff at the ridiculous care she was taking when she knew damn well that Nayeon could sleep through a hippogriff attack.

She crouched down when she was next to the bed, and took a moment to scan Nayeon’s face. She was sleeping peacefully, no furrow to her brow or tension in the hand she had twisted into Jeongyeon’s comforter. There was, however, evidence of past troubles in the form of redness around Nayeon’s eyes, dried tear tracks on her cheeks.

Jeongyeon wondered what would wake Nayeon first: the feeling of Jeongyeon’s hand gently brushing through her hair, or the sound of Jeongyeon’s heartbeat, loud and uncontrolled.

Nayeon shifted slightly, curled in closer on herself with a sigh. It would, Jeongyeon thought with a wry smile, take a lot more than a hand in her hair to wake Nayeon up. Jeongyeon knew she could call her name or jump on the bed or douse her with an Aguamenti, but she wanted Nayeon’s waking to be as peaceful as her slumber had been.

Jeongyeon wasn’t sure how long she stayed there, crouched on the floor of her room and running her finger’s through the hair of the girl she was in love with, but by the time Nayeon’s eyes fluttered open, Jeongyeon’s thigh muscles were all but screaming in protest.

She couldn’t bring herself to say anything. In the time between Jeongyeon entering her room and Nayeon opening her eyes, she had fallen in to a reverent silence.

Nayeon’s sleep-heavy gaze took her in for a moment. “You came back to me,” she murmured, smile pulling at her lips. “Knew you would.”

Jeongyeon cleared her throat, laughed softly. “This is my room, after all. I didn’t have a choice.”

Nayeon squinted. Jeongyeon could all but see the gears turning in her head. Jeongyeon wasn’t sure what exactly clicked, but something did. Awareness sharpened Nayeon’s gaze, pushed away the dream like haze she had been in. The pout on Nayeon’s lips was only amplified by the fact that half of her face was lost in Jeongyeon’s pillow. “Did you wake me up from my nap?”

Jeongyeon rocked back onto her heels with a laugh, finally standing and giving her muscles sweet relief. “I did.” Jeongyeon turned and moved over to her dresser. A joking Nayeon was a good sign.

“The nerve,” Nayeon huffed. Jeongyeon heard the sheets rustle behind her. “They’d never do this to me in Paris.”

Jeongyeon paused in slipping her robe off to roll her eyes. “You hated Paris.” She took her hair out of her ponytail holder, ruffling her hair to reshape it. “You said the city had the personality of ‘three dementors vying for the position of Miss Congeniality’.”

She heard a dreamy sigh from Nayeon as she changed out of her uniform pants and into jeans. “One of my best insults, I think.”

“Please,” Jeongyeon said, turning to face Nayeon with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve done so much better.”

Nayeon, who was now leaning back against the headboard, beamed. “Aw, thanks, Jeongie. Now get over here.” She slid down into the covers, patting the space beside her.

Any other day, any other situation, and Jeongyeon would’ve responded with a scowl and resistance. But, today was today, and Nayeon had obviously been crying earlier. She lifted her sheets and slid under them, taking a moment to acknowledge the fact that she was getting into bed at 8pm.

Nayeon scooted over until their knees were knocking. “Do you know why I hated Paris so much?”

Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow. “Because the first day you were there, a very aggressive muggle child thought you were part of a historical clothing exhibit, called you a hag, and then kicked you in the shin?”

“That answer is correct, but not what I was looking for,” Nayeon said, corner of her mouth turned down at the memory. “What I was going to say was that the reason I hated it was because you weren’t there.”

“Oh.”

Nayeon’s smile was a weary one. “That’s what my boggart was about today. Well, before I got it to change into a giant bug.”

“Your boggart was about Paris? Was the trip really that bad?”

Nayeon rolled her eyes. “It was about you… not being around.”

“Oh.”

Another smile, this one less strained. “You keep saying that.”

“You keep saying things I don’t know how to respond to!” Jeongyeon winced at the volume of her voice. She didn’t mean to yell. She wasn’t mad. Her love for Nayeon was swelling in her chest, pushing at every corner of her mind, and it was all she could do to not say something extremely sappy in return.

So she settled for yelling, and her best friend of seven years settled for humming and scooting even closer. There was a knowing look on Nayeon’s face, as if she knew exactly what Jeongyeon was struggling with. And, if not for the fact that Jeongyeon was also in love with her, Jeongyeon would admit that Nayeon probably had a pretty good read on the situation.

Jeongyeon tried to swim through the mess in her head, tried to find the words she wanted to say and a way to express them. Nayeon took one of Jeongyeon’s hands in her own, tracing delicate lines into the palm of hand. Nayeon had taken Divination up until this year, and Jeongyeon wanted to ask what she saw. She wanted to know what future Nayeon saw for her in the lines of her palm. Was it one in which they were best friends even in old age? Did anything in the creases of her hand tell Nayeon that her boggart was as wrong as anything had ever been? She wanted to ask these things, but instead:

“We’re always going to be friends, Nayeon. You don’t have anything to be afraid of.”

Jeongyeon fought back a shiver as Nayeon’s thumbnail ran over the line at the top of her palm. Nayeon’s eyes were on her thumb as she spoke. “Do you really believe that?”

Her head was a mess of Nayeon, Nayeon, Nayeon, but this answer shone through. “Of course.”

//

“… would like to go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?”

Jeongyeon had to hand it to the guy. He was doing a remarkable job of staying calm as Nayeon stared him down from across the table. Most of Nayeon’s suitors would ask her out in the hallway, or somewhere out in the school grounds. But for someone to walk up and interrupt what was very clearly a study session was new.

Based on the way Nayeon was gripping her quill under the table, she found it annoying as well.

“I’m sorry,” Nayeon said, voice honey sweet. “I actually have my eye on someone else. Thank you, though. I’m flattered.”

Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow in surprise. She’d never heard that excuse before. A quick glance around the table showed a similar reaction on Mina, Sana, and Tzuyu’s faces.

The now red Gryffindor stuttered out a response and made his way out of the library. “Isn’t that the third time you’ve been asked out this week,” Tzuyu asked, barely glancing up from the essay she was working on. “Eventually the school has to run out of people.”

Nayeon shrugged dismissively. “I can’t help it if my attractiveness and overall aura continue to infatuate the masses. It’s both a blessing and a curse.”

Mina wrinkled her nose. “Last week it took you twenty minutes to finish your coffee. That girl wouldn’t stop trying to get you to come to her Quidditch match.”

“Actually,” Sana chimed in, “I was just confounding her over and over again. She almost hit Momo with a bludger during the last Hufflepuff versus Gryffindor match.”

Jeongyeon struggled to smother her laugh, an effort that proved even more fruitless when she noticed Tzuyu trying to do the same thing.

“As much as I would like to keep running through everyone’s greatest hits of people begging me for a chance, I promised Chaeyoung that I’d help her with a potion she was having trouble with.” Nayeon began gathering her things, but not before taking the time to send an individual glare at each of them.

Jeongyeon winked in response, pleased at how quickly Nayeon averted her eyes.

Mina sighed, dropping her quill to rub at her forehead. “I should also head out. I have a group meeting for Ancient Runes. Tzuyu, did you want me to take those notes of Dahyun’s for you?”

Tzuyu shook her head, also beginning to gather her things. “I can do it. I think I’m getting a headache from being in this room too long anyways.”

 They exchanged a chorus of goodbyes, and then it was just her and Sana at the table.

Jeongyeon scratched out a formula she had been working on. For a charm to last longer, it needed to more efficiently use energy. That meant that the incantation would need to be modified. She picked up the Latin dictionary next to her, flipping to the spell reference section in the back. If she could just find—

“The idea of her dating someone else really doesn’t scare you, does it?”

The pages wrinkled under Jeongyeon’s grip. “Sana.”

“Relax. I’m not going to make you talk about it. I just had a thought to share.”

Jeongyeon didn’t dare look across the table at Sana. She didn’t want to have to deal with whatever emotion was on her face. She’d bet anything it was pity.

She let out a noncommittal grumble and returned to flipping through the dictionary. The knitting charm was great and all, but if she could apply it to harder materials and make it last longer, the potential was—

“Okay, no but seriously. Explain,” Sana demanded.

Jeongyeon dropped her head to the table with a groan. “Sana.”

“Seriously, Jeongyeon. Just humor me one time.”

Jeongyeon met Sana’s almost-pleading gaze and gave one last wistful look to her homework. She had really wanted to get it done before the weekend.

“I told you weeks ago, Sana. I have nothing to be afraid of because I know it’s never happening.” Jeongyeon ran her hands through her hair. “And that doesn’t even look at everything. Aside from me actually saying anything, there’s Nayeon’s feelings, not to mention the Im’s views on poor muggleborns.”

Anger flashed across Sana’s face, and Jeongyeon realized a second too late that she had made a mistake.

“Do you really,” Sana began, voice soft, “think that Nayeon would let her family dictate who she dates?” Sana’s voice was practically dripping with disdain as she finished speaking, and frankly, Jeongyeon couldn’t blame her.

“No,” Jeongyeon insisted. “No! Of course not, but—”

Sana carried forward. “In fifth year, she got into a big fight with them. She wouldn’t tell anyone what it was about. Do you remember that?”

Jeongyeon nodded, slightly surprised at the seeming change in topic. “Who doesn’t? They sent her that howler. What’s that have to do with anything?”

Sana sent her a baleful look. “I heard her floo calling them one night. They were chastising her for entertaining the idea of ‘dating someone below their station’. Nayeon told them that they could either deal with the possibility or end up without an heir at all.”

For a moment, the only sound in the library was that of other students turning pages. Jeongyeon struggled to understand what Sana was telling her. There was a point to it, that much was obvious from the way Sana was looking at her, but—

“If I remember correctly, the following Christmas was the first one you spent with the Ims.”

Jeongyeon managed a smile. “It was. Nearly had a heart attack when the invitation arrived. But I don’t—”

Sana interrupted her yet again. If it was anyone else, Jeongyeon would’ve left three interruptions ago. “And the journal is real, Jeongyeon. Nayeon has a list of every muggle song you've ever mentioned so that she can listen to them once she's in a place where technology works. There's almost a whole chapter on muggle candies. She’s had it since second year when you first made that stupid joke about her taking notes on muggle things. She adds chapters when something new comes up.”

Jeongyeon could only stare, watch as Sana tried to take a bulldozer to years of wall-building.

“She added the chapter on dating in fifth year.”

Nayeon had quizzed her, in fifth year, about what muggles did on dates, where they went. Jeongyeon had thought it was just a natural curiosity.

“It’s about you, Jeongyeon. It always has been, and if you keep convincing yourself that you have nothing to be afraid of, you’re going to miss out on something wonderful. Fear sometimes keeps us from our dreams, but sometimes it’s also the thing that motivates us. Learn to let yourself be afraid.”

“Wait, Sana.”

Sana shook her head, standing up from the table. “No. I’ve said enough, more than I should’ve, probably. It’s not on anyone else, Jeongyeon. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life wondering ‘what if’?”

And then Sana was gone, leaving Jeongyeon at the table by herself, surrounded by an endless number of questions.

She looked down at the dictionary still in her hand. Latin didn’t seem all that compelling anymore.

//

“Open it, Jihyo.”

Jhiyo hesitated, hand hovering over the wardrobe’s doorknob. “Are you sure you need to do this? I don’t think they recommend facing a boggart at 1am?”

Jeongyeon smiled. “You said you would help.”

Jeongyeon had tried to go about her day, had tried to forget about everything that Sana had said, but she couldn’t. Sana didn’t lie, and she certainly wouldn’t start with something like this. There was a conclusion she was being led to, and it was one that threatened to upend the last four years of her life.

She had tried to think it out logically, but the words “Nayeon might love me back” were enough to send her into a tailspin. Jeongyeon had felt like she was grasping at air, and so she latched onto the one thing from Sana’s lecture that she could actually do something with.

Sana had told her that she should learn to be afraid, and Jeongyeon just so happened to have access to a creature that would regurgitate fear at her. It had seemed like the perfect solution, and so Jeongyeon had found herself standing outside of their research room at 1am.

A voice had called out to her, asked her what she thought she was doing out so late. And all Jeongyeon could do was laugh. Jihyo, predictably, had insisted on accompanying Jeongyeon into the room, something about “making sure she didn’t give herself a heart attack”. To Jihyo’s credit, it had only taken one utterance of Nayeon’s name for her to come completely on board.

So here they were.

“I’ve said a lot of things in my time,” Jihyo sighed. “And look where that’s gotten me: here. With you.”

Jeongyeon laughed, but the anxiety in her chest was persistent. “Open the damn door, Park.”

Jihyo pulled on the doorknob and stepped back, and then it was up to Jeongyeon.

She focused on her conversation with Sana, let herself take in the words and follow a trail of logic to their conclusion.

Nayeon might love me back.

The boggart that came at her had nothing to do with a messy room, and there was nary a horse in sight. The image that greeted her stabbed at the dull ache in her stomach.

Nayeon stood before her, looking about ten years older than the girl Jeongyeon knew. She was beautiful, yes, but her eyes didn't hold the same warmth and brightness that Jeongyeon was so used to.

Nayeon stepped closer, and it was then that Jeongyeon noticed the ring on her finger. It was gaudy, all diamonds and glitz and glamor for the sake of it. It was everything Nayeon used to tell her about with whispered disdain.

“You know, it’s funny, Jeongyeon.” This Nayeon’s voice was slightly lower, but that tone of sweetness was unmistakable. Jeongyeon found herself taking a half-step forward. “I was terribly in love with you back in our Hogwarts days.” Nayeon fiddled with the ring on her finger, spun it around. There was haughtiness to her voice now, and not the self-mocking kind Nayeon was so fond of. “It took awhile to get over you after we graduated, but all things fade away, no?”

It stood before her, the thing Jeongyeon had been unable to put a name to all of these years. Maybe, all those years ago, when this feelings thing first started, it was fear of Nayeon rejecting her and leaving her behind that had plagued her. But that faded as she continued to get to know Nayeon, continued to grow closer and closer to the fiercely loyal woman who called her her best friend.

She hadn’t been afraid of this before because it had been years since she had even thought about considering that Nayeon might feel the same way, but now that Sana’s voice was whirling around in her head, leaving havoc in its wake, the thought that she could miss out on being with Nayeon was terrifying.

If Nayeon loved me.

The boggart shifted, becoming a Nayeon that stood in front of Jeongyeon with gasping breaths and teary eyes.

“I love you,” she murmured, shaky hand reaching out for Jeongyeon. “Why did you break my heart? I trusted you!” The words slid into a heartbroken yell, and Jeongyeon was faintly aware of Jihyo gasping.

The pit in her stomach took shape, twisting into thorns.

We could hurt each other.

The boggart shifted again, and this Nayeon was calmer. She looked a bit sad, but all Jeongyeon could focus on was the simple silver band that was being held out in her direction.

“I’m sorry,” this Nayeon said, voice strong and clear. “I just don’t love you anymore, Jeongyeon. There’s nothing here for me.” She was wearing a shirt Jeongyeon recognized from one of their many ‘muggle shopping excursions’.

Jeongyeon tried to take a breath, tried to breathe past the stabbing pain in her chest, but her inhale was nothing more than a sob. She didn’t evaluate her love for Nayeon all that often, but she knew it had never hurt this much before. She lurched forward, desperately reaching for Nayeon. She needed to fix this.

Riddikulus!” Jihyo drove the boggart away, and Jeongyeon all but stumbled into her arms.

They sunk to the floor, a mess of tangled limbs and muttered comforts. Jeongyeon could feel every thought she had ever protected herself with begin to crumble, and it was only Jihyo’s familiar arms around her that stopped her from completely losing it.

She didn’t know how much time passed, but, eventually, her breathing evened out and her legs stopped shaking. She pulled away, not quite ready to look Jihyo in the eye.

“Jeongyeon.” It was a murmur, but it was enough.

“I don’t know when it happened,” she said, blindly reaching out for one of Jihyo’s hands, “but sometime between third year and now, I just flipped a switch. I determined that Nayeon and I would never be a thing, and that was that. Hoping was too complicated.”

Jihyo squeezed her hand, brought her other one up to also wrap around it. “It’s not too late to change whatever you want to change, Jeongyeon. It’ll be okay. Boggarts aren’t prophecies. They take the worst of our imagination and run with it.”

Silence settled on the room, only broken by Jeongyeon’s sniffling and the occasional thud from the wardrobe.

“I’m afraid, Jihyo.”

Jihyo slowly brushed her hair back. “I know. It’s okay to be.”

“I think I have to tell her.”

//

Jeongyeon barely remembered getting back to her common room that night, barely remembered falling into bed and pulling herself right back out of it in the morning. The day passed in a slight haze, her body working on auto pilot. There were jolts of recognition throughout the day, flashes of Nayeon in technicolor.

It wasn’t until the evening, when she saw Nayeon coming out of Potions, that she finally did something about the nerves simmering in her chest. Nayeon came with her easily, doing nothing more than raising an eyebrow and smirking when Jeongyeon extended a hand and asked her to follow her.

“Seriously, where are we—” Nayeon came to a halt as she realized what room she had just been pulled into. Her grip on Jeongyeon’s hand tightened. “What exactly are you doing?”

“I need to show you something.” Jeongyeon tried to ignore the anxiety dancing around the edges of her mind. She knew what she needed to do, and she was doing it.

The wardrobe let out a loud thud.

Nayeon shook her head, stepping back. “I think you can tell me in a room that doesn’t have a boggart in it, thanks. I don’t need to revisit my fear anytime soon.”

Nayeon was nervous, but Jeongyeon pressed on. She needed Nayeon to understand.

“Nayeon, please.” She was pleading now, desperation coating her words. Nayeon’s resistance faltered.

“Jeongyeon.” Nayeon took a step closer. “What’s going on? Talk to me.”

“I”—Jeongyeon swallowed, struggling not to choke on the reality of what she was trying to do—“I’m not good with words. I need to show you.”

If she tried to explain to Nayeon what was going on, tried to explain that just looking at her set off an emotional skirmish in Jeongyeon’s brain, she’d mess it up somehow. Her mind was a chorus of ‘what-ifs’, circling and looping around each other until it was all she knew.

How could she possibly explain that the thing that scared her the most was Nayeon loving her back? The walls in her chest were crumbling, overrun with vines that constricted in time with every breath Nayeon took.

The path of rejection was clean. They could move on. Things might be awkward for a bit, but it would pass. They had been through far too much together for her to even consider otherwise.

But if Nayeon returned her feelings.

The boggart continued to slam itself against the inside of the wardrobe. Nayeon stepped closer.

If Nayeon loved her.

Jeongyeon could see the scar on Nayeon’s nose, one she had gotten at the age of seven from an angry garden gnome.

If Nayeon loved her, the entire world would shift. There were infinite endings. Infinite ways for them to hurt each other. Infinite ways they could make each other happy.

Jeongyeon didn’t know how to explain infinity, didn’t know how to convey just how much it terrified her.

“You’re shaking.” Nayeon’s voice was soft, her hand on Jeongyeon’s cheek even softer. “Jeong, what’s wrong?”

The pressure in her chest built, fought to be released, and Jeongyeon opened her mouth to try again. She needed to show her.

Her mouth betrayed her. “I’m scared.” Distantly, Jeongyeon was aware of how small her voice sounded.

A second hand joined the first. A thumb caressed her cheek. “Of what?”

The wardrobe lurched again, and Jeongyeon yearned to unlock it. If she could just show Nayeon, it would be easy. The boggart would transform, her fears would be laid bare, and Nayeon would understand the tangle in her chest. Nayeon always understood.

The gentle pressure of Nayeon’s hands kept her calm. The look in her eyes kept her in place.

Nayeon’s hands slipped down onto her shoulders. “Jeongyeon.” Her voice was firm, compelling. “Talk to me. You don’t need the boggart for anything. Just talk to me.” Nayeon’s face was open, familiar.

Safe.

“Okay,” Jeongyeon said, bringing her hands up to wrap loosely around Nayeon’s wrists. She took a deep breath, watched some of the worry leave Nayeon’s face. “Okay.”

She could see the crossroads, could almost hear the crunch of gravel underneath her feet.

A deep groan sounded from the wardrobe.

“I think I’m about to talk a lot, and it might not make a lot of sense. But please bear with me.”

Nayeon nodded.

Jeongyeon didn’t really know where to start, didn’t know which words could properly set the scene. She figured the beginning was as good a place as any. “The first time I saw you, I was kind of afraid of you.”

She couldn’t help but chuckle at Nayeon’s raised eyebrow. “It’s true. I was new to this entire world, and I had spent the morning tripping over anything and everything. Then this girl comes storming into the cabin, huffing and kicking and looking to all the world like a tiny menace.”

A gentle blush began to bloom on Nayeon’s cheeks. Her lips tugged into a shy smile. “I wasn’t that bad.”

“You absolutely were,” Jeongyeon replied. The memory tugged at something in her chest, pulled another brick loose. “I wondered if I should even say anything or if I should just leave.”

Nayeon’s hand smacked her shoulder, laughter softening the blow. “You did not!”

Jeongyeon nodded. “I did! But I stayed, and then I found out you talked like a tiny accountant. That was scary in a different way.” She continued through Nayeon’s eye roll and muttered You try having only adult friends for 11 years. “You burst into my life all those years ago and scared the hell out of me, and I decided to stay because something else scared me more. I don’t know if it was tripping or having no friends at all or what. But I stayed.”

It was hard to miss the emotions playing across Nayeon’s face. Amusement tempered by concern came first, and delicate nostalgia followed in turn. By the time Jeongyeon paused to take a breath, the look on Nayeon’s face had settled into a familiar one. It was soft, and open, and it was there because of her.  

“And then I—” Jeongyeon stopped. Too many memories were whirling around in her head, too many moments she could bring up as part of their story. There was an entire tapestry she could weave together for Nayeon, years worth of anecdotes and heartbeat-skipping moments. There were infinite ways she could go about explaining to Nayeon how, why, and when she fell in love with her, but in the end, all of those roads led to the same, simple, point.

“I fell in love with you, somewhere along the way. I’m in love with you, right now. And you might love me back. It terrifies me.”

Nayeon’s eyes widened, jaw dropping to complete the picture of surprise. She took a deep breath, and then another, and then her expression settled into something Jeongyeon couldn’t quite describe. One of her hands slid to cup the back of Jeongyeon’s neck. Nayeon’s touch left goosebumps in its wake. “Why is the thought of me loving you back terrifying?” Nayeon’s voice was light. It thundered through Jeongyeon’s ears.

“I don’t know if we’ll get a happy ending.” Jeongyeon didn’t realize that they had been drifting closer until Nayeon’s forehead gently knocked into hers. She counted the freckles on her nose: One, two, three. Just as it had always been. “We could break each other’s hearts.”

The hand on her neck was shaking, only steadied when another slid up to join it. “What would you say if I told you that I thought the risk was worth it? Or that I thought we could make it through anything?” Nayeon’s gaze dropped to the floor for just a moment. “Or that I’ve been in love with you since I was sixteen?”

The vines woven throughout Jeongyeon’s chest gave one final squeeze, gripped her one last time, and then loosened. There were tears in Nayeon’s eyes and a blush on her cheeks. Her fears weren’t fully gone; she could still feel them lingering in the dark corners of her chest even now, even as Nayeon smiled at her in a way that Jeongyeon now understood had always been meant for her. They weren’t gone, but they no longer seemed as frightening.

“I would say,” Jeongyeon began, smile playful despite the pounding in her chest, “that I win because I’ve had feelings for you since third year.”

Nayeon jerked back with a wild and disbelieving laugh. “You’re lying!”

“I’m not,” Jeongyeon said, moving with Nayeon to keep her close. “Something about you being unable to cast the Stinging Hex without also hurting yourself just really spoke to me.”

Nayeon’s protest was a mixture of delight and offense. “It was one time!”

“It was at least three,” Jeongyeon answered through her own laughter, reaching to catch Nayeon’s hand and pull them close. Jeongyeon wrapped her arms around Nayeons’ waist as they continued to laugh. Eventually, it faded, leaving them in a content silence.

Nayeon’s eyes found hers, and the world stuttered. “So, we’re dating now, right?.”

Jeongyeon wanted to make another joke, wanted to see Nayeon’s eyes light up and listen to laughter spill from her lips, but the echo of doubt in Nayeon’s voice was more pressing. She wanted to erase it to the best of her abilities. “I’ve been yours for years, Im Nayeon. Nothing would make me happier.”

A tear escaped the corner of Nayeon’s eye. “For someone who’s afraid of me loving her, you’re doing at great job at making me love you more.” She let out a watery chuckle. “Where’s the fear and emotional distance?”

Jeongyeon gently bumped Nayeon’s forehead with her own, watched as Nayeon’s eyes fluttered shut. “It’s still very much there, trust me, but it’s easier to deal with when you’re telling me you love me.”

“I’ll just have to do that often, then.”

“I think once or twice a day should suffice. Maybe thrice.”

“Nope. Every second of every day, Yoo Jeongyeon.”

“You have classes.”

“I don’t care. I love you.”

“Sleeping.”

“Unimportant. I love you.”

“You’re going to have to stop saying it to eat.”

“I can subsist entirely on love and cuddling. I love y—”

Jeongyeon knew it was cliche to interrupt someone by kissing them, but Nayeon was so close, and Jeongyeon had never really been able to resist her. Soft lips eagerly met her own, the feeling of Nayeon pressed against her like this everything she never even thought she could have. The smell of Nayeon’s conditioner, of the cherry lip gloss she was so fond of, was almost enough to make Jeongyeon dizzy, sent waves of happiness rippling through her.

Nayeon loved her. There was no iron-clad promise of a happily ever-after, no cosmic guarantee that Jeongyeon would wake up fifty years from now to find Nayeon by her side. But Nayeon was here, in her arms, lips meeting Jeongyeon’s in a way that left no room for doubt.

It was okay, Jeongyeon realized, laughing as Nayeon used her tie to pull her back in for another kiss. She had Nayeon, and she had her love. She could be brave.

It was enough.

//


On Fear: Boggarts and the Dichotomy of Self
By Im Nayeon, Yoo Jeongyeon, Hirai Momo, and Minatozaki Sana


Fear is a mysterious thing. It plays both provocateur and deterrent, and one need not travel far to see it at work. The boggart (Speculum Timore), attempts to deal solely in the second, paralyzing its victims by putting their fears on public display. However in many cases, the boggart may tip over into the first category, causing its potential victim to react defensively, casting the spell that will banish the boggart. Over the course of the last year, we have studied fear as it interacts with the boggart. We’ve come to learn that, above all, fear is malleable, and, when approached carefully, can be the ultimate motivator.