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“Are you certain there isn’t any way for us to return?”

Sakura stuffs a fistful of caramel popcorn in her mouth, watching Itachi warily.  He’s using contractions.  He never uses contractions.  Not even that time Professor Sasori decided to screw around with the testing schedule so Itachi had to write his Potions OWL at unholy-o-clock in the AM after a night of Prefect rounds.

It’s hard to make out any distinct facial expression through the glass comm-ball, but Mikoto manages to look apologetic as she replies, “No.  I’m sorry, Itachi-kun.  Minato was very firm about the order; until we catch Kabuto, we need to seal off any and all means of transportation.  Floo’s, Portkey’s, Apparitions...everything.”

“So I’ll be stuck here in the non-magical world until you apprehend him.” It could very well just be her, but Sakura swears his voice pitches a little higher in panic.  She offers him a couple pieces of popcorn in solidarity.

Itachi chews on them aggressively.  Sakura makes a mental note to get him some of that special anti-cavity toothpaste.

“It shouldn’t take me too long,” Mikoto assures him, “Kushina and I are heading out to investigate right now.  Take this time to relax! I’m sure Sakura-chan can keep you entertained for the next couple days.  Your father and I have already written excuse notes for the both of you, so you won’t be penalized for being late coming back.” Her eyes flick away for a second.  “Ah, I have to go, Kushina is here.  Have fun, you two!”

Her face swirls to glittery dust that floats to the bottom of the glass ball slowly, a perfect mirror of the snow falling outside.

“Do you want tea? You look like you need tea.”

“I find I’m going to need something stronger.”

“...why don’t you come pick out your K-Cup flavour while I get the Keurig started.”

“I beg your pardon, the what?”

“There is no way our son is stupid enough to fall for that,” Fugaku declares, watching his wife toss the comm-ball to the side and wrap a cozy scarf around her neck.

"Your son most certainly is,” she sings, sliding on her boots and reaching for her thickest cloak.  “This’ll be good for both of them! Obito’s been telling me for the past six years now how absolutely smitten the two of them are for each other.  A little time away from Hogwarts, some Christmas’ll all work out.”

From his portrait, Madara eyes Fugaku with thinly veiled disgust.  “You’re the best my genes could do?”

“I did tell you to marry that Senju girl but you just had to do what chichiue said and get with that psychopathic fourth cousin of ours, didn’t you,” Izuna mutters in the portrait next to him.

Behave, boys! Kushina and I’ll be late, don’t wait up!” Mikoto skips out the front door, humming a jaunty tune that Fugaku thinks might just be the last thing he hears before he’s sent to his grave in the not-so-distant future.

Across the hall, Naoya’s portrait shouts, “Madara-nii, I’m positive there was a mix-up in the records and she’s your descendent, not him! She has your eyes!”

“We have black eyes,” Fugaku says, pinching the bridge of his nose.  “All of us have the same eyes.”

The first two days are an eerie echo of the way the girl’s dorm gets on the weekends whenever somebody breaks up with their significant other.  Itachi doesn’t sob into her chest, scream-cry along to old Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson bops, or need to be talked out of casting a hex on them at three in the morning because of the ‘extra witching hour juice’ (quoth Ino, who’s garnered a reputation for casting nightmare hexes for any spurned lover willing to cover the cost of her weekly shopping splurges).  He does, however, sit in catatonic silence and needs to be steered around to avoid growing roots through the sofa he spends every waking hour on.

Her sympathy starts to crumble a little by day three and is completely burnt to crisp come day four when he has the audacity to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians under her roof.  There are levels of pathetic and this is one she’s proud to say she’s never hit.

“Get dressed,” she tells him, turning off the TV.  Itachi holds up the remote and turns it back on again.

Goddammit, tou-chan, why’d you show him how to work that stupid thing?

“I said-” She rips out the wires from the outlet and the back of the flatscreen for good measure, “Get.  Dressed.”

“I could miss a call from kaa-san about a return trip.  I have to stay here.”

“Itachi, I swear on your batshit insane ancestors if you don’t go shower, exfoliate, get dressed, and get down here in the next fifteen minutes, catching an Underage Magic charge is going to be the last thing on my mind when I make mushrooms grow out of your ears.”

True to form, he’s up and down in thirteen minutes and nine seconds, smelling strongly of her signature Boho Berry Blast and dressed in her father’s lounge-wear.  The sweatpants cling low to his narrow hips and the oversized grey sweater practically swallows him whole, but he manages to pull it off.  Kind of.  

“Our Uber should be here soon, so-”

Itachi looks at her helplessly.  “Uber?”

Deep breaths, Sakura, deep breaths.  It’s not your fault Wizarding society is so ass-backwards they make Muggle Studies an elective and haven’t updated the curriculum since 1985…

“A car, Itachi.  It’s a hired car.”

“The weather is not so terrible we can’t walk,” he says, peeking out the sidelites thoughtfully.  The snow is slowly piling up to where his hip is propped against the glass.

She swallows her pre-prepared lecture, smiling brightly.  “You know what, Itachi? You’re right! Let’s get some exercise.  Give me a second, I’m going to go grab my gloves.”

“So if I’m following this right, because Obito and Mikoto are cousins, they share an obaa-chan.  That obaa-chan’s name is Sayuri, and she’s the direct descendent of Uchiha Minori, who may or may not be Madara’s...illegitimate daughter.”

“Incorrect.  She may or may not be my son’s illegitimate daughter,” Madara says with a haughty sniff.

“Right, but the point is, if we trace the line far back enough, Mikoto might actually be the heiress in this case, not Fugaku,” Shisui muses, poring over the massive family tree spread out on the floor.  Dusty documents, unearthed with Madara’s directions from god-knows-where in the attic, cover the branches connecting them to the Hyuuga.  

“If we go back far enough in time, all of us are related,” Fugaku stresses, having given up any hope of retaining his sanity when he had to drag the Five Siblings’ portraits off the wall to congregate in the living room.

“Y’know, with all this inbreeding to maintain Pureblood status, it’s kind of amazing we’ve all turned out so normal,” Obito says, taking a swig of his ‘Quil’ - a mixture of some Muggle concoctions known as DayQuil and NyQuil; when asked, his only response was ‘to see if they cancel out’.

“Which is why it’s so important that Itachi and this Sakura girl work out!” Yutaka, the youngest of the Five, cheers, “Hey, it’s been four days, do you think they’re together yet? It only took me two to confirm my engagement to Teruko-chan.”

“I have long suspected that he-” Madara shoots Fugaku a filthy look, “May be Kazuya’s descendent.  In that case, we will sooner see that Sasuke-brat do something with himself that isn’t specifically to oppose whatever the Uzumaki hybrid is up to these days.”

Fugaku stares at the fireplace longingly.  It can’t hurt them if they’re already dead, right…?

As a prospective future Healer, Sakura shouldn’t take an ounce of pleasure in seeing somebody suffer no matter how much they probably deserve it.  As somebody who was mistakenly put into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin (according to Witch Weekly’s ‘which house do you actually belong to’ quiz), she revels in vindictive glee watching Itachi try his best not to shake himself out of his skin as they enter the store.  

“Did you enjoy the walk?” she asks sweetly, stuffing her magicked gloves into her pocket.  Itachi brushes a pile of snow off his shoulder with bone-white fingers and plants himself right on top of the heating vent by the entrance.

“Immensely,” he says dully.

For a fraction of a second, guilt pricks at her chest.  Itachi’s a lot of things: prodigious wizard the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Uchiha Madara himself; brilliant leader to the student body, even the parts he’s not responsible for; and the kind boy who’s been at her side ever since that fateful day six years ago when he caught her hiding in his section of Greenhouse Three when she should’ve been in Care of Magical Creatures.  They all make him the kind of guy Sakura thanks her lucky stars is a permanent fixture in her life, but he’s also the most stubborn, strait-laced idiot she’s ever known - which is saying something, because her best friends are Uchiha ‘Immovable Object’ Sasuke and Namikaze ‘Unstoppable Force’ Naruto.

He’s had a shit week but it’s almost entirely on him for catastrophizing so hard it turned him into a statue and killed all the logic circuits of his brain.  Sakura knows Itachi.  Really, truly knows him.  Not in a ‘we finish each other’s sentences’ kind of way, but in a ‘we accidentally got onto the same radiowave and have been unable to switch channels ever since’ kind of way, so she's well aware that this has nothing to do with him being an inept Pureblood trapped in the non-magical world with zero coping skills, and everything to do with the fact that he’s missing out on the precious early days of the Winter semester and Shisui’s notes are dubious at best.

“Well, maybe on the way back we’ll listen to the Muggle-” Itachi purses his lips in annoyance, and she amends, “Fine, the non-magical born and take an Uber in the middle of a snowstorm? For god's sake, Itachi, this takes so long to say, I don’t care what conniptions you have with that word, my mouth hurts.”

“Pureblood, Half-blood, and Muggle are terms that have been historically and institutionally used in order to-”

“Okay, I get it!” Sakura cuts him off loudly, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him to the other end of the store.  He surveys the shelves and displays with hawkish eyes, drinking in all the glittery plastic Christmas decor like he’s never seen anything like it before.  

Belatedly, she realizes this is probably his first time ever seeing these things outside of those dated Muggle Studies textbooks.  He’d only ever been to the Muggle world four times before this, and three of those times were spent at her place and her place alone.  Ancient Pureblood Clans, Mikoto had once explained while introducing her to the Five Siblings, didn’t make it a habit of intermingling with the Muggle world more than necessary.

Until her.

She ducks her chin into her scarf and prays any pinkening of her cheeks can be blamed on the cold weather.

“Well, we’re here!” she says, stepping through the automatic doors and immediately sagging into the blast of humid air that greets them.

Itachi’s eyes widen marginally.  “A greenhouse? In the middle of winter?” His voice lowers, breath tickling her neck as he leans down to whisper, “They are able to sustain one of these without magic? How?”

“Well, first off, this is a garden center.  You get more than just plants here, y’know? Tools, supplies...all the good stuff.  Normally the garden centers open up in the spring and close by the time fall rolls around, but this store stays open all year round for people like us,” Sakura says with a wink.  Her entire abdominal cavity shoots up to her chest when he gives her the tiniest, softest smile.

Oh, god, dimples, dimples, I forgot he has those dimples

“You have been here before?”

“Yeah! It’s where I got you that spider-plant a couple years ago.”

She squeaks when he draws his arm closer to his side, trapping her hand against his side. 

“Then I trust you to show me around.”

“For the last time, we are all related,” Fugaku snaps impatiently, “It does not matter who is related to who in whatever manner because we are all related.”

“It does matter,” Madara counters with a sneer, “For I refuse to believe genes of my calibre could have been watered down to produce someone like you and your idiot sons when they are clearly more in line with Mikoto.”

“But they’re also her sons,” Fugaku says, hand twitching for the wand Obito confiscated two hours ago.  It doesn’t make much of a difference considering how years of schooling with Uzumaki Kushina forced him to become more proficient at wandless magic than most Aurors are with wands.  

“They are, however their idiocy can then be blamed on your genes’ interference with our otherwise perfect bloodline.”

“The same one that produced Obito?” Kakashi (when and why the hell he’d decided to join them is beyond his level of caring right now) asks incredulously, poking his unconscious best friend in the face.  As it turns out, ‘Quil’ does not cancel out and cause you to ascend to a higher plane of being.  Instead, it makes you throw up fluorescent purple and drool onto hundred-year-old throw pillows.  

Madara sniffs daintily.  “That would be because of his mother.  Kagami and Shisui are my direct descendents and they are prime examples of what an Uchiha ought to be.”

Shisui is currently coaching Izuna through the steps of some dance popular on a Muggle ‘tiktok’.

“Your genes cannot be as powerful as you claim if they are so easily overwritten, aniue,” Kazuya says.

Fugaku picks up the quarter cup of Quil and hopes it’s enough to send him to join Obito on whatever realm of blissful ignorance he's in.

Itachi loves the garden center.

Correction: Itachi is absolutely, positively, irrevocably bewitched by the garden center and Sakura’s almost afraid to tell him it closes in an hour and a half.

“Your boyfriend really likes plants, huh?” one of the garden center employees comments, eyeing the contents of her trolley with interest.  There are at least fourteen flowerpots bursting with colourful blooms, each one lovingly arranged to replicate the order of the colour wheel.  That a quarter of them have at least one flower the exact shade of her hair has not escaped her, even if it’s probably escaped him.

It’s probably not escaped me because it’s escaped him and ran to me…

“Yep…” she chuckles uneasily, so distracted by Itachi skipping over with a money-plant the size of his head that she forgets to correct him with her usual ‘we’re so not dating, why would you think that’.

“For good luck and prosperity during exams,” he says seriously.

“You’ve literally got the highest grades in the school, what do you need this for?”

“No, for you.  I understand you will be taking your NEWTS early.  You do not need good luck, however it does not hurt to keep it anyway knowing your first exam is with Professor Sasori.”

It’s so endearing in the most deranged way possible that he’s violating his personal code of ethics to give her a heads up on her exam order that Sakura pats his shoulder awkwardly, privately vowing to kill Professor Sasori because goddammit, why did he make him her first NEWT?

“What are those?” Itachi hones in on a row of lamps.

“Oh, grow lights.  They’re really helpful for growing plants year-round, especially when the sunlight is unpredictable and…” she trails off.  Itachi looks like he’s prepared to break the Ministry travel ban to march to Gringotts and convert every galleon in his personal account to dollars so he can buy out the entire wall of grow-lights - and the automatic sprinkler system, if his dodgy little glances to that display are anything to go by.

“They need outlets to work.  Hogwarts has no electricity or WiFi,” Sakura informs him with the same tone of voice she’s seen Rin use in the hospital when breaking bad news to families.

To her surprise, Itachi isn’t heartbroken.  He’s not even slightly disappointed.  Instead, he picks one up and inspects it thoroughly before dumping it and four more into the trolley.

“Did you miss the part where I said these need outlets to work?”

“I have a plan.”

“...Itachi, tell me this plan isn’t to upgrade the entire castle so you can use grow-lights for your bedroom plant collection.”

“Of course not, Sakura, that would be absurd and Headmaster Shimura would never allow for that.  I will simply use your computer to research these outlets and then will them into existence in the Room of Requirement, at which point we can begin to slowly incorporate outlets and cell towers and bring Hogwarts to the 21st century with the rest of us by the time I graduate.”

“The room of what now.”