Kaeya may have been crowned by an anonymous source a mighty Death Eater, ultimate bringer of chaos and the most evil wizard in all of wizardkind, but even that didn’t excuse him from attending classes. The first Charms lesson of the summer term, and the professor was already back to torturing them with new spells to learn.
On the bullshittery scale from Divination (as long as he said something cryptic about imminent doom and unhappiness the professor always accepted it) to Potions (oh, you forgot to stir the cauldron counterclockwise while chanting under the breath for three-quarters of half a second before adding in the butterfly scales dipped a second earlier in fresh rat’s liver blood? then perish), Charms was somewhat in the middle for Kaeya. Kaeya was never good at magical practice, but he could skip it for the most part in Charms, if only because half of the professor’s job was practically done by him. Granted, there were times where he felt a little envious watching his classmates move around objects with such ease. But sitting back and watching their spells backfire on them had their merits.
Case in point: Godwin had just muffed the last syllable of his Repelling Charm, and the Knut he was trying to enchant had ended up whacking him in the eye and sticking to his forehead instead.
Kaeya stifled his laughter as he sprayed his fellow Hufflepuff with a Dispel Potion. (Kaeya’s Dispel Potion: One of the rare potions that held surprisingly well in plastic containers. As for the ones that didn’t, well... it was best not to talk about it.)
“Try elongating the ‘reee’ at the end a bit more.” He suggested.
Godwin nodded and waved his wand again.
A sugar candy flew past him and he caught it on instinct. He held it out for his Charms partner - a sweet, quiet Ravenclaw girl - retrieve, and the candy went whizzing out of his hands back to her.
Kaeya wandered around the class, giving a few pointers to a group of Hufflepuff stragglers and trading incantation tips with some of the more genial Ravenclaw guys. He steered clear the big group of Ravenclaw girls, for good reason.
Once he was sure no one else needed him, which was very quickly, since Kaeya was nothing but efficient, he slumped on his desk and let out a big sigh.
Okay, he was bored.
He tapped the desk with his fingernail. Maybe he should start on that letter he said he was going to write. Or think up another joke item to make with Hu Tao. Or take out his potions and…
Behind him, Hertha slammed her palm on her desk.
Kaeya brightened up immediately.
The Ravenclaw huffed. “Like I said, Vile, it doesn’t make sense to only be able to cast the spell if you have the pronunciation right. Why are incantations a mix of English and Latin etymology? Even the simplest of spells like Wingardium Leviosa prove a challenge for Japanese wizards, and it’s even worse for wizards with a speech disorder - for them, it’s either learn nonverbal spells or be ostracised for being unable to perform this incantation bullshit.”
Her friend shrugged. “I mean, that’s the way spells have always been. Even the best magical researchers don’t claim to know everything about magic. And the school teaches us nonverbal spells in our sixth year, so it’s not like there aren’t ways to circumvent the verbal hurdle.”
“But if you think about it, isn’t that a backwards way of doing things?” Hertha insisted. “Nonverbal spells derive their power from imagination and concentration, both of which are better cultivated at a young age. Children that grow up using verbal spells ultimately become too lazy and reliant, which makes the practice of nonverbal spells harder for them in the future. Unless…”
“Unless the Ministry of Magic did that on purpose.” Kaeya interrupted.
Hertha and Vile turned to look at him.
“On purpose?” Vile asked, intrigued.
He waved his spray bottle in a wide gesture. “Keep the countrywide learning syllabus basic, and you create a generation of wizards who are weak and easy to control. It’s easier to counter someone if you know what spell they’re going to use. Easier time throwing them into Azkaban, too.”
Kaeya grinned. By the looks on their faces, he had his debate pals hooked.
He leaned forward on his chair. “If you think about it, only students from rich and noble backgrounds have the privilege of getting early tutoring in nonverbal magic. That gives them an early head start on their less well-off peers, which translates to better grades and better job opportunities when they graduate. And like you know, most of them will end up drafted to the Ministry of Magic, where they’ll continue to enable our poor education system - thus perpetuating the miserable cycle of the rich controlling the poor.”
“But Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic are supposed to be separate entities. Self-governance and all that.” Hertha argued. “Education shouldn’t be political.”
Kaeya shrugged. “‘Shouldn’t’ is just an ideal. Like I said, countrywide learning syllabus. The Department of Magical Education decides what’s tested in the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. examinations, and by extension, what’s taught in Hogwarts. In fact, I’ve read up on all the latest research papers published by the most distinguished magical researchers today, and found the Ministry’s magical tests and texts to be extremely outdated. In fact, they haven’t changed the syllabus in five hundred years. Either magical research has stagnated, or the Ministry is deliberately withholding magic from us.”
“Treacherous words,” Vile said. “One might even accuse you of standing against the Ministry.” She shot Kaeya an intense look.
Kaeya matched it with his own. “And what if I am?” He challenged. “We’re the next generation. Old methods and traditional ways of thinking shouldn’t apply to us. We should forge our own way forward unblinded by the past.”
Vile stared him down for a few more seconds, before relaxing and grinning. “I like how you think. Then tell me: How would you change what the Ministry and Hogwarts is doing?”
Kaeya grinned back. “I’m glad you asked. For starters-”
A Ravenclaw girl barged in. Ignoring her friend trying to pull her back, she pointed her finger at Kaeya. “The Ministry of Magic is the highest magic authority in the world. Show some respect!”
Kaeya rolled his eye and turned away.
The girl was what Kaeya would call moderately pretty, with primly curled hair, freckles and a permanent scowl on her face. She came from a very well-off family and was the boss of a big group of Ravenclaw girls, which said volumes about her ability despite her horrible personality. Does Kaeya knowing all of this mean he’s familiar with her? No. He only knew her simply because she existed to make his life hell.
Even Vile and Hertha looked annoyed at being interrupted by her. “Yeah, leave us alone. We were having such a good debate, too.” Hertha said.
(In his head, Kaeya liked to think she was called Sourplum. Or Sourprune? It depended on his mood and time of the day.) Sourprune’s face turned crimson. “Excuse me?” She spluttered.
“We weren’t talking to you.” Kaeya said flatly. “And even if I was, I’d still say the same thing. Everyone knows the Ministry of Magic has so many holes in their laws you could use an entire army of trolls to plug it and still have room for a fleet of dragons.” He smirked and spread his arms. “Why, just at the beginning of the year, they let a serial killer go scot-free just because she claimed she was under the Imperius curse! Were there any investigations done? Any of her memories checked and double-checked for Memory Charm-tampering? Nah, because they were sooo sure that she was innocent. And you guys let these clowns rule your country?”
Sourprune sniffed contemptuously. “You wouldn’t understand. Of course you would sympathise with the criminals, as heretical Khaenri’ahn filth yourself.”
“Why, you-“ Vile started to get out of her seat, but stopped at Kaeya’s command when he raised his hand. Hertha also had her wand drawn, glaring at Sourprune and waiting for Kaeya’s signal to pounce on her. (Meanwhile, his Charms partner was looking like she’d rather not exist at the moment.)
Honestly, her insults were becoming so predictable it was almost boring. But it was comforting, knowing that he had people on his side. Some of the students had gathered over in interest, but most of them had backed away in annoyance, used to the sight of him and Sourprune in a dispute.
Kaeya put down his spray bottle and put a hand on his short sword’s handle. His eye flicked to the other end of the classroom, where the Charms professor was trying to unstick a Hufflepuff from the wall. The crowd was blocking them from the professor’s sight too, so it would be a while before the professor came to stop them.
He grinned. Perfect.
“What,” he taunted, “Did that strike a nerve? Trying to defend your dear old daddy stuck in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?” He tapped his chin. “Or maybe…” His grin widened. “Could it be that he was the one that let the murderer go scot free? I bet he set her loose immediately after the trial - right back into the throngs of society like a wolf let loose in a herd of sheep. She’d hide herself, waiting, watching for the perfect timing so she can strike once more, and because of your daddy, many more people will soon-“
“You...!” Sourprune brandished her wand. At the same time, Kaeya drew his sword and lunged.
The sudden cry startled them. Kaeya jerked back instinctively. The tip of his blade slightly brushed the throat of the girl who stood in between the two of them, light as a feather’s touch.
It was Sourprune’s friend, the one who was tugging on her sleeve in vain before. The girl held out her arms, blocking the two combatants from getting each other.
“Out of the way, Bright!” Sourprune snarled. “He insulted my father. He has to pay!”
Bright didn’t budge. “Then submit an official request for a duel.” She retorted. “Don’t get other people caught in the crossfire.” Her voice lowered threateningly. “Or would you like me to dock points from your house?”
Sourprune glared at Bright for a few moments longer, before clicking her tongue and stowing away her wand.
“This isn’t over.” She said ominously to Kaeya, before turning around and striding away, robes whipping angrily in her wake.
“Actually, it’s Kaeya Alberich now.” Kaeya called after her. “Alberich! Make sure you get it right next time, Sourprune!”
“It’s Sourplume!!!” He heard her screech.
Kaeya grinned. He’d take that as a win.
Bright turned back to Kaeya and put her hands together in apology. “Sorry about that. Beatriss is just having a bad day.”
Beatriss…? Oh, she meant Sourprune. Kaeya almost laughed in incredulity. “She must have been having a bad day every day, then. She’s been harassing me ever since the start of the year.”
Bright seemed unhappy at that. It was a nice sentiment. “I’ll have a talk with her about it. I’m Mellifluous Bright, by the way.” She stretched out her hand. “Just call me Melly.”
Kaeya shook it, pleasantly surprised to have at yet another person who wasn’t averse to touching him. “Kaeya Alberich. Pleased to meet you.”
Bright turned around and clapped her hands. “Okay guys, show’s over! Get back to your seats!” The crowd dispersed in an instant.
Kaeya watched her closely. Bright had a pretty face, framed with a stylistic blond bob that made her look like a fashion doll. He had noticed her when she had entered the class today, for obvious reasons. As a new face, not to mention a Gryffindor, she looked out of place in the midst of the yellow and blues of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class. Being friends with Gryffindors for most of his time in school meant he knew her too - she was very popular in her house and even across all years.
But what intrigued Kaeya the most, was the Prefect badge pinned to her lapel.
Prefect assignments only happened in their fifth year. For them, that was next year - or at least it should have been for her. Kaeya had never heard of a precedent where a fourth year was chosen as a Prefect, let alone assigned in the middle of a year. What was Professor Varka thinking?
He leaned forward in interest. “It’s unusual for a Gryffindor to be here. Did you transfer over from the other Charms class?”
She nodded. “My Study of Ancient Runes changed its schedule, so I had to switch around my timings.” She giggled. “But it looks like no matter which class I take, Professor Goth is still a huge sadist.”
“Always torturing us with more homework.” He sighed dramatically. Now that the fuss was over he didn’t need his sword, so he slid it back into its sheath.
Melly watched him curiously. “Is that… real?”
Kaeya snickered. “Of course not. Just some wood painted silver, and magicked to deflect a general assortment of jinxes. Much more useful than my wand, I’d say.”
The sword was a birthday present from Diluc. Hopefully this will save you a good number of bruises and broken bones, Diluc had said, and shoved it into his hands, after years of berating Kaeya for getting into fights he couldn’t win. He wondered if Diluc knew that he was never the one that started the fight.
“Ah, I’ve heard about that.” Melly said. “You’re quite famous across all the houses. Second in our whole year, despite being a Hufflepuff.” And also the reason why Kaeya didn’t get along with most Ravenclaws. Most of them hated him for being competition despite not being a Ravenclaw.
“That doesn’t say much when the first is a Gryffindor.” Kaeya said charmingly. “If I ever do meet her, I’ll be sure to give her my compliments.”
“Thank you.” Melly said, a note of tinkling laughter in her voice. “I do my best.”
She had warmed up to him. Good. Now was the time to ask her.
“Humour me,” Kaeya said, pointing to her Prefect badge. “What’s the story behind the badge?”
Melly touched her badge and smiled bashfully. “Oh, that? I’m not very sure of the circumstances, but apparently a Prefect position opened up suddenly, so the professors decided to give it to the next year’s Prefect candidate.”
“Wow, congrats!” Hertha clapped her hands. “I’m happy for you, Melly.”
“That’s great news.” Vile said, smiling. “I can think of no one else better for the job.”
“Aw, you flatter me too much,” Melly said, patting her blushing cheeks. “The only reason why it was passed to me is because the professors were still undecided on the Prefect candidate for the fourth-year boys.” She scratched her cheek, slightly embarrassed at the attention. “Honestly, I thought they would have passed it to Jean, but the professors were worried some parents would complain of favouritism, what with her only being a third year. So I guess Gryffindors are stuck with me for a year early now.”
Kaeya laughed at that. Melly was like a female version of Diluc - nice, kind, and bright. She was even friends with people in other houses like Vile and Hertha. The complete opposite of Kaeya, really.
Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what ‘special circumstances’ had led to a Prefect position opening up.
Kaeya opened his mouth to ask her...
...Just as the bell rang, signalling the end of class.
Kaeya thought about it for a moment, before deciding to let it go. He could always ask Amber or Jean later.
He smiled at Melly. “I guess this is goodbye then, for now. See you next week.”
Melly dipped her head politely. “Indeed. See you around, Alberich. Vile. Hertha.”
She grabbed her bag and ran to catch up with Sourprune, talking to her in a hushed and distinctively stern tone as they left class together with a few of her followe- cough, uh, friends.
For a moment, Kaeya felt pity for the Gryffindors. They had Diluc, Bright, and Jean in the future as their Prefects. Were they even living?
Kaeya dropped his hand. He turned to Hertha and Vile and sighed. “Sorry about the commotion earlier.”
“Nah, it’s fine.” Vile glared at Sourprune as she left the classroom. “What a bitch. Does she have to do that every class?”
“Yeah.” Hertha said darkly. “I guess I know whose face I’m hexing later.”
“Please don’t. It’ll only make everyone think I bewitched you into doing it.” Kaeya said placatingly. He looked at his Charms partner. “Sorry, Sucrose.”
Sucrose jumped, not expecting to be spoken to. “I-It’s fine!” She squeaked, and grabbed her things and scampered out of class.
Kaeya watched her go with an amused look. Sucrose was a strange one. She was scared of him, but not in a bad way. It seemed she was just wary of people in general.
Kaeya grabbed his textbooks and bag. “I’ll be going off, then. See ya next week.”
““Bye.”” Hertha and Vile chorused. They went back to their earlier heated discussion about spell linguistics.
Kaeya walked out of the classroom, whistling merrily.
He wished he had people like Hertha and Vile in his house. The Hufflepuffs were nice, and he liked them as much as they liked him. But outside of his tutoring sessions most of them steered clear of him because their parents told them to. (Again, his ancestors kinda sucked ass.)
Contrary to expectation, bickering with Sourprune had proved to be a nice distraction. It felt good to finally unleash his pent-up rage on someone ever since… Diluc.
(“You’re sick,” Diluc had hissed. “A twisted bastard that’s empty inside.”)
He knew Diluc didn’t actually mean it at that time. Diluc was just… angry. Surely. He clutched his bag tighter and quickened his steps.
He was heading towards an isolated area of the school. There was nothing of interest there; just a corridor lining a few abandoned classrooms (a popular spot for couples, for obvious reasons) which opened up into a wide room which Kaeya thinks used to be a duelling arena, which exit led to a small staircase down to a wide corridor with a winding spiral staircase at the end.
The important thing to note was that there was a hidden passageway at the end of the corridor. It served as a useful shortcut when he wanted to go anywhere, including his Transfiguration class at the other end of the school. Yeah, fuck Transfiguration, man.
Kaeya turned around a corner and subsequently almost impaled himself on a giant sword.
He yelped and spun away, almost tripping on his feet. What the… He stared at the two suits of armour placed on each side of the entrance to the old duelling arena.
The armoured knights were big, taller than a fully-grown adult. Their armour was well-polished, and their swords looked just deadly as the Sword of Gryffindor itself. (From personal experience. He would know. He’s personally held it before.)
He recognised them from the third-floor Armoury, too. Someone must have carried them all the way up to the sixth floor and dumped them in the duelling arena… for what? Target practice? Or a prank?
Was it Venti? Hu Tao? Someone who hated cleaning those dastardly things in the Armoury for two weeks as punishment (also from personal experience)?
Kaeya snickered and made a note to somehow lure Amber here. Amber and Eula. Those two had the best reactions to his pranks…
Kaeya yelped in surprise as a force yanked at his ankle and sent him skyborne. His bookbag hit the floor and burst open, spilling its contents onto the floor. Potion bottles and inkwell pots broke with tinkling sounds, and their contents leaked all over the floor and seeped into the pages of his books.
“AAAAA!! MY POTIONS!!!” Kaeya screeched.
He struggled in midair to reach his broken inventions, before realising the futility of it, and hung his head in defeat.
He glared at the culprit and snarled, “What the hell do you want, Sourprune?”
The culprit was, obviously, Sourprune. She was flanked by two of her most loyal followers. Melly was nowhere to be seen - she must have left shortly after talking to them. Kaeya silently kicked himself for not noticing he was being followed.
“Not so confident now that you can’t hide behind the Ragnvindr name, can you?” She sneered.
“And you’re so confident now that you can bully someone who doesn’t have the Ragnvindr name.” Kaeya retorted. “Go out and touch some grass, Sourprune. Or cry to your daddy about how mean the Khaenri’ahn kid was to you today. I’m sure he’ll be willing to drag me to trial. Not that he can actually sentence me to Azkaban, because he’s just that incompetent.”
“It’s Sourplume.” She snapped. “And you’re going to regret insulting my father.”
Kaeya opened his mouth to reply, but an invisible blow hit him in the stomach. He wheezed in pain, coughing he struggled to breathe. Sourprune flicked her wand again, and this time the force gripped him by the throat, tight enough that he had trouble breathing, but not tight enough to strangle.
“Wow,” he gasped. “Hitting someone who can’t hit back. Your parents must have been exemplary teachers to you. At least have the guts to hit me with your own two hands, coward.”
Sourprune’s eyes flared with rage, and she pointed her wand at him. “Scourgify Maxima.”
At the first taste of liquid alkaline, Kaeya - he hated to say this, but Kaeya squeaked. His eye widened in horror, and his hands flew to his throat, gagging as soap poured into his mouth.
She’d- Sourprune had fucking-
He inhaled on reflex, which was a bad idea because the soap hit the back of his throat and went down his windpipe, and he choked on the toxic liquid, swallowing some of it and shit, now everything burned.
Fire. Kaeya was burning. His arms were burning. Tears were falling down from the sky and drenching his clothes and his life was being squeezed out of him-
No. This isn’t the past. This isn’t him.
He couldn’t- fuck- he couldn’t breathe-
Kaeya jabbed his windpipe with the back of his palm. He felt a wave of nausea overcome him, and he turned to the side and vomited onto the floor of the corridor. He hung there, shivering and gasping, as tears streamed down his face in an ugly mess.
God, that was disgusting.
“Much better for a rat like you. Isn’t that right?” Sourprune smirked. Her two goons grinned and nodded along.
Kaeya gritted his teeth and imagined roasting Sourprune over a spitfire, ever so slowly.
“What’s wrong?” She taunted. “I left your arms and tongue free so you could unjinx yourself with your wand. Oh wait, but you can’t, can you?”
Kaeya’s heart twisted.
She walked closer and spat on his face. The spittle dripped down his cheek as she spoke her next words.
“After all, you’re just a dirty, good-for-nothing, useless, Squib.”
“You’re everything wrong about the magical community.” Sourprune continued. “An outlander, a heretic, and a Squib. Filth like you don’t belong here in Hogwarts.”
Kaeya coughed weakly. If he were to speak now, he’d probably only manage a whisper at best.
“Fiddling with Muggle equipment and insinuating to everyone that they were better than us. Muggles! Better than us!” Her goons snickered in agreement. She sniffed. “I don’t even know what Diluc saw in you.”
Oh. She was just another one of Diluc’s obsessive gatekeeping fangirls. Now it all made sense.
“Tagging after him like his faithful dog, when it’s obvious he’s too good for you. You’re tainting him with your weird ways, and perverting his actions with your fraternization… Your very presence corrupts his soul.”
……What the hell, lady? Kaeya shot her an ‘are you fucking serious’ look.
Oblivious, Sourprune sighed and drummed her fingers on her arms. “What a pity. The bell’s about to go. Honestly, I’d like to play with you a bit longer, but I have class to attend.”
She dug her hands into his scalp and yanked his hair forward, bringing his eyes to meet hers. “So, see you around, Squib. I wonder how long it will take for the news of your humiliation to make it around Hogwarts?”
Kaeya gave her his politest smile, and brought his head back and smashed it into her nose.
Sourprune shrieked and stumbled back. She tripped on her feet, and fell onto the floor on her bottom, squealing in pain.
Kaeya grinned. She’d ripped out some of his hair in the process, but it was worth it, looking at her in that disheveled state - OH SHIT OH FUCK was that a flash of strawberry pink he saw HE NEEDED TO BLEACH HIS EYES RIGHT THIS INSTANT-
“Why, you…!” One of her goons shouted, and waved her wand and cried out a spell. He felt a forceful blow to his skull, and for a moment he saw stars, which was better than seeing strawberry pink panties, he supp- FUCKKKKKK. CURSE YOU, SOURPRUNE.
“Ignore him!” Sourprune snarled. She cupped her bleeding nose. “Let’s go before anyone finds us.”
For the second time that day, Kaeya watched as Sourprune stormed away, up the stairs to the duelling arena room, shooting him one final glare before disappearing behing the doors.
The sound of the door slamming shut echoed throughout the corridor.
Sourprune’s insult was not unfounded. His lack of magical prowess was common knowledge to everyone in Hogwarts. Everyone knew the only thing he could produce from his wand were sparks, and more sparks, and - could you believe it? - more sparks. His wand truly was nothing more than a glorified wooden stick, and in accordance had been left in his luggage in his dormitory to rot.
And his sword, while a hundred times more useful than Wooden Stick Number One, was only able to cut through physical manifestations of spells, not applied ones. The only thing he had on hand to dispel curses were currently on the floor, forming toxic clouds with his more volatile potions or getting soaked up by his textbooks… Dammit, Sourprune, those potions were expensive to make!
Kaeya sighed. Hanging upside down was not good for his blood circulation. Even moving around made him dizzy with the effort, not to mention the huge blow his psyche and body took from having to ingest soap. Why oh why couldn’t Scourgify at least produce soap of the strawberries-and-cream soap variant? …On the second thought, that would be even worse.
Well, even if he could move… there really was nothing he could do. There was nothing he could do but wait for someone to come along and end his misery. Thankfully, Kaeya didn’t have a lot of pride left in him after his father died, otherwise he’d probably jump off the Astronomy Tower once word got around.
Yes, truly, the only thing worse than his situation right now would be...
He turned around, in slow motion.
Looked at the person standing below him, looking up at him irritatedly.