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the skeletons that allow your imagination

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


i

colour her opinions


 


"O – Oreki?" Mayaka gasps as she eyes her friends.

The trio did not look well – Houtarou's as pale as a ghost, it was as if he was suddenly struck with illness; his face almost mirrors the expressions he makes when he develops motion sickness (all those long train rides to Hogwarts never did him any good). Satoshi, on the other hand, had one hand under Houtarou's armpit while the other was holding Houtarou's arm around his neck for support. Following a short distance behind the boys, Chitanda is silent, looking very responsible and very guilty.

Mayaka instantly feels horrible too. A part of her wants to reach into her robe, pull out her ash wood wand and fix the problem.

"What's wrong with him?" Mayaka asks, directing her question at Satoshi since Chitanda can't bring herself to look Mayaka in the eyes.

A million thoughts enter Mayaka's brain. Just hours ago Satoshi had walked into the common room and sprouted some rumour about a mystery near the (very dangerous) Forbidden Forest. Just hours ago, Chitanda had sparkled as she suggested they go investigate (within a safe distance, of course). Just hours ago, Mayaka had declined the offer but she had seen Chitanda grab Houtarou by the arm – an iron grip – and then his struggle.

It should have been common sense to step in and refuse the mystery – not just on Houtarou's behalf but everyone's, the risks were too high, someone was bound to get hurt (so why didn't she say something?).

At the time, Mayaka didn't think much of it, she thought it would be a good thing for Houtarou to help Chitanda considering how he had nothing better to do but now … now –

"Houtarou's just dizzy." Satoshi says, giving Mayaka an easy smile as he eases Houtarou into a big armchair.

"How bad do you feel, Oreki?" Mayaka prods as she willingly looks Houtarou in the face. She notes, he's not just pale, his expression is tinted a slight green hue too, it reminds Mayaka of when they were –

"I'm fine." Houtarou manages. "I just need to rest for a second."

"Are you sure?"

Houtarou waves his hand nonchalantly as if speaking is too much trouble. In response, Satoshi lets out a small chuckle.

Mayaka frowns (and Chitanda continues to stay quiet).

.

.

.

Mayaka frets about Houtarou – she asks if there's anything she can do to make him feel better, from suggesting spells she can cast to offering they drag him to see the nurse at the infirmary to saying she would fix him a cup of tea. All this happens while Satoshi and Chitanda are a few feet away; legs tucked, sat on a couch. They want to give Houtarou some room to breathe while Mayaka flutters over him.

"Fukube-san?" Chitanda whispers.

"Yes?" Satoshi answers, trying to offer a smile but her large eyes look glassy and far away.

"Is Mayaka-san mad?"

"Oh, um." Satoshi studies the tiny girl. "I don't think so. No."

Mayaka is clearly upset but she's not angry. He means to say, he hasn't seen Mayaka this bothered since she complained about Houtarou's mismatched bedding (his blanket was stripped, his pillow was checkered and he had a random throw pillow with bright designs – it was horrendous, Houtarou can be such a boy) but it's nothing too serious.

"No?" Chitanda double checks. "Are you sure? She seems … I mean … With Oreki-san …"

"I know Mayaka may seem harsh on Hourarou, but she doesn't think of him as lowly as she makes it sound. Houtarou isn't a nuisance to her." Satoshi says to Chitanda as the two look at Mayaka who's still hovering over Houtarou.

Chitanda shakes her head then clarifies, "No, I mean … I fear that Mayaka-san is mad at me."

"You?"

She nods. "Yes, me. I don't blame Mayaka-san if she does. If it weren't for me, Oreki-san wouldn't be sick. I should be the one caring for him, but, instead, Mayaka-san has made it her responsibility to do so. I'm burdening her, even if it's unintentional. I feel horrible." Chitanda's voice drops, a quiver of sadness behind it. A part of her wanted to pull out her hazel wand and undo all of her errors.

Satoshi's smile slips off his lips, "Hey, now, I don't want you to misunderstand anything, Chitanda-san."

"I'm not misunderstanding anything, I'm to blame."

"You … Breathe, okay? You're simply stressed. You must understand."

"Understand what? There's nothing you can say to change my mind, Fukube-san."

Satoshi hesitates, staring at the crackling fireplace then the blue-gold of Chitanda's robes. He leans in ever so slightly and whispers, "I shouldn't be telling you this but … we're friends, and I ... I think you should know the history Mayaka and Houtarou have."

"History? What?" Chitanda blinks.

"I'm going to tell you a secret." Satoshi says.

Chitanda's purples eyes should be sparkling. Normally, she would be vibrating with curiosity, but today is not the day. Today she is determined to not make a sound and listen.

Satoshi pauses for a second, inhaling sharply as if gathering his strength, "Mayaka is … very talented." He starts, the corners of his mouth almost smiles. "She's smart too, but I think you've noticed that she is very cautious around magic and somewhat doubtful of her abilities."

"I …" Chitanda trails off, thinking.

Words mount on her tongue as Chitanda remembers bits of old conversations, of Mayaka doubting her reasons being a Ravenclaw when Chitaanda had said, "Mayaka-san, how can you say such a thing?! You're so smart! How can you say you don't belong in our house?" with her eyebrows squeeze together. And Chitanda distinctively remembers Mayaka's answer, how she didn't say it to sound flashy or different, her tone was sincere and modest. "I think I just got sorted into Ravenclaw because I'm creative." Mayaka had answered. And it made no sense because Mayaka is the one who volunteered herself to be on library duty. She's constantly surrounded by books. She's constant reading and studying and gaining knowledge.

(And then Satoshi spoke, "Well, I think you're smart, Mayaka!" Maybe he was hoping to be part of the conversation? Maybe he just wanted to fluster Mayaka. But after saying that, he had enough time to give Chitanda a small wink before Mayaka turned her head to squawk at him, clearly embarrassed.)

"Yes, I recall. Mayaka-san is ambivalent when she speaks of her magic skills." Chitanda says. "Why is that, Fukube-san?"

Satoshi hums. "Hmm, well, it's mainly due to the fact that Mayaka's parents are muggles."

"Muggles?" Chitanda's eyebrows shot up and hid behind her bangs.

"Yeah." Satoshi nods. "Though, Mayaka's aunt – who's a witch – took her in for a few Summers to prepare her for the magic world," Satoshi explains.

"So Mayaka-san is doubtful about her skills because she doesn't have as much knowledge about the magic world?"

"Ah, that's a difficult one, yes and no …" He looks away slightly before turning back to look at Chitanda in the eyes, "Remember how I said it's something between Mayaka and Houtarou?"

Oh, yes, she almost forgot about that! "Their history?"

"Yes, their history. Though, maybe I should say, it's an old story. But, that may be an understatement as it isn't very pretty."

"Oh …"

"Mayaka, Houtarou and I; we were kids when we met, about eight or nine. Houtarou and I didn't really mind that she had very little knowledge of how much magic worked. We didn't even have wands so we were useless about it as well, we were just glad to have a new friend, but ... an older kid mocked Mayaka for having non-magical parents. He was a big bully, he really liked picking on her. It was ... bad."

Chitanda swallows, almost just as hesitant, "How … bad?"

Satoshi's face got dark and Chitanda swears she sees the androgynous boy's lips quiver with old fury. "He called her a mudblood."

Chitanda felt her spirits drop to her stomach.

"Of course, Mayaka didn't know what that meant. She only just moved in with her aunt. She was still new. But I knew and Houtarou knew. And he got angry for Mayaka. Houtarou stepped up for her and, in return, the bully hit him with a spell."

Chitanda gasps lightly but Satoshi wasn't done speaking so she continued listening.

"Don't worry, it wasn't that bad," Satoshi reassures. "The spell was harmless, but Houtarou was miserable. He spent an entire evening vomiting out slugs into a bucket. Tomoe told us he would be fine, but Mayaka stayed by Houtarou's side until he got better. Later when I asked her why, Mayaka said she was convinced all of Houtarou's internal organs had turned into said slugs and she was afraid once he plopped out his last slug, he'd die. I wasn't sure if she was joking or not at the time, but now that I remember it, she had an upset expression, she must have been worried out of her mind, so I'm pretty sure she meant it."

Chitanda's shoulders sag with weight.

"But …" Satoshi blinks, leaning back against the couch. "Looking back now ... I, I think that the lack of magical knowledge was what drove Mayaka to learn more. It's … a strange turn of events, and, as horrible as that sounds, I think Mayaka probably wouldn't be in Ravenclaw in the first place if not for that moment. I think she would have been a Gryffindor." He says, eyes far away.

.

.

.

"Mayaka-san?" Chitanda calls once Mayaka has finally excused herself from Houtarou's side and Satoshi takes her place, sitting next to the green-eyed boy while telling jokes.

"I don't think you should push your luck when it comes to Oreki," Mayaka says, her face twisted with a little bit of annoyance.

Chitanda looks over at Mayaka. "I ... I won't." She knows Satoshi's story should have reassured her but it only made Chitanda worry more. After all, the frown on Mayaka's face hasn't disappeared since she had laid her pink eyes on the exhausted looking Houtarou. "But, I understand your concern, Mayaka-san."

Mayaka turns to face Chitanda, puzzled.

"Fukube-san –" Chitanda starts but stops herself. She almost rat Satoshi out. He didn't tell her to keep what he said to her a secret but … it's obvious, right?

"Fuku-chan what?" Mayaka raises an eyebrow.

"Fukube-san ..." Okay, um. "He said the three of you were childhood friends so I understand if you know Oreki-san better than I do." Chitanda says and Mayaka relaxes. "But," Chitanda adds, she wants to confirm her suspicions and Satoshi's words. "I do think you should give Oreki-san credit."

Mayaka cocks her brow again.

"Oreki-san's a Ravenclaw too. He may not look like he cares for riddles mysteries but I think he's having fun solving them. He's having fun doing magic."

"You think magic is ... fun?" Mayaka asks, surprised.

"Not always but … it could be, right?"

Mayaka shuffles her feet and her pink eyes look downward. "I think magic is ... dangerous. I think magic can be dangerous. It shouldn't be played with or use so lightly."

"I …" Chitanda's shoulders sag further.

Mayaka looks up, face no longer filled with worry. The short girl doesn't get to reply because Chitanda's shaky words shoot out of her.

"I'm sorry for causing any trouble. I didn't mean to cause Oreki-san to feel ill but I understand if you blame me, I can be so reckless at times, I'm known to be impulsive at times." Chitanda apologises.

Mayaka stiffens at Chitanda's words. "W – What? Chii-chan, it's not your fault! I don't blame you, I just – I was just worried, Oreki can be such a hassle and –" Mayaka doesn't finish her sentence, trailing off. She takes Chitanda's hands into her own and reassures her friend. "I'm not mad at you, Chii-chan, really, I'm mad at myself. I should have stopped you, I should have said something. Skirting around the Forbidden Forest ... I knew it dangerous but I didn't say anything." Mayaka tries explaining herself, tripping over her words. "Seeing that slug sick just got me worked up, it brought back an old memory and I got a little panicky. Everything is okay between us, alright?"

The corners of Chitanda's mouth turn upwards at Mayaka's nickname for Houtarou. It gave her reassurance.

"Alright," Chitanda says and squeezes Mayaka's small hands. "Don't blame yourself either, Mayaka-san. You did nothing wrong, you did your best to look out for Oreki-san. I think you did well. You made him feel better."

Mayaka returns Chitanda's smile with a small grin.


"I've noticed, whenever anyone besides Mayaka-san picks on Oreki-san, she jumps in to protect him." Chitanda observes.

The four walk around the grassy Hogwarts fields. The sun is high and Mayaka is pulling Houtarou by his scarf.

Satoshi clears his throat, chuckling, "I think, secretly deep down, Mayaka is still concerned about Houtarou,"

A small smile slowly wove itself on Chitanda's face. "Do you think Mayaka-san calls Oreki-san 'slug' as a reminder of that moment? To be careful?" Chitanda asks.

"Hmm," Satoshi blinks. "I never thought of it that way. I always assumed it was an inside joke or because Houtarou can be lazy, but if what you say is the reason then ..." He finds himself looking at his childhood friends and Chitanda follows Satoshi's gaze. "That's really nice."

"It is." Chitanda agrees, enjoying the moment.

"Hey, Chitanda-san?" Satoshi calls.

"Yes?"

"Don't tell Mayaka I told you, okay?" Satoshi says with a finger pressed to his lips.

"Of course!"


wand types

Mayaka - ash (those who are best suited to ash wands are not lightly swayed from their beliefs or purposes. the ideal owner may be stubborn, and will certainly be courageous, but never crass or arrogant)

Chitanda - hazel (hazel wands often reflect its owner’s emotional state and work best for a master who understands and can manage their own feeling. if its owner has recently lost their temper or suffered a serious disappointment, the wand will absorb such energy and discharge it unpredictably)

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


ii

said the sky



"HUFFLEPUFF!" The too-large-for-his-head sorting hat yells.

Cheering erupts, and with wide green eyes, Houtarou attempts to look around the great hall from his seat. He realises it's a failed attempt when the hat continues blocking his view from the floating candles, tapestries on the wall and flying owls.

Houtarou swears his heart is still thumping madly in his chest, loud enough for the whole mass of people to hear, but all of that is ignored when a professor lifts the sorting hat off (it was threatening to swallow his head whole anyway) and nudges Houtarou off the chair.

"Off you go, love." A professor says.

For a moment, the only thing Houtarou can do is nod, try to slow his breathing and not shake from the excitement and anxiety attacking his nerves.

But, after the moment is over, he realises what's just happened. Houtarou finds his gaze flitting to two kids, a familiar pair – his childhood friends: Mayaka and Satoshi. They seem so far away, across the hall; sitting together, sitting with other students from their own house.

Houtarou bites his lower lip, following the professor's encouragement as he heads towards the Hufflepuff table. The applause continues. Though, the clapping students seem to be the only ones happy about Houtarou's sorting.

Now a table away, all Houtarou can do is wrinkle his nose; a signal to his friends, an attempt to express his irritation. Satoshi responses by shrugging half-heartedly, a 'What can you do?' reads on his face.

Mayaka, on the other hand, looks stone-y. From an outsider's point of view, Mayaka may seem unmoved and indifferent. But, Houtarou can tell Mayaka's less than pleased. Disappointed, even. How can she be anything but that? After all, the trio of friends have been separated by a magical, talking head-piece!


The first week at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is spent familiarising oneself with the castle, school grounds and rules rather than starting classes immediately – Orientation Week, if you must. It makes sense considering how old, weird and wonderful the place is.

Mayaka's been a first year student for three whole days now, yet the memory of having her name called, being sorted and handed her house uniform is still fresh in her mind. She remembers her palms sweating, her heart slamming in her chest, the feeling of giddiness and nervousness, and after – absolute relief when the sorting hat had told her she was in Gryffindor with Fuku-chan. But then …

But then, Oreki had to ruin everything by getting sorted into the wrong house. It's like he intentionally wanted to spoil her day! How dare he break the Kaburaya trio by being himself! They grew up together, things can't end now! Why – all good things come in threes; Genie wishes and primary colours and – oh! They were supposed to be the next Golden Trio!

Shifting in her seat, Mayaka leans to Satoshi, "Hey, Fuku-chan, can I ask you a question?"

Satoshi stops stuffing his face, "Yeah, sure."

Mayaka swallows, pausing from her meal and asks, "Are students allowed to sit with other students from different houses or are we restricted to only sit in our own house?"

"Um, I don't know. I mean, I've read the rulebook trice; it doesn't say anything about not being able to sit with friends. I don't see the harm in sitting with others," Satoshi answers, but something shines behind his brown eyes. "However, I've heard that Hogwarts does have some unspoken rules." He says, causing Mayaka to raise a brow. "Apparently, there are some things that are frowned upon."

"Like?"

"This might be a stretch but – being friends with a Slytherin."

"What? Why? They're just people like us."

"I know, I know. I'm opposed to the idea too, but, Mayaka, you must understand – this is an age-old rivalry. No matter what, there's always going to be this competitiveness between Gryffindors and Slytherins."

"Even if we choose not to get involved?" Mayaka asks, craning her neck to look at kids in green and silver robes.

Satoshi nods. "I don't think we get a say in these sorts of things. There are just certain taboos we have to follow."

A crease folds between Mayaka's eyebrows. "That sounds so stupid." She says, not afraid to voice her opinion.

Satoshi hums, choosing not to say anything. Then, after pausing to take a sip of water, he asks, "Why? What's up?"

Mayaka's gaze darts from her food to the table decorated in yellow and black. "I wanted to know if we could get Oreki to sit with us during meals."

"Ah,"

It's just … for the past couple of days, Houtarou's looked rather lonely during meals. He hasn't really talked to anyone. Or rather, he doesn't talk period. Instead, people go up to him. If there is an interest of having a conversation, another student has to start it, not Houtarou. And someone has – a girl with long black hair and large purple eyes. However, she seems to be the only person attempting to talk to Houtarou. Other than that, he keeps to himself and read his paperbacks.

From what Mayka's seen and the knowledge she's gathered, she knows students are supposed to sit with their houses. It's the general norm for an individual to sit with their own kind, but Mayaka wants more than that. She's seen a few kids from other houses sit together to do homework or get up to talk to each other. She doesn't think sitting with other houses is bad, Hogwarts shouldn't be too strict about seating.

"Do you think we can bend the rules a bit? Get Oreki to eat at the same table with us?" Mayaka asks, a genuine question.

Satoshi thinks for a moment, a spoonful of pudding now in his mouth. "For the sake of no clumping of students at one table and for all the food to be distributed evenly, it doesn't look like it."

Mayaka feels her jaw clench. "I see."

Satoshi puts down his spoon, feeling a storm growing in Makaya's tiny body. He stares at her. "You don't care, do you?"

"No, I don't."

.

.

.

"Oreki!"

Houtarou's green eyes shoot up from his book. Wait – what?

"Oreki!" The voice yells louder.

Houtarou turns his head, trying to find the source, he recognises the voice but it's difficult finding Mayaka considering how big the hall is, how tall most of the senior students are and how short she is.

"Houtarou, over here!" Satoshi's voice anchors Houtarou's gaze towards him and Mayaka at the Gryffindor table. Satoshi is waving his arm dramatically in the air like a sailor drowning at sea. Or maybe, he's just having a seizure?

"Come sit with us!" Mayaka says. Or, at least, that's what Houtarou thinks she's saying. He's can't actually hear her, he's watching her mouth move and reading her lips.

'Can I?' He's lips move but no words come out, he's too embarrassed to be caught asking such a question. What if he can't and it turns out to be a basic rule everyone but him knows?

"Come on, Houtarou!" Satoshi yells, patting an empty spot beside him on the long bench.

People are staring and Houtarou is sure the whole hall knows his name now. His free hand grabs a fistful of his sleeve. Roses bloom on his cheeks but, there's no point backing out now, is there?

Moving away from the huge doors, Houtarou makes his way towards the foreign table and slides into the seat, sitting between Mayaka and Satoshi. He feels ... weird. Sort of out of place. He tucks his paperback into the inner pockets of his robes just to do something.

"Dig in." Satoshi gestures to the food laid out in front of them and Houtarou hesitates.

"Um." He mutters. What if he eats and causes a shortage for the Gryffindor students who want extra? What if someone yells at him? What if he causes the Hufflepuff house to lose points?

"Eat." Mayaka urges, like she's reading his thoughts. She plops down a spoonful of mash potatoes on Houtarou's plate before he can even protest. Satoshi eats a chicken leg just to prove a point.

"I –"

"Eat." Mayaka repeats. "Don't waste food."

Houtarou blinks. He doesn't know the rules well enough. It makes sense for Mayaka and Satoshi to urge him to do something so daring. Gryffindors are known to be chivalrous and determined – and the trait that stands out the most is their bravery.

But, despite the weariness, Houtarou mirrors Satoshi and eats, because, above his anxiousness and reluctances to make a scene, Houtarou trusts Mayaka. He trusts Satoshi too. He trusts his friends.


Houtarou can still feel eyes on him despite having sat at the same table for two straight days now. It shouldn't be seen as strange though, Houtarou swears he saw a Slytherin boy eating with his Ravenclaw friend and a mixed group of people at the Hufflepuff table.

"Come hang out with us at the common room." Mayaka says as they leave the great hall and walk down the corridors.

Houtarou raises a brow at Mayaka's demand. "Who's common room?" He asks.

"Who's else?" Mayaka shoots back. She gestures to her and Satoshi, who has his nose buried in a thick book he found at the library. "Ours; the Gryffindor common room."

"The Gryffindor –" Houtarou can't even finish his sentence. "No way."

"Why not?" Mayaka asks, there's a bite in her tone.

"Because it's far and all the way up a tower, I'm not going to climb all those stairs, I don't even live there." Houtarou answers. "If you want to hang out, come to the Hufflepuff common room," He wants to add 'It's closer', but instead says, "It's by the kitchen, the elves will give us snacks."

He's ready to stand his ground. Houtarou expects Mayaka to put up a fight, and for Satoshi to drag his eyes away from factful pages to intervene between the two. So, imagine Houtarou's surprise when Mayaka lets the argument roll off her shoulder.

"Okay." She answers.

"O – Okay?" Houtarou stares.

"Yeah, 'okay'. Why do you sound so shocked? You suggested it. You can't backtrack after suggesting snacks."

"I'm not backtracking, I just –"

"You just what?" Mayaka asks and it feels like they're nine again and bantering over the silliest things.

Houtarou rolls his green eyes, something Mayaka catches but let's slide because – well, why not? He tells her, "I didn't think you'd agree," like he hasn't known her his whole life, like they didn't live next door to each other for years and years, like she wouldn't know what he's saying with just one look.

Mayaka says, "Don't be stupid, of course, I would agree." And doesn't add an unspoken sentence mounting on her tongue, 'You can't get rid of me that easily, Slug.'

.

.

.

Satoshi's attention is wrestled away from his book when the clock strives eight PM, and that's only because Satoshi can't contain himself any longer. He goes on a long rant about his findings in the book, about fantastic creatures discovered by Miss Luna (nee Lovegood) Scamander.

Houtarou is the one to send Mayaka a look. It's clear that they're both high-key exasperated with Satoshi but they care for him and only want the best so they let him be – he goes on and on for what seemed like forever – lingering around one beast in particular.

The rambling is only broken when Houtarou almost breaks out laughing after Mayaka says, "Fuku-chan, I think I spotted Fairy Nargles around your drawstring collection," and that's when they take a moment to throw pillows at each other before drinking hot chocolate made by the house elves.


Houtarou stares at his timetable as the three continue walking down the corridors together. He's got a vague idea of where his classes are, but the moving staircase seems to be the biggest obstacle, one misstep and he knows he'll be late or end up on the wrong floor.

Mayaka casts a gaze at Houtarou's schedule and tries to act casual while asking, "Do you think we'll have classes together?"

"Hmm, probably not as much as we like. Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs don't usually share many classes together." Satoshi's the one to answer, his brain filled with useless knowledge. "Gryffindors are often paired up with Slytherins while Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs are lumped together."

Houtarou makes a humming sound, noise emitting from the back of his throat as he continues staring at the printed paper, and Mayaka wonders how Houtarou's not be disappointed by this fact (Mayaka just cares. About Houtarou. No matter what layer it may be).

"Let me look at your timetable." She says.

"What? Why?" Houtarou asks – this is the only thing he can think of saying to Mayaka's demand.

Unfortunately, Houtarou never gets his answer because Mayaka grabs the paper out of his hands without another word and studies it. The action's so forceful that it almost feels like they're fighting over the last chocolate frog (not that he's had experience, mind you).

Leaning away, Houtarou shoots Satoshi a quizzical look. He doesn't get much of a response from his friend because not even two seconds later Mayaka shoves Houtarou's timetable schedule back to him – tiny hands slam to his chest. Ow.

"It looks like Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs share classes every day – three on Wednesdays, two on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days we only have one class together." Mayaka says, a pen now magically in her other hand. When did that get there? Wait – that's his good pen!

"Lucky us." Satoshi says, but it's a comment that's ignored.

"I've underlined the classes we share, save a seat for us, okay?" Mayaka tells Houtarou.

He can tell she means it. He can tell she'll get mad if he doesn't. Her voice is sharp and her eyes are burning shocking pink. Houtarou doesn't even dare pull a face in protest because he knows that he cannot say 'no'.

"I promise I will." He says and means it as well.


"Do you think Ibara's gotten bossier since we arrived at Hogwarts?" Houtarou asks Satoshi as he doodles the side of his parcel paper.

Satoshi lifts his chin from his open palm and looks around the library with caution – afraid Mayaka will sneak into his view and pull out her larch wand – until Satoshi remembers that Mayaka's busy. Looks like he won't need to pull out his own wand; dogwood, but still clever and dazzling for performing serious magic.

The short girl is currently trying for a spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Mayaka's always had an interest in the sport and is aiming for the position of one of the Beaters. She told both boys to not come because the last thing she wants is "Oreki's bad luck to spread"; her words, not his. But, in truth, Houtarou's pretty sure that Mayaka's just embarrassed and doesn't want her closest friends seeing her fail (though, the odds of her not making the team is slim, she has the skill and talent).

A snort escapes from Satoshi's mouth, but he covers it quickly to not get needle glares from students who are studying. "To you? Yes. But to me? No. She hasn't acted any differently."

Houtarou pulls a face, and a grin stretches on Satoshi's mouth.

"I bet you're wondering why." Satoshi enquiries.

Houtarou replies by shrugging.

"I'm a database, I can't come up with any conclusions. But, I think I may have a hunch." Satoshi says, waving a finger. "Of course, the three of us are best friends but between the two of you, you and Mayaka have maintained a special kind of relationship. A friendly rivalry, if you will. I expect no less from Mayaka to act this way, after all, she's disappointed."

Disappointed? Anyone with eyes can tell Houtarou that!

"Not by you, don't get me wrong. You know what I mean, don't you, Houtarou? I'm just saying, no hard feelings."

"I'm not blind, Satoshi, I can tell Ibara's less than pleased that we got separated by the sorting hat." Houtarou continues frowning, he wished Satoshi would just get straight to the point.

"Then, you should also know that she's only acting this way because she misses you."

Houtarou almost chokes on air. "She misses me?"

"Yeah, you. She just doesn't want to say it." Satoshi replies.

"You're joking." Houtarou accuses.

Satoshi shakes his head. "I'm not. Mayaka wants to spend time with you. She doesn't want to make it obvious though, so she hides it by trying to act demanding. Why do you think she's always telling you what to do? If she doesn't initiate anything then Merlin knows when you'll notice the sudden gap and start something."

"Yeah, well, I'm noted now, I guess." Houtarou huffs, scribbling on his paper harder. "But, there's a high chance Ibara will make it on the Quidditch team so she'll have even less time to spend time with me."

"Oh-ho, so you have noticed!"

"Again, I'm not blind."

"Jealous?" Satoshi teases.

"Of a sport, please?"

"You can always cheer for her during her matches, you know? I know I will."

Houtarou squeezes his eyebrows together. "You're asking for too much, I don't have that much energy to spend."


It's too quiet for a Sunday morning. Houtarou glances around his corner of his shared dorm; his sheets are plain, books piled around the foot of his bed, the moving pictures that he's stuck on the wall are playing in an endless loop.

He stares at one that's faded and worn around the edges. He remembers that day – Tomoe had written the date on the back in ink, followed by the reason why she had forced Houtarou and Mayaka to stand for the picture. The two go way back, they've known each other since preschool and Mayaka would visit his house almost every day. Long story short: they've been classmates every year without fail and actually witness each other perform magic for the first time.

It used to be a running joke that they had set each other off. Mayaka would scold him at times when he wasn't careful enough, saying, "You're too careless!" and Houtarou would retort, "You started it!" – because, she did! When they were five, Mayaka had accidentally set a chair on fire during recess and Houtarou had been the only one to see it. In his panic, he had conjured a raincloud that doused the entire room. They had decided to never speak of the incident until Houtarou caused the class garden to grow wildly out of control, it could have crushed Mayaka if she hadn't floated in the air last minute – and that might have been the start of their strange rivalry/friendship.

Houtarou can honestly say, they share an odd history. But, they are no longer as harsh with each other, instead light banter and playful remarks get thrown around.

And, just like that, Houtarou realises; he misses her too. He misses being around Mayaka (who may or may not arguably be his best friend – despite it being very obvious and despite Satoshi saying it many, many times). And the feeling of missing Mayaka is not a sudden crashing feeling either. It's been building up for a while.

When the sorting hat had separated them, it's not like he didn't feel anything, because he did (he's not emotionally detached)! It's not that he's not disappointed too, because he is! It's just – when he and Mayaka see each other for potions or divination (which he loathes but excels at) or any other class it's like nothing between them ever changed and all is right again.

"I should do something."

Pulling himself from the bed, Houtarou prepares himself to climb some stairs.

.

.

.

"Where's Ibara?" Houtarou asks as he walks into the Gryffindor common room.

Nobody questions his presence anymore; most of the students are used to him by now, lounging around the chairs or doing homework. It's no surprise when Houtarou's around, he's walked into the Gryffindor common room a remarkable amount of times because Mayaka keeps forgetting to return his good pens – sometimes Houtarou thinks it's all a plot to make him visit her (not that he minds, but, stairs).

Satoshi blinks, looking up from his textbook, he's really been avoiding doing homework and is finishing things last minute. "She told me she would be practising on the Quidditch field."

Houtarou feels his eye twitch. "Where?" He wants to pretend he misheard Satoshi but he's actually double checking.

"The Quidditch field." Satoshi repeats.

A frown forms on Houtarou's mouth. So he came all the way here (down long halls and climbed all those damn steps) for nothing?

"Okay." He says.

A calmness surrounds him. Then –

"Wait – where are you going?!"

"Out for a walk!" Came Houtarou's reply.

He flies down the stairs, taking two steps at the time. Who thought it was a good idea to put the Gryffindor chambers on the top of a tower? He. is. struggling for breath as he descends the spiral staircase. Houtarou feels like his world is spinning out of control. This is torture – this is a workout – Houtarou can't believe he's running for Mayaka Ibara.

.

.

.

Houtarou's green eyes flit across to Mayaka who's still in her Quidditch uniform. He will not lie, looking at Mayaka's face – that's still red from flying – makes him feel tired out too, like he's feeling what she's feeling. If he were in her shoes, Houtarou's sure his arms would feel like noodles, or probably fallen off.

He gives Mayaka a small salute for her endless energy when she spots him. The sight of Houtarou casually loitering around such a place …

For his gesture, he earns a strange look and a raised eyebrow in return. She asks him, "What are you doing here, Slug?"

"Nothing." Houtarou answers and falls into step with Mayaka (something that should be impossible considering her tiny legs and his long ones) as they make their way back to the castle.

Mayaka frowns, a look of suspicion still cast over her face, and Houtarou is reminded of the Beater bat in her small fist (her broom is nowhere in sight).

"Fine," He huffs. "I was taking a walk."

"Around the Quidditch arena?" Mayaka asks.

She knows him – and the arena – well. The place is huge, there is no way that Houtarou Oreki's voluntarily putting that much effort into walking that many steps. Plus, it's Winter time, it's cold! Mayaka knows for a fact that Houtarou's favourite Winter past time is snuggling under the covers, not walking in the snow! What's up?

"I didn't walk the whole way. Only a quarter." He shrugs, pretending to be disinterested.

"Were you watching me?" She asks.

"No, that's creepy." Houtarou replies. He buries the lower part of his chin behind his bright yellow Hufflepuff scarf. Then, he adds softly, "But, a few of your moves did catch my eye."

"Which move?"

He lifts a shoulder again, still trying to play it cool, "When you did that loop-de-loop. I even clapped, if that makes you feel better."

Mayaka blinks. Oh, she didn't think he'd admit that.

She looks at him. Really looks at him. And Houtarou tries avoiding her gaze or making any strange expressions. It doesn't work because he meets her eyes and notes the sheen of sweat that almost makes part of her features glow.

Sighing and reading him like an open book, Mayaka confesses, "I know we haven't been hanging around as much after I joined the team, but ..." She trails off.

"But?" He asks – because there's always a 'but'.

Mayaka knows they've never officially said it, but she considers Houtarou more than a childhood friend. They're good friends. (Maybe even best friends? Secret best friends?)

"But," She murmurs. "I can't believe you went looking for me." Even as the words left her own mouth, it feels foreign. It happened but she still can't imagine it: Houtarou Oreki looking for her.

"I had nothing else to do." Houtarou tells her.

It sounds like a lie, she knows it is. Did he forget that they know each other so well that they can understand what the other is thinking with a single glance?

"Do you want to go to Hogsmeade later?" Came Houtarou's question. It's as sudden as the first fall of fresh snow or a flower blooming in Spring.

Mayaka's momentarily taken aback.

"Ibara?"

"You, me and Fuku-chan?" Mayaka asks.

"No," Houtarou shakes his head. "Just the two of us."

Confusion fills Mayaka's face. "Only us?"

"Satoshi hasn't finished any of his homework. He's going to spend the whole day hunched over parcel paper."

Mayaka's eyes widen a little and her mouth drops, forming a small 'O'. Houtarou's proposing to go somewhere instead of spending the day lounging around? This is a miracle itself!

"Well?" He asks when she doesn't respond.

"Well," A small smile twists on her face. She nudges him with her bat. "Only if you buy me a treat from the sweets shop."

Houtarou buries his face deeper into his scarf, concealing his smile. "That sounds ..."

"Dreary? Since it's with you?" Mayaka teases.

Houtarou doesn't hold back his scoff. "I was going to say, 'like fun'. Thanks for ruining the moment."

"Oh, shut up."

And she punches him on the arm, for old time's sake. He pretends not to wince and thought, maybe he should have held his tongue.


wand types

Mayaka - larch (larch wands have a reputation for instilling confidence and courage in the user. it is a wand of hidden talents and unexpected effects. often the case, the owner of the larch wand deserves it, but may never realise the full extent of their considerable talents until paired with it. they made an exceptional match)

Satoshi - dogwood (noisy, quirky and mischievous; dogwood wands have playful natures and insist upon partners who can provide them with scope for excitement and fun. it would be quite wrong, however, to deduce from this that dogwood wands are not capable of serious magic. when paired with a suitably clever and ingenious owner, the wand can produce dazzling enchantments)

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


 iii

lackadaisical



Spin! Shove! Struggle! They're in the air on broomsticks!

Mayaka whizzes through the blue, blue skies as the wind whistles through her short hair. The beater stick in her hand feels heavy, slipping out of her grasp despite her leather gloves helping keep it in place. She's sweating and sore from flying on her broom. Gryffindor is winning the Quidditch game – a plus for her, her teammates, and their red and gold house – but Hufflepuff is close behind.

The snitch is released, people gasp, and Mayaka's pink eyes follow the house seekers chase after the magical golden ball. It's chaos for a brief moment, Mayaka's done her best and there's nothing more she can do. Then –

Cheering.

"Gryffindor wins!" Masashi Toogaito – a senior who's also in charge of the student-run newspaper club – cries through a microphone.

Cheering continues. Smiles spread. Wands are waved and confetti falls around them. Mayaka lands on the ground. She and her teammates exchange polite banter with the Hufflepuff Quidditch team.

From above, sitting in the stands, Mayaka spots Houtarou. She had seen him throughout the game with her view from the sky; waving a small Gryffindor flag around when the house scored points. She wished Satoshi was with Houtarou, it's too bad Fuku-chan couldn't make it, he got thrown into detention for a spell that backfired.

But Mayaka will say, she did witness a few gems. She caught moments where Houtarou was in awe – mouth gaping and eyes wide; the excitement really got to him. It's sort of funny to see him react. Houtarou can act indifferent all he wants, Mayaka knows he's secretly impressed by the air dynamics and endless energy.

.

.

.

"Are you and your team going to celebrate?" Houtarou asks Mayaka casually.

He and Mayaka exit the crowded arena. Professors and students pat her on the back and Houtarou tries not to stand out as their peers pass them.

To Houtarou's question, Mayaka bobs her head. "Yeah, we're going to Hogsmeade and having a few butterbeers. Do you want to join us?" She asks just as flashes of green and silver came into her view.

A girl with long black hair passes by, she's busy talking to a friend with glasses and a purple butterfly clip pinned to her hair, but Houtarou makes an effort to crane his neck to look.

"Slug?"

Mayaka catches the small gesture, Houtarou's eyes lingering on the girl with long, long hair. If he doesn't look forward soon, he's going to stumble over something and trip!

"Oreki?" Mayaka tries again but Houtarou's gaze does not falter.

A small smile stretches on the tiny girl's face. Mayaka knocks her shoulder against Houtarou's, though it feels more like she's ramming her entire body-weight than simply catching his attention. Mayaka doesn't know her strength, and she isn't afraid to shove.

"What?" Houtarou hisses under his breath, now looking back at Mayaka.

"Oreki, I'm talking to you!"

"Talk then,"

"You like her, don't you?" Mayaka teases.

Houtarou swears his face glows as red as Mayaka's Quidditch uniform. "Wha – What?!"

"Don't play dumb. I know you're not that pea-brained. You fancy her, don't you?" Mayaka continues, her tone hinted with mischief.

"I, I –" He can't tell if Mayaka's being serious or if she's just playing him as a fool. But, then again, Mayaka's a Gryffindor because she's fool-hardy. "She's a Slytherin." He merely grumbles.

"So?" Mayaka bites back.

Houtarou wanted to clear his throat and point out the obvious, but instead, he settles on being dramatic by swishing his robes. "Gryffindor." He gestures to himself. "Slytherin," He gestures to the passageway the girl walked passed.

"Oh my God, you can't be serious!" Mayaka exclaims and waves her hands around in exasperation, the broomstick leaning against her shoulder moves. It almost hits Houtarou on the head. "You're worried about an age-old rivalry?"

"I am." He confirms, though, his voice is meek like he doesn't really mean it.

"Gryffindor and Slytherin rivalry hasn't been a thing since the Harry Potter graduated!"

Houtarou shrugs, trying to make the factor a small issue, "I'm still worried."

"You shouldn't be." Mayaka snorts. To her credit, she didn't roll her eyes. "I think that Slytherin girl's a good person to crush on."

"You don't even know her." Houtarou retorts.

"True," Mayaka says, then adds, "But, she looks friendly. And, she makes you tongue-tied, I think that's a bonus for me. I approve!"

Something like 'go away' crawls up his throat but Houtarou knows better than to piss off Mayaka when she has her broom on her. Instead, he looks away, trying to kill the conversation with his silence.

Houtarou only succeeds in making Mayaka laugh. Oh, if only Satoshi was here to join the teasing!

"I adore her and so do you!" Mayaka teases further, pointing a finger to Houtarou's blushing cheeks.

Houtarou swats her hand. "You're wasting my energy."

"Oh? If that's the case, I'll go talk to her for you." Mayaka declares.

Houtarou's face falls. "No, don't do anything!" Would it be odd if he were to take out his wand, hold the willow wood between his fingers and make himself disappear?

"You said it yourself, didn't you? You feel lazy, I insist! What's her name? I think I've seen her in some of my classes, is it 'Eru Chitanda'?" She asks with a big grin on her face.

He panics. "Ibara –! Ibara, I take it back, I'm sorry!"

Mayaka only laughs louder, her broomstick jumping up and down her shoulder, "Don't be so shy! I'm in a good mood, our house won, let me do you a favour! I'm going to talk to her for you! I bet if I turn back now, I can catch up to her and start a conversation!"

Houtarou holds Mayaka's gaze. "You. wouldn't. dare." He whispers.

She positions her broom. "Wanna bet?"


wand types

Houtarou - willow (their ideal owner often has some (usually unwarranted) insecurity, however, well they may try and hide it. willow wands have consistently selected those of greatest potential, rather than those who feel they have little to learn)

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


iv

a fool's errand



They meet in Divination class. A gloomy Ravenclaw boy; who sits at the back by the window, who is scary good at predicting, reading tea leaves and looking beyond glass crystal balls, is all anyone can talk about.

Eru Chitanda has heard rumours. Most times, it can be chalked up to hearsay, but she's caught enough wind for the information to pique her interest. That Ravenclaw boy is named Houtarou Oreki, and Chitanda will not lie; her attention is on him, his very being makes her curious.

She doesn't even need to voice this out because it's that obvious. So obvious that the boy sitting next to her – her new Divination partner, a fellow Slytherin – points it out.

"You're curious about Houtarou aren't you, Chitanda-san?" The boy asks while he raises a brow at the girl in question.

Chitanda's large purple eyes flit away from the back of Houtarou's head to the boy's face to elsewhere.

"Um," Her gaze is now fixed on her textbook, paragraphs pretend to be words, and she attempts to focus on their assignment. Chitanda's trying to seem indifferent, but she can't fool him. "A little." She finally admits.

He laughs, a little too loudly, and several students turn to him. "Sorry," He apologises then lowers his voice to not draw any unwanted eavesdroppers.

Chitanda commands her Divination partner's attention back to her by yanking his robes. "Do you know Oreki-san? What do you think of him?" Came Chitanda's inquiries. It's the sort of questions raised and will not be put to rest until they are answered.

"Houtarou?" He asks, looking thoughtful.

And, suddenly, it feels like they've done nothing but dwell when – really – they should be seeking answers.

"Houtarou is …" He takes a moment, searching for the right words. "When you look at Houtarou, most assume he's in Ravenclaw because he's smart. But, personally, I think it's also because he can't quite fit in anywhere else. I'm not saying he's an outcast, but he's special, and there's no other house I'd ever see Houtarou being in." He licks his lips, and adds with much attention and measurement, "Houtarou is brilliant. It's easy to see that he has more talent in his little pinky than I could possibly have in my entire body. Houtarou could really prove himself and shine if he puts effort into his talent. I mean, if he really wanted to, that is. Houtarou could be somebody."

Chitanda gaps at the lengthy but honest review. Just by the tone alone, she can tell this isn't a random assumption, it's a fact.

They know each other. Chitanda realises. This boy with spiky hair and brown eyes knows Oreki. She also notes, there's a certain ring behind his voice. Maybe admiration. Maybe envy. But it's gone as quickly as it comes.

"You're acquainted with Oreki-san?" Chitanda asks, palms now on the surface of the small round table.

Her original assignment to read the meaning behind her partner's tea leaves becomes forgotten. Chitanda looks at him like she's seeing him for the first time and he faces her, turning his profile (but not entirely in full view). His mouth forms a smile.

"I am." He chuckles. It implies good-naturedness, but it also doesn't sound whole.

Chitanda's brows pull together, pinching her lovely features. Then it hits her – she doesn't know this boy's name. Chitanda stares at his ever-present grin then tries to recall if she's ever spoken to him. He looks like the sort of person who lingers in places yet blends so well that he fades into the background.

She comes out empty handed. But, there is no doubt, he is an interesting person.

Chitanda tells him, "It seems that I have a lot to learn about you."

"Is that so?" He asks.

She nods. "Call you tell me about yourself?" Chitanda asks. His smile grows, it reminds her of a cat with canary locked behind strong jaws.

"If you must know," He says, waving his hands with ease. "I'm a Gemini, my favourite colour is yellow, I think the Ravenclaw's door riddle system is unnecessary but I enjoy answering them when I visit Houtarou, and I'm a first year student like you."

He's stalling on introductions, adding some flair and an air of mystery to himself. But, he can tell Chitanda is getting impatient. She is a lady, but she is also human. (However, he thinks, she will be greatly disappointed once he tells her who he really is. It's not like Chitanda will recognise him by his name anyway. His family is a curious bunch; open minded to marrying Muggle-Borns and Half-Bloods. But, nothing special. Not really.)

Bowing ever-so slightly and giving a dramatic wave of the arm, he says, "It's a pleasure meeting your acquittance, Chitanda-san, my name is Satoshi Fukube."

"Fukube-san?" Chitanda repeats like she's trying to place some title to his family name.

"Yes." He nods, but doesn't linger. He quickly directs their conversation elsewhere. Or rather, towards a familiar territory that isn't quite there. "I know Houtarou is on the tip of everyone's tongue, I know people want to know more about him, but," Satoshi says, pausing for half a second, "If anything, I think they should be curious about someone else. And when I say 'they', that includes you too, Chitanda-san."

"Oh?" Chitanda's back straightens and her eyes sparkle. "Someone else, you say? Who?"

Satoshi smiles wider as his eyes meet Chitanda's. She's staring straight at him, at the edge of her seat. He wonders how such large eyes can overlook things so easily.

He averts his gaze, eyes downcast. His cup is still wet from the remains of his drink, he's drawn to the shiny surface and his reflection that comes out blurry in his own vision.

Satoshi points into his cup and says, "The answer lies here," like he is suddenly the eagle that sings riddles to Ravenclaws.

Chitanda's face twists. "In the tea leaves?"

His stomach churns, a heavy sinking feeling. "Something like that." Satoshi answers. He never stopped smiling.


Chitanda finds Satoshi by candlelight, behind a fortress of books. He is tucked away in a little corner in the library. It's surprising to her. After getting to know Satoshi, she found the boy to be a lively kind; throwing jokes around, a wide grin dominating his features, he has affiliations with a multitude of clubs. Chitanda expects Satoshi to be surrounded by friends. How can he not be when he knows Houtarou Oreki?

She means, just hours ago, Satoshi had introduced Chitanda to the star Beater of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. If Chitanda's memory is right, the short girl's name is Mayaka Ibara.

(And judging by Mayaka's nickname to him – 'Fuku-chan' – they seem very close. Satoshi's close to Oreki too, on the accounts that he calls the Ravenclaw boy by his first name.)

So, really, the assumption is not far-fetched. To Chitanda, Satoshi has shown her that he has connections (something she's familiar with, old-ties and old-families). With that, it's strange to see Satoshi pouring hours of his youth into readings and textbooks. He should be surrounding himself with people of skill and talent!

"Homework?" Chitanda asks, leaning over his shoulder.

Satoshi jumps and he moves feverishly to hide the book beneath his elbows. He isn't quick enough though, Chitanda catches the title: A History of Magic.

"Oh, Chitanda-san, you scared me." Satoshi gives a weak laugh.

"What are you doing? Is there a class test I don't know of?"

"Ah, no." Satoshi shakes his head. "I'm reading for fun."

"Oh? 'For fun'? Are you sure you got sorted into the right house?" Chitanda jokes.

Satoshi's smile doesn't grow or shift. It remains the same. "Um, I've always been fond of facts, that's all. I find them interesting." Though, he says this like it's something sad rather than it being something interesting about himself.

"There's no shame in enjoying good reading." Chitanda replies and sits beside him. Satoshi notices that even her simplest gesture is well-practised and elegant. "I'm fond of learning how things work. It may sound odd but I like detail. I feel like my curiosity can't be satisfied until I take a peek into someone's head to understand what they're thinking." Chitanda stops abruptly, blinking. "I'm not suggesting pensieve, but, uh, it's the same feeling as when Muggles take apart the machines they build. To know how it is inside and out, you know? You understand, don't you?"

Satoshi notes that Chitanda is regarding him like her equal and replies, "I do." Then he asks, "Are you fascinated by Muggles, Chitanda-san?"

"Oh, yes, I find them so refreshing! They do the oddest things," Purple eyes sparkle with delight. "I ought to speak to some Muggle-borns, I have so many questions to ask!"

"That sounds like a refreshing idea." Satoshi agrees, mimicking her words.

Chitanda hums.

"But, back to what we were talking about before," Satoshi circles the girl back to their original topic. "What were you saying?"

"Ah, regarding reading and understanding? I think the best part –" Chitanda chides. "– is the conclusion."

His grin quivers. "Oh?"

"Or rather, the coming of a conclusion. To see the whole picture after all the puzzle pieces fit together. What's it called again? The Muggles had coined a term for it …"

"Eureka?" Satoshi suggests.

"Ah, a 'Eureka' moment, that's right!"

Satoshi doesn't say anything to Chitanda's gleeful cheer, he only smiles.

"Have you ever felt anything more wondrous?" She asks.

Satoshi's fingers curl under the table. "I can't say I have."


He's just a database; good with storage, awful with conclusions. What does Satoshi know? Bits of knowledge that won't help anyone. Random tidbits. Who cares about useless facts – like there being eleven major wizarding schools around the world, with Mahoutokoro School of Magic having the smallest student body? Or that, according to The Pure-Blood Directory, there are only twenty-eight sacred pure-blood families? Or the fact that the current Slug Club (hosted by a descendant of the Professor Slughorn) is just a revival after the original club had disbanded in 1996? Who cares about that stuff?

Who should care?

Satoshi does. But he doesn't know who else. He doesn't think anyone other than him does.

And yet, Satoshi has expectations, though he's unsure if that's the correct word he should be using. Though, it is what it is.

Eru Chitanda is a multitude of things. She's quite well-known. Her grades are excellent, she's beautiful, disciplined and responsible. Satoshi would even go as far as to say that people adore her for these qualities. Teachers look towards her brightly and students (including Satoshi himself) put Chitanda on a pedestal.

And, it may be foolish of him, but Satoshi sees something within Chitanda that he thinks he may have too. He thinks they had both shared instances. For instance, their 'cryptic' nature.

After Satoshi and Chitanda had become sorted into Slytherin, many had wondered why (though, most were more interested in Chitanda's reasoning than Satoshi's). Chitanda was known to be a sweet and nice girl (while Satoshi was just known to be smiley and positive to an extent). But, after a while, it was clear to everyone why Chitanda was assigned to the house of green and silver; it was not only because of her respect for tradition, but also for her brains, her loyalty to friends, and due to Chitanda being good at what she does.

(While Satoshi … Well, no one's really bothered to uncover why he's in Slytherin. Not yet, at least)


Satoshi knows he's not exactly the best of friends with Chitanda. They're acquainted. They are polite to each other and have mutual respect towards one another. So he didn't – and doesn't – expect any dirty looks or sideways glances when he decides to sit next to her for breakfast one early Sunday.

(Satoshi tells himself it's nothing big. He's seen Toogaito-senpai do the same. Though, he was more of Irisu-senpai's friend than Chitanda's. But, they do all come from a similar background – in short, they're all pure-bloods.)

"Mornin'," Satoshi greets, as bright as the sun shining through the stained glass windows.

Several heads – those which are held high – snap towards his direction. Chitanda puts away her rowan wand while Fuyumi puts away her elm wood wand. It seems they were exchanging spells and flick-wrist tricks.

With her back straight and elbows politely tucked to her side, Chitanda smiles at Satoshi. "Oh, good morning, Fukube-san."

"Irisu-senpai, Juumonji-san, Toogaito-senpai, it's a pleasure." Satoshi grins at Chitanda's friends as they gather together, a tightly knitted group.

Satoshi recognises Fuyumi Irisu, Kaho Juumonji and Masashi Toogaito the same way he had recognised Eru Chitanda. Fuyumi, Kaho and Masashi are alike – born from powerful families and instilled with tradition. He recognises Fuyumi by her given title 'The Empress' and Kaho from the butterfly pin in her hair; a Juumonji heirloom. Masashi is the President of the Newspaper Club (his idol is Rita Skeeter), and his family is well-respected for being influential members of the educational community.

Fuyumi is straight-forward; raising a delicate eyebrow as she studies Satoshi. She's trying to place a name to his face, but even Satoshi knows she doesn't know him. Meanwhile, Kaho is polite, offering a formal smile to his large grin. Masashi doesn't look up from his scrambled eggs.

"Do I know you?" Fuyumi asks, her voice careful.

His expression doesn't change, he keeps it still. His smile doesn't waiver from disappointment. After all, he anticipated this. "No." Satoshi answers.

"This is Satoshi Fukube, we're in the same year." Chitanda introduces, letting her pale hand sweep over to Satoshi's androgynous face. "Kaho-san, you know Fukube-san, right?"

Kaho nods. Both Kaho and Satoshi too have shared some classes.

"Ah." Fuyumi murmurs then turns to Masashi who's now stirring his tea.

Satoshi expects silence to be followed. An awkward meal. A somewhat uneasy presence. What he did not expect is Kaho attempting conversation.

"Fukube-kun," Kaho calls, perhaps out of politeness. "Have you heard?"

Satoshi raises a brow in return and Chitanda leans into Kaho, showing interest. Fuyumi decides to stay out of their little chat (maybe the conversation is beneath her?).

Kaho continues. "There are rumours floating around about you. You've got quite the reputation."

"Me?" Satoshi points to himself, and for the first time, Masashi looks at Satoshi's direction like he's interested (most likely for a new scoop, though).

"Yes. You're friends with Oreki-kun, am I right? It seems your name has skyrocketed along with his."

Satoshi's posture changes to Kaho's words, it seems like someone's dropped an invisible burden on his shoulders. "Houtarou is getting really popular." Satoshi comments.

"Right?" Chitanda chimes. "He sounds like he could be the next Harry Potter!"

"The next –" Satoshi can't even finish his sentence.

From the corner of his eye, Fuyumi tips her chin slightly as if nodding while Kaho brightens to Chitanda's statement in agreement.

Still smiling, Satoshi says, "My, Chitanda-san. That's a bit too much, isn't it?"


"Houtarou, I think you've caught the attention of quite a few people." Came Satoshi's comment.

Houtarou looks up from his book and puts on an expression that makes him look emotionless. "Who?"

"You." Satoshi only sighs like he should have expected such a reply.

"No, I mean, who's showing interest in me?" Houtarou rephrases his question.

"I can't name them all, you've gotten famous enough to have articles written about you in the school's newspaper. So, loads of people. But, I can name a few who I deem important." Satoshi begins ticking off his fingers. "Eru Chitanda-san, Kaho Juumonji-san, Fuyumi Irisu-senpai."

"I don't know who any of those people are."

"You should." Satoshi chides. "Irisu-senpai's got a title and the other two girls I've mentioned are heiresses, part of The Exponential Four Clans."

"The what?" Houtarou asks.

But, as soon as the words left Houtarou's mouth, he immediately wants to take it back. Back-peddle. He's met with eyes glaring. Something in Satoshi's face shifts and Houtarou is almost afraid his friend might snap.

"The Exponential Four Clans."

From Satoshi's tone alone, it's sharp and hot-tempered sounding. It almost reminds Houtarou of Mayaka Ibara when she's irritated. But, much, much worse. The comment sounds like it should be aimed at Satoshi's worse enemy. Only, today, it is aimed at Houtarou (and Houtarou himself does not think he deserves this directionless anger).

Having a few tricks up his sleeve, Houtarou tries to defuse the sudden enmity. There is no need to pull out his cedar wand. He pushes the topic aside like he doesn't want to know or just doesn't want to get involved.

Pointing at himself, he asks Satoshi, "Why are they interested in me? I'm nothing special."

Satoshi snorts. "I wish that were true." And, just like that, his temper melts. Then, Satoshi adds, "Hey, didn't you get invited to join The Slug Club?"

"Yeah." Houtarou answers, shrugging. He doesn't want to make this a big deal. It shouldn't be. He doesn't want to risk another explosion.

Satoshi's eyebrow hikes up. "Yeah? What do you mean 'yeah'?"

"Yeah, I did." Houtarou confirms.

"And …?"

"And what?"

"And did you accept?" Satoshi prods.

Houtarou shoots his friend a look. "No, why would I?"

"Because Mayaka did. So did Chitanda-san." And Fuyumi Irisu and Kaho Juumonji and Masashi Toogaito.

"That's them, not me."

Satoshi stares at Houtarou for the longest time like the Ravenclaw boy's lost his mind. Then, "You're right." Satoshi says, though it sounds like there's more to what he's saying. And, under his breath, he adds, "You have no idea how lucky you are."


He was minding his own business, walking up the Ravenclaw tower to ask Houtarou for his copy of his homework when he spotted two girls. The duo was looking around, clearly lost, before their eyes landed on Satoshi.

A girl with brown hair points to him not so discreetly and whispers to her friend, "Let's ask him."

"What?!" Her friend squeaks. "I don't want to talk to him!" She 'whispers' too loudly. "He's a Slytherin! He's bad news!"

The brunette shot her friend a warning look. "Bad news or not, he's also Oreki-senpai's best friend. Haven't you been reading the newspaper? It's rumoured he knows how to get into Ravenclaw tower."

"Oh," Came a soft gasp before a giggle. "Sneaky." The friend says. "No wonder he's in Slytherin."

Satoshi found himself frowning. He would rather speak with the magical eagle glued to the Ravenclaw's door than speak to those two.

But, Satoshi also knew it was inevitable, so he calls loudly, "Can I help you?"

"You would help us?" The friend asks, sounding surprised.

The brunette bumps her shoulder against the other girl's, like a caution to hold her tongue, before she spoke, "Ah, we're here to see a friend of ours. We, um, heard about needing to answer the eagle at the door and we aren't particularly knowledgeable so … would you be willing to tell us the password?"

"There is no password. You have to answer a riddle presented once you reach the door," Satoshi replies.

"Oh …" The brunette deflates.

Her friend grabs her by the arm and whines, "I'm not climbing a bunch of stairs only to get the answer wrong."

"I," Satoshi interrupts, not knowing what had possessed him to continue speaking to the girls. "I'm on my way up, I could answer the riddle and we could enter together."

"You would do that? How wonderful! Lead the way!"

...

They had climbed the steps, it was awkward. Partly because of the hostile tension and because of the back and forth whispering mixed with excited fangirlish giggles. Satoshi didn't think it could get any worse.

Until, he had lost his cool. It was right after he had answered the door correctly. One of the girls had sounded so amazed, like she couldn't imagine someone like Satoshi Fukube having the brains to answer a riddle.

"Oh, you got it right!" Came a gasp. "Did Oreki-senpai tell you the answer before?"

Something flashes behind Satoshi's eyes. "No." He says with a flat tone. He couldn't help but stare at the girl heatedly.

Satoshi didn't get it. He doesn't understand. He knows he's praised Houtarou for being brilliant, for being talented and skilled. But, Satoshi remembers a time when people were teasing the lazy boy for a bit weird, for his fluffy bed head that resembled a lion's mane, for his refusal to get involved. Houtarou would often say things like, "I'll just stay quiet, hang back, and not do anything."

There was even a running gag at some point, that the class would clap and applaud whenever Houtarou bothered to answer a question because he wouldn't actively raise his hand, even if he knew he was correct. Houtarou would only say something when the teacher picked him, and often, Houtarou would then be awarded: five house points.

Houtarou was just another face in the crowd up until a few months ago, and now he's suddenly famous?

"What year are you in? Second?" Satoshi enquiries.

The brown haired girl didn't appreciate the way Satoshi was practically glaring at them. "Why is that any of your business?"

"It isn't." Satoshi says to the two girls, a sharp edge in his voice. "But, you should have known the answer to the riddle. It's written in our history textbook. You should try reading it some time."

"How rude! You're quite nasty, aren't you?" The friend snaps.

...

When Chitanda had arrived at the top of the stairs, she felt like she was caught between a rock and a hard place. She witnessed Satoshi shaking with anger. He looked about ready to shout. Or worse, pull out his wand. There was this flicker of anger in Satoshi's eyes. It reminded Chitanda of burning amber.

"Fukube-san?" Chitanda voices.

Satoshi turns, "... Chitanda-san."

The girls squeak, as if they too are familiar with Chitanda. "Excuse us." One of them say and they race down the spiral stairs.

Chitanda waits, watching the back of the younger girls' backs before turning back to Satoshi. "Fukube-san, is everything alright?"

His shoulders fall. "Sorry. Sorry. I lost my temper for a second. Those juniors wanted me to sneak them into the Ravenclaw tower. They wanted to fawn over Houtarou, and I ..." Satoshi's mouth dips into an almost frown. "I'm not opposed to helping or others visiting the Ravenclaws but I had to draw the line."

"What upset you? Are you crossed that they threatened to breach Oreki-san's comfort?"

"It's more to do with me than Houtarou." Satoshi answers.

Chitanda only looks at him, she wants him to elaborate.

Satoshi does so after dropping his smile completely. "It's not that I don't care for Houtarou, he is my best friend, after all. But … sticking with him after him fame rose … it tires me out. It can be a little too much."

Satoshi pulls the Ravenclaw door shut so no other students can hear their little talk and slumps against the wall.

Chitanda can only offer her friend a look of concern.

"It's like you said, Houtarou has the potential to be the next Harry Potter, and – and …" Satoshi pauses for a moment, searching for the right words before he decides to just settle what he had on his mind. "You should have seen the way those girls looked at me, Chitanda-san, it was like they expected me to be their lackey!" He exasperates, waving his arms.

"It can be difficult when people have high expectations of you. There's a certain burden you have to carry."

Satoshi shakes his head. "Expectations of me? The only thing people expect from me is a free pass to Houtarou."

"That's not true." Chitanda offers politely.

"No, it is! The writing is on the wall!" Satoshi says.

Chitanda chooses to not interrupt.

"Regardless, I don't think people think much of it. Sure, I'm known now but … I'm not quite there yet. I'm not saying I want to be equally as popular as Houtarou. I could never be 'The Boy Who Lived'. I can't even be the second candidate; Neville Longbottom. But …" Satoshi sighs. "I don't want to be known as the next Ron Weasley either."

"But, why not? Ron Weasley is great too! His bravery and good deeds are written along with Harry Potter's and Hermoine Granger's in our history books and in newspaper articles."

"That's true." Satoshi adverts his gaze. "Don't get me wrong, Ron Weasley did incredible things too, but he's mostly known as Harry Potter's best friend. And I don't want that. What I want is –" Satoshi stops, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter. I should know that I can't achieve what I want." If he was gripping onto his wand right now, he's certain he would have snapped the hawthorn wood into two and crushed it into splinters. 


Satoshi is many things. It can even be said that he can be many things.

Jealous, for example. But, what he really is – is envious. Fact: Jealousy and envy are two separate things (though a lot of people often confuse the terms or inter-use it). The difference is; with jealousy, one must have the possession in hand and is afraid of losing it to another. Jealous because whatever's achieved has become less and less, and there is a threat of it being ripped away. To be envious, it to not have the item at all and yearn to gain it.

Satoshi is a boy with many hats. But, he's not equipped with skill nor talent. He envies Houtarou (and perhaps even Mayaka) for having the capability to best him in ways he cannot.

It's said that Geminis tend to be a 'Jack of all trades', which he is by virtue of being; a well of random knowledge. He has some capacity. But, mostly, Satoshi has a lot he wants to prove. There is a goal. He has expectations for himself (but he's unsure if the public has expectations of him).

When he had pointed to his tea leaves in Divinations class and told Chitanda to look closer, he was referring to himself.

Chitanda wasn't far when she had joked that Satoshi was put into the wrong house. Most people think he is in the wrong house. Most think the sorting hat shouldn't have put him in a house full of snakes. They deem him more fitting for Hufflepuff.

Sometimes he becomes the subject of a passing conversation. He's that kid everyone wonders, 'Why is he in Slytherin anyway?' because he's always smilingalways cheerful, wearing bright colours like yellows and pinks and orange.

But, if Satoshi were to reveal his true self, take off his mask, people would lose their minds. They would say, "Oh, you do belong with the Slytherins."

… Just not with the pure-blood Slytherins. Just not with those high up in the hierarchy. He wonders, will he make it in such an elite world? Or will he be eaten alive?


"I must ask you, I hope you don't mind. But, what can you tell me about Fukube-san?"

Houtarou's eyebrows shoot up. He puts down his book and the fireplace crackles slightly. This isn't what he expected when they had promised to speak in the Ravenclaw common room.

"This is about Satoshi?" He asks.

"Yes."

His green eyes stare into large purple ones. "What did he do?"

"Nothing!" Chitanda exclaims. There is a worry in her voice like she doesn't want Satoshi to get in trouble. But then she adds, "He just got mad and I … I want to understand why."

"Ah." Houtarou murmurs then looks away. "You want to know about Satoshi, right?"

Chitanda nods.

"How do I put this without saying too much …" Houtarou says aloud. "The easiest way to define Satoshi is … He's the type to hide his feelings behind a smile."

"A smile?"

This time, Houtarou nods. "Do you understand?" He asks.

Chitanda's brows furrow and she chews the inside of her cheek. After a moment, she shakes her head. "I'm sorry, no. I can't quite process it. I don't think I have enough information to link it all together."

"The story is complex. I'd rather not get into too much detail, I hope you understand. I would give you an excuse, tell you that explaining everything would be too much of a hassle, but, the truth is, Satoshi is my friend, and I don't think he would appreciate me spilling his past."

"I do understand. Thank you for listening to me anyway, Oreki-san." Chitanda bows then move up from the chair she was sitting. However, before she leaves, she asks, "Before I go, is there anyone else I can talk to about this?"

His hand reaches for his fringe. "I do have someone in mind."

.

.

.

"Thank you for agreeing on such a short notice, Ibara-san."

"Oh, it's no problem, Chii-chan." Mayaka offers a grin, giving the taller girl a glance.

The two girls stroll through the halls; usually crowded with wizards and witches alike, chattering and wands waving, robes swishing behind scampering feet as professors usher their students into classes. But, the moon is out and it's just after dinner time. The girls had just spent their time with The Slug Club, among other 'high flyers'. The event had gone a little longer than most dinner parties. A majority of the students and professors must be in bed by now.

However, Mayaka expects, if the hall was full, Chitanda would not need to pull herself out of the thrall of students. She didn't have to – she was a Chitanda, after all.

"So you said you wanted to have a chat? What's this about?" The short girl asks.

"Fukube-san." Chitanda answers.

"Fuku-chan?"

Chitanda nods. "I've noticed that he's been acting upset lately. I didn't feel like it was my business to ask but I was concerned so I asked Oreki-san and he said 'ask Ibara'. I was wondering if you could help me."

"Ah, that makes sense, I know Fuku-chan well." Mayaka replies.

Chitanda quickly launches into the story of the two girls at the Ravenclaw tower and the duo ended up stopping under a torchlight where the moon shined and portraits slept.

"Oreki-san also told me to ask you about Fukube-san being a Slytherin." Chitanda adds. "Were you surprised that he ended up in the house? I've heard a few people voice their surprise. Most think he should be a Hufflepuff."

Mayaka hums, pressing her small hands against the wall behind her. Then she leans back, and her gesture brings Chitanda back to the memory of Satoshi when he was muttering as if defeated. Mayaka is almost mirroring Satoshi unknowingly. They're very alike. Chitanda wonders if they think alike too, she's curious to peek into Mayaka's head now.

"To people who don't know Fuku-chan, it may come as a surprise. But to me, not really." Mayaka replies. "Fuku-chan has always been driven."

"Really?"

Mayaka nods. "It makes sense. In fact, I wasn't surprised either when he befriended you, Chii-chan."

"What do you mean?"

"I, I think I have the answer to your question."

Chitanda takes a step forward and lightly holds Mayaka's hands. "Please tell me."

Mayaka turns her head, hesitant for just a moment. Then she sighs. "Don't take this the wrong way, Chii-chan but … when Fuku-chan approached you, it had not only to do with his character but also with your status."

"My status?"

"You must know, Chii-chan, you're very popular. Your name is pretty big. Satoshi even gave you and your friends a title, 'The Four Exponential Clans', I believe?" Mayaka guesses. "Has he ever mentioned it?"

Chitanda nods, confirming the brunette's suspicions. "He's joked about it and addressed Kaho-san and I by that title."

Mayaka says, "I think he wanted to be close to you because he wanted to prove himself."

"Prove himself? What for? He's already my friend, there's nothing else to prove." Chitanda answers with honestly.

This response only hurt Mayaka's heart a little. "Like I said, Fuku-chan is the ambitious sort."

Chitanda passes Mayaka a look like she doesn't fully understand.

"It's … a long story." Mayaka says.

"Oreki-san said that too. He said it was complex, but, I don't mind listening."

Mayaka licks the bottom of her lip, deep in thought. Then she answers, "I … I'll try to explain it to the best of my abilities, but I'm not sure I can be as clear as possible."

Chitanda tips her chin, a gesture of approval that she's all ears, and Mayaka begins her story.

"To put it simply, Fuku-chan used to be a sore loser."

Chitanda blinks; trying to see the big picture, letting the pieces fall together.

"In the past, Fuku-chan would throw nasty tempers whenever he lost. It was … bad. It was a problem. I noticed it and Oreki did too. Oreki wouldn't say anything but … I put my foot down. I forced Oreki to side with me and we talked to Fuku-chan about it. He said he would work on. He promised." Mayaka looks at the ground then up at Chitanda's party dress: she is a vision in pink. "And then, one day, out of nowhere, Fuku-chan proclaims he had gotten 'better'. And I believed him in an instant, there was no point doubting him. But Oreki didn't. He doubted. I thought the Slug was delusional, but … he was right to, because Fuku-chan wasn't 'better', he … Satoshi just chose to be more quiet about his failures."

Mayaka explains and Chitanda listens intensely.

"I'm not saying Fuku-chan was lying on omission by not voicing out how he felt. It's just ... he just realised that throwing tantrums did him no good. But, deep down, I think … I think Fuku-chan is still the same person, in a way. He recognised his habit was unhealthy but change isn't easy. It doesn't come easy. So he starts putting on this act, he aims high and denies himself simple pleasures when it comes his way."

"Why?" Chitanda asks.

"I think he's afraid. I'm not entirely sure of what. Fuku-chan can be hard to read sometimes, he smiles even when he's not happy." Mayaka says and that's when Chitanda understands what Oreki meant. "Maybe he's afraid of disappointments? Maybe his old self resurfacing? He wants to be better, I know that much. It's good, change is good, but … reinventing himself? He's trying to prove something to the wrong people. I'm not oblivious, I hear things. Most people voice their doubt over him. It's painful to see them sort him into a box." Mayaka says, then pauses like she's trying to gather her thoughts. She looked frustrated, but Chitanda couldn't pinpoint who the short girl is angry at. "Fuku-chan can easily be anything he wants, but because he tries to fit himself in places he's not supposed to be – where he shouldn't be – he's left feeling alone most of the time. And, I … I just don't know who's going to believe his bluff, and because of that …"

"Because of that ...?" Chitanda repeats.

"Because of that, I think he wanted you to think he was special." Mayaka utters.

"Special …" Chitanda repeats, her eyes now looking far away.

The word echoes in her head. There is a small pause. One, two, three –

"Do you though?" Mayaka asks after a moment too long.

Chitanda blinks. "Do I what?" She asks back.

"Do you think Fuku-chan is special?" Mayaka asks, yanking Chitanda's attention.

Air constricts itself in her chest. "You ... You want to know if I think Fukube-san is special?" Chitanda asks.

Mayaka nods back in response. "Everyone is curious about what you think, Chitanda-san. A lot of people view highly of you. Your opinions matter."

Chitanda takes a moment. Her large purple eyes jump around; gaze not settling on anything in particular. It bounces off the castle walls and the touches and moving portraits that listen but do not interfere.

Mayaka thinks Chitanda is taking too long to decide. Mayaka thinks Chitanda shouldn't have to mull over the question to begin with. If someone is truly special then –

Chitanda's gaze finally lands, and she stares at Mayaka's face. Chitanda stares long enough to notice the brightness of Mayaka's pink eyes and the clips in her short brown hair.

"So," Mayaka says. "What's your answer?"

Mayaka leans forwards, and the night stills. Even the portraits hold their breaths like they need to, like they aren't dead.

"I," Chitanda shutters. "I think," She inhales deeply, filling her lungs with air. Properly opening her mouth, Chitanda says –


wand types

Chitanda - rowan (associated with those of pure-hearts)

Houtarou - cedar (fits with owners who are perspicacity and perception. those who are well-matched with cedar wood wands carries the potential to be a frightening adversary, which often comes as a shock to those who have thoughtlessly challenged them)

Satoshi - hawthorn (home to wizards with a conflicted nature, who are passing through a period of turmoil. hawthorn is not easy to master, however, and one should only ever consider placing a hawthorn wand in the hands of a witch or wizard of proven talent)

Fuyumi - elm (those who own these wands have magical dexterity and a certain native dignity. they produce the fewest accidents, the least foolish errors, and the most elegant charms and spells; these are sophisticated wands, capable of highly advanced magic in the right hands)

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


v

what’s a rose without thorns?


 


1


Satoshi sits by his desk, thumbing through the letter he had received that same afternoon. The night is pleasant, and the moon is bright; beaming just enough light through his bedroom window. He should have read the letter earlier, when the sun was still high in the sky, when there wasn't a need to light a candle or turn on a light switch, but he didn't.

There's no particular reason or excuse. Satoshi doesn't know why he didn't tear into the letter the minute it got handed to him. It's not like he has anything better to do, but he just didn't, Satoshi didn't feel like unfolding the envelope or reviewing Houtarou's adventures abroad.

But now Satoshi's ready. He's gathered enough strength to read.

And Houtarou's letter to Satoshi starts off easy enough.

Houtarou talks about the change of scenery from the tops of the Ravenclaw tower; of how the old Hogwarts castle gets warmer as Winter rolls over to Spring; of the lake unfreezing and how the common room lessens in crowds. Then Heoutarou talks about his classes; the one he excels at (Divination, which Houtarou is scarily good at but hates the most because the future is unpredictable as it is), the handful he finds inconvenient (mainly Numerology; too complex and illogical), but mostly the ones he's average at (he finds classes with mental magic interesting but can't quite seem to get the hang of it).

Satoshi need not wait long, flipping the first page over before he gets to his favourite part of Houtarou's letters – the complaining.

Houtarou talks about the hassle that is 'mingling' with the other kids in Hogwarts. He criticizes the design of the dorms; stating how senseless it was to put all the Gryffindors in a high tower, on the accounts that every week, there's some 'brave idiot' willing to jump off the tower window on a dare. Of course, there are broomsticks to land on down below, but still.

Then Houtarou complains the arguments he gets into with his fellow Ravenclaws, especially those who act like they're better than him. Houtarou claims, Even with all the facts in the world, I can't win. In fact, I can be armed with a sword and still not win. And Slytherins … they're just too passive aggressive at times, Houtarou swears he visited the dungeons once and the air in the room was so thick with tension and not-so-secretly-held grudges that he felt like he was choking.

Satoshi finds it amusing. It could almost be said that it's 'endlessly amusing'. For someone who talks so little, Houtarou sure writes in great detail. Maybe there's more to him than just his short answers and lazy hums.

It seems like there are only a handful of students Houtarou can tolerate – mostly Hufflepuffs who are 'far more pleasant' –but there's also Mayaka (though she and Houtarou do step on each other's toes at times), Asami Toba, and … a new girl, a traditional Slytherin girl.

Satoshi shouldn't be all that surprised, something wild is always happening at Hogwarts. A new friendship is the mildest thing that could happen. Yet, it still makes Satoshi raise a brow. His brown eyes follow Houtarou's written words – overly dramatic and exasperated.

There's this girl, Eru Chitanda, who recently came to me to solve mysteries. And before you say anything  no, she does not fancy me. This is no joking matter, Satoshi. She thinks I am some miracle worker (this is not a brag, anyone can think anything of me, Ibara thinks I am a lazy slug and I think I'm average) but, I'm writing this to you because I fear she thinks too highly of me, I fear my days of conserving my energy are over!

Satoshi stops reading mid-page.

A part of him knows he should be laughing at the shenanigans Houtarou has gotten himself into, at the bad luck that seized him by the shoulders and the Slytherin girl who expects too much. Satoshi knows he should be reaching over for his own pen and paper, write down his response immediately and anticipate more hilarious stories from Houtarou. But another part of him can't.

Satoshi can't bring himself to do anything more than to sit on his hands. This part of him wishes he could ball up Houtarou's letter and throw it into a hearty fire. Or perhaps tear it into a million pieces. Or feed it to the stray animals that roam his neighbourhood. Or shout without caring that his screams awakens his parents and little sister.

This part of him is angry and yearning and jealous and –


2


Satoshi thinks back to the countless hours he, Houtarou and Mayaka use to spend debating. It was always on the same loop, the same mundane yet life-changing topic: What house would I be sorted into?

"I think you would be a Gryffindor, Fuku-chan." Mayaka had said.

"No way." Houtarou interjects while shaking his head. "He's clearly a Slytherin!"

"What?!" Mayaka exclaims. "Why would you say that? Fuku-chan is brave!"

"Anyone can choose to be brave! But Satoshi's clearly cunning and sneaky enough to be a Slytherin." Houtarou answers.

"You're crazy!" Mayaka accuses.

She even gestures to his temple like he's gotten a few loose screws. Houtarou stuck out his tongue in response. Oh, what petty fights ten year olds would get into.

Satoshi smiles. "Well, it's clear that Houtarou won't be a Slytherin. That's no arguing that. Houtarou's too lazy, he doesn't have one ambitious bone in his body. He's the least ambitious person I've ever met!"

Mayaka snorts at this, and Houtarou scowls.

"But, actually," Satoshi squeezes his way between his friend's banter. "I've always thought of myself as a Ravenclaw."

"Huh?" Mayaka gaps.

"But you're filled with useless knowledge." Houtarou says teasingly.

And, suddenly, Mayaka and Houtarou are agreeing with each other and turning into a tag team to on Satoshi.

"Okay, okay, fine. I'm not a Ravenclaw." Satoshi says, a little defeated. But there's still some hope. He could still be a Gryffindor or a Slytherin or a – "What are your thoughts on me being a Hufflepuff?"

"I don't know much about Hufflepuffs." Mayaka replies, most of her family members have been either Ravenclaws or Gryffindors.

"Some of Tomoe's friends have come over during the Summer, a few are Hufflepuffs, they're great, they're very nice, very loyal." Houtarou answers.

Mayaka huffs, "You're just saying that because they were nice enough to bring you sweets from Hogsmeade."

Houtarou won't deny this. His sister only brings him back odd gifts and bitter chocolates. Despite this, he says, "So? I stand by what I said."

Mayaka pulls an annoyed face.

"So do you think I would make a good Hufflepuff?" Satoshi asks, pulling his friends back to the topic at hand.

Both Mayaka and Houtarou share a look.

Mayaka presses the tip of her finger against her chin, thinking. "Well, if what Oreki says is true, and that Hufflepuffs are loyal, then … I think you'd fit right in."

Houtarou nods. "I think so too."

"You're definitely a Hufflepuff, Fuku-chan." Mayaka says, now agreeing to the fact like the sorting has already been decided.

"Yeah. you're a good friend, Satoshi." Houtarou says.

Satoshi can't help but grin.


3


It was Summer, and as the trio sat under the shade of an orange tree, Satoshi found himself watching his friends scribbling down answers to their homework.

While Satoshi should have been glad that he wasn't drowning in school work, free to do whatever he liked, he also felt hopeful that he could answer a few of Mayaka and Houtarou's questions to soothe an itch.

Spinning his drawstring bag around his finger, Satoshi tried peering over Houtarou's shoulder.

"Stop." Houtarou grumbles, making Mayaka look up from her own work.

Houtarou looks at his friend with a warning look. Satoshi didn't move away.

And then, Houtarou's green eyes land of the drawstring spinning, the momentum was fast. It almost made Houtarou worry that the pouch would slip out of Satoshi's grasp and hit himself square in the face.

"You're making me break my concentration." Houtarou says.

"You don't even want to do your homework." Satoshi retorts.

Earlier, Houtarou had complained that they should be enjoying their freedom, but Mayaka had insisted they do their homework first, stating they should do it now because procrastinating wouldn't have made a difference that their trunks at home were filled to the brim with school work and readings (along with gifts, their house uniforms and writing supplies).

"Oreki, what did you answer for question seven?" Mayaka asks, dragging the boys' attention to her.

Houtarou glances down then looks up again, hunched and irked. "I haven't answered that one." Houtarou replies.

"Why are you so slow?" Mayaka complains. It was like she was hoping that her huffiness would distract them.

"I'm not, I left it blank." Houtarou answers. "I don't want to think about it too hard, why waste my energy? It's Summer, I have time to finish my homework."

Satoshi watches his friends bicker for two more minutes before he extends a hand towards Houtarou's homework. "Can I see?" He asks, drawstring now going limp.

Houtarou pauses and Mayaka gives Satoshi a look.

"Fuku-chan …"

"I just want to see." Satoshi presses. There is a determined tone laced behind his statement.

Houtarou passes Mayaka a knowing expression, they've gone through this many times. It always ends the same.

Mayaka mouths out something that could have been a 'Don't, you'll only upset him', but Houtarou overlooks it. Something like 'I'll feel bad if I don't' washes over his features, then Houtarou is handing over his homework to Satoshi before Mayaka can yell.

"Fuku-chan –"

"Mayaka, please, just –! One minute, okay?"

Satoshi squints at the words scrawled on old parcel paper. His eyes slide back and forth between the question and the bookmarked textbook in his lap, trying to make sense of it. He does this for several minutes until frustration spreads all over his body, it attacks him like vicious bites. The problem wasn't that he couldn't understand Houtarou's handwriting, the problem was that –

Houtarou notes the trembling of Satoshi's hand. "Satoshi –"

"I told you, Oreki! Look what you've done –!"

"Satoshi, hey, it's 't be harsh on yourself. If Ibara can't do it, and I can't do it, then it must be difficult." Houtarou tries calming Satoshi down.

But it doesn't work. Satoshi ignores his friends' attempts to soothe him as he continues glaring at the written question, leaving wrinkles and marks on the paper.

"I read about this." Satoshi says.

"We know," Mayaka answers, placing a hesitant hand on his skinny shoulder.

"I studied."

"We know."

Satoshi's vision blurs. It's so stupid that he's crying about this. But he is.

He remembers borrowing Tomoe's textbook last Summer before the old book could be passed down for Houtarou's use. He remembers pouring hours into grasping material that was 'too advanced' for him. He remembers attempting to self-study without any help.

But, it's the same.

It's the same every. damn. time; Houtarou and Mayaka would be tasked with homework, Satoshi would try to answer a number of them, and then fail. Satoshi could never completely understand or solve any of the questions. He can't come up with a conclusion.


4


"Am I winning?" Mayaka asks, sounding very much like her sorted house: Gryffindor.

Satoshi acts as judge (though, he never chose to be, never wanted to be. He wants to float on broomsticks too). He watches Mayaka perform a stance that resembles a balancing act trick; with her hands outstretched to steady herself and feet planted on her broom.

"Does it matter?" Satoshi asks back. He grins at the unfolding competition between Mayaka and Houtarou.

Houtarou will undoubtingly lose, he was never quite an athlete, while Mayaka is. Less than half an hour ago, Mayaka had shown off her latest Quidditch appropriate broom. And now, she was challenging Houtarou to a silly game.

"Can I just quit?" Houtarou asks, his face looking grim as he wobbles dangerously.

"No. But, you can lose." Mayaka teases, earning a scowl in return. She's almost cocky, with victory being so close.

And not even three seconds later;

"Ha! I win, Oreki!" Mayaka cheers then flashes a smile to Houtarou's miserable sprawled body on the grass.

Houtarou doesn't even bother to reply and Satoshi laughs.

"Congratulations on besting Houtarou, Mayaka." Satoshi says.

If it was possible, Mayaka's victory smile widens.

And though there is an encouraging grin on Satoshi's face to Mayaka's achievement, secretly deep down, he is envious.


It's sunny as they play in Mayaka's backyard. His sister is on a broomstick, riding with Mayaka in the sky, small hands around the older girl's waist.

"Again! Maya-san, again!" His sister yells as Mayaka smiles at the little girl.

"You've flown enough." Mayaka says, lowering the girl from her broom. "It's your brother's turn now." She says. And for some reason, these words hit Satoshi like a punch in the gut. A somewhat bitter reminder. "I'll take you for a spin, Fuku-chan." Mayaka offers.

But Satoshi stands there unmoving. "No, it's okay."

"What? Why? You love the feeling of riding on brooms!" Mayaka exclaims, clearly not taking 'no' as an answer.

"I'm heavy, I'll only burden you. I'll slow you down."

An expression flashes on Mayaka's face. Even his sister gives him a look.

"You're so skinny, Fuku-chan, you won't slow me down."

"Then I'll only cramp your style. You can't possibly perform those perfect loop-de-loop with me riding behind you." Satoshi says. Though, no amount of praise will ever erase the fact that he won't ever – will never – be able to fly a broom like Mayaka.

"You should try it, Satoshi-nii." His sister says. "You saw how Maya-san's new broom zoomed in the air, it can manage extra weight and risks! It's going to be fun!"

She's excited, he knows she is.

Satoshi means, well, with a broom like that, how can she not be?

She reminds him of himself when he was about her age. Satoshi remembers feeling the same level of excitement over Mayaka's first broom. He recalls the glee filling his chest, rising like bubbles; how the moment left him so in awe at the possibility of flying on a broom that he forgets. Forgetsthat this world is powered by magic and magical beings. And it's only when he begs Mayaka to teach him how to ride one does the excitement wear down.

"Can I try your broom? I want to ride it on my own!"

The memory of Mayaka's happy smile turning permanently etches itself in his mind. Especially the moment her expression drops, how her grin contorts into a confused line as she sends a distressed look at Houtarou.

"Can he fly it?" The words had slipped through her tiny mouth, followed by Houtarou's wide eyes.

"I … I don't know," He had said, when what Houtarou should have really said was 'No, he can't.'

"No, it's okay." Satoshi shakes his head.

Mayaka raises her brow in confusion, ignoring the tug on an anticipated girl's gasp. "Are you sure?" She double checks.

"Yeah," Satoshi murmurs. He inhales deeply. "Actually, I think I'll … I think I'll go home now,"

"Home?" His sister whines.

"You can stay." Satoshi says. "You girls can continue flying. Just come back for dinner, okay?"

"Oh, uh, okay?"

Mayaka swallows her words despite feeling a strong pull at her heartstring. "Okay …"

Without another word, Satoshi turns, alone with his thoughts.


It must have been the first Christmas Tomoe had come back from Hogwarts, with her maple wand and her new broomstick, was when Satoshi had become enthralled with flying.

Actually, it might have been her endless list of stories that sparked his interest. Most exaggerated, according to Houtarou. But, Satoshi enjoyed them. His favourite was of a boy getting hit in the face by his own broom when commanding 'up!' – Satoshi even remembers loudly vowing to never be that clumsy when handling his own broom.

Tomoe had then offered to fly them around. Satoshi recalls Houtarou choosing to sit out of the possibility of his sister dragging him through aerodynamic hell while both Mayaka and Satoshi had been ecstatic. There had even been moments where he and Mayaka fought on who would be first.

That same Winter, Satoshi attempted soaring. He thinks, the closest feeling he got to flying (on his own, without anyone's help) was when the moment he had convinced Mayaka and Houtarou to sit on a snow sledge together and they slipped down the tallest hill the trio could find. They were 1/4 down when Houtarou had yelled – yes, actually yelled – that (1) they were all going to die and (2) it was entirely Satoshi's fault.

But, of course, they didn't die.

And, it wasn't Satoshi's fault. He didn't think it was wrong, at the time. He had just wanted to practice. He had wanted some reassurance that he would nail flying class when he turned eleven and enrolled in Hogwarts.

And yet …

All that anticipation; all that waiting for the coming of age; all those excuses that he was a late bloomer. For what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It only mocked him. It was all wasted efforts.


5


Satoshi's room is filled to the brim with books; cramming every inch of his shelves and decorating his floor. Sometimes he thinks the only way he can escape off to an otherworldly place is by reading about adventures he'll never get to experience (which is almost funny, considering that he lives in a world where magic is real, but ...).

If anyone is wondering, Satoshi's favourite book is the autobiography of a famous Scottish rugby player: Angus Buchanan. It's his oldest and most cherished book; written and published in 1900, more than 100 years ago. His parents had gotten it for him when they found out he wasn't particularly skilled in ... a certain area. Born without a talent most kids had. Not that Satoshi knew, at first. He was just glad to be given a present. He was just fascinated by the facts. He had read the book so many times that it fell apart, forcing him to buy another copy. He would have fixed it up himself if he wasn't lacking.

The rugby occupation of the author is unimportant. What's important, is the life factor. The stories being told. How relatable it is. Now, that may sound rather odd, considering how Satoshi is a little on the skinny side. Isn't all that into sports. He can't even play Quidditch. But, the connection is there. Satoshi sees himself in Angus.

He was in the middle of re-reading the autobiography for what seems like the hundredth time when his sister barges into his room. He's surprised until he spots an owl barrelling close behind, Satoshi immediately knew what it meant.

He sits up from his bed. "Get out," Satoshi murmurs once the letter and parcel were shoved in his hands.

"A 'thank you' would be nice, Satoshi-nii." His sister says sarcastically, putting her hands on her hips.

"Maybe if you had learned to knock then I would have." Came Satoshi's response.

"You're welcome." She replies, still sarcastic.

"Hm,"

Then his door closes.

Mayaka's owl lands, staying perched on his closed windowsill, awaiting orders in case Satoshi wanted to send a letter back immediately.

"Thanks, Frol." Satoshi pets the owl on the head with his free hand and the bird coo with its eyes closed.

Satoshi musters a smile, choosing to patiently reach for the letter before attending to the parcel that came with it. He takes his sweet time before flipping the letter over – a name and address are written on the colourful envelope.

Neat, loopy handwriting comes into view. Judging by the effort and lack of ink blotches, Satoshi knows it's from Mayaka, his brown eyes don't even have to land on the name of the sender. Houtarou would never bother that much.

Satoshi blinks, thumbing the side. Mayaka's envelop feels thick and somewhat heavy. It's impressive. She's got a lot to say, a lot to tell him. It's probably another story about Houtarou's latest progress, of how a large majority believes he is the next 'Boy Who Lived'. Or something close to that. Houtarou is wowing a lot of people, even getting himself invited to The Slug Club.

And yet ...

Satoshi places the envelope aside, near the parcel. His hand hovers, wondering if he should tear into that first instead. Satoshi knows, when Mayaka and Houtarou are allowed to go to Hogsmeade, they send him sweets. They buy him something new every chance they get, it's not even tradition, it's a habit at this point. It's kind of them to send him souvenirs and treats to indulge.

But, of course, Satoshi would rather be there, enjoying the shops and eateries, than be stuck in the little village of Kamiyama. It feels like, every year, Satoshi has to slaps on a smile and pretends he isn't disappointed. And it's getting harder and harder to do so.

So he moves away from Mayaka's things and stands, making a beeline for his window.

"You can go now, Frol." He says to the owl, opening it wide.

Satoshi watches featured wings expand before the owl flies off, back to a place he can't go to. Satoshi stares and stares and stares until the bird is nothing but a dot on the horizon.

(He knows he shouldn't be smiling so bitterly at a bird's ability – talent – to fly, but he does. He smiles. And it's unnatural.)

Closing the window requires more effort than Satoshi thought, it's slow, almost painful. But it shuts with a sharp snap once it's all the way down. A heaviness weights Satoshi's chest down. So much so that he finds himself back on his bed, sinking into the mattress. It's almost depressing. He's certain he's spent more days counting the cracks on his ceiling than spending his days outside in the sun, exploring and just experiencing life.

A part of him wants to scold himself. Say 'Stop being a sore loser' and it over with. But he can't. It's not that easy.

He must have laid there for forever, with his arms folded on his chest and his fingernails digging into his palm.

He was waiting.

And he doesn't know why. Hadn't it already been established? His fate is sealed. He should really give up on that small miracle by now. He's lost too many years expecting for something that won't happen.

But he still waits.

His bedroom door flies open.

"Are you done gorging yourself?" His sister asks, barging into his room once again. She ignores the way Satoshi glared at her from his bed. "What? Did I interrupt your coma nap? I've given you enough time. Did you leave me with any leftovers sweets?" She continues asking. But, when she spots the unopened letter and package, she exclaims dramatically, "You haven't even open Maya-san's parcel!"

"You can open it," He murmurs.

"Really?"

Satoshi waves his hand half-heartedly and soon, his little sister is tearing into the parcel, going straight for the Chocolate Frogs and leaving him with a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.

Satoshi watches his sister in absolute delight. The same delight he once held. He can't help it. He reaches over and tugs on her shirt, gaining her attention.

"Don't you ever wish for more?" He asks her. After all, he and his sister are quite alike, the same way Satoshi and Angus Buchanan were alike.

"More?" She raises a brow. "More what? More sweets?" She asks back.

He shakes his head.

"Then what is it that you want?" She tilts her head.

His face screws up. "It's just – No. Nevermind. You can eat all the chocolate, just save me the collector cards."

"No, tell me." She insists. His sister is young, twelve, but Satoshi thinks, there are moments where his sister acts more mature than him.

"It's just – It's … Don't you wish you could have gone to Hogwarts like Houtarou and Mayaka?" Satoshi asks.

His sister raises her brow further. "It's only a school, Satoshi-nii."

"It's a good school."

"How would you know? You don't attend Hogwarts. You only know about it from stories. You don't have any personal experience." His sister says. Not in an ill way. She just knows her brother well and she doesn't want him obsessing over some magical school. It's not healthy. "I don't think you should glamourise Hogwarts too much. Isn't Houtarou-san always complaining about it in his letters?"

"I ... I guess." Satoshi says after a moment. He sighs. "You're right."

"I always am." She says jokingly, but Satoshi doesn't pay her any attention.

His mind whirls with the single fact that – yes, he doesn't attend Hogwarts. And yes, he does only know facts about it. The truth is, Satoshi doesn't know Hogwarts well enough to be this infatuated about it. Satoshi does not know anything about the magical school first hand and therefore, shouldn't technically dwell on it. It was almost like dreaming of an impossible dream.


When he was eleven, a questioned reached the tip of Satoshi's tongue and mounted itself there until he asked.

"What's Hogwarts like?" His words flew out.

This isn't the first time he's asked. He's asked many others before. His parents. Tomoe. Anyone who was willing to share. But this time it was different.

Very different. Because it was through the eyes of his friends – who were the same age as him, who liked the same things as him, who had the same wish as him.

Mayaka and Houtarou had barely dragged their luggage off the train when Satoshi had raced through the crowds and hugged them. The two have been gone for months and now they're finally here! Now they're finally back from that magical school for Christmas break!

The trio huddled together, ignoring the thrall of people, their family members and other students. Their embrace was as warm as a lit fireplace.

Houtarou and Mayaka were excited to share. Mayaka was the first to perk up and launch into her stories. Houtarou even chips in to add some left out facts with a certain glee in his voice.

Letting his grin remain on his face, Satoshi states, "Wow, Hogwarts sounds great! I wish I could have seen it in person, but your letters helped!"

Mayaka's letters to Satoshi had already included a detailed explanation of the layout of the old castle – she even sketched some of them, as best as her skill let her; drawings of the great hall, the moving stairs and the classrooms and dorms – but Satoshi wanted to listen to everything in person.

A certain wave of admiration stuck him. A happy thought of 'My friends attend Hogwarts!' causes Satoshi to grin the whole way, and then –

A harsh reality hit him; his friends attend Hogwarts without him.

"Fuku-chan?" Mayaka had called when she notes the way his brown eyes had glazed over, like Satoshi was far away in a daydream.

"Ah, sorry, Mayaka." Satoshi had answered. His face stiff. "I was just thinking of how great everything sounds."

Even Houtarou pulls a face but Satoshi does not want anyone dwelling on it.

Quickly, Satoshi asks, "So you guys said your dorms are at the top of a tower? What's it like being a Ravenclaw, Houtarou? What's it like climbing all those stairs?"

Houtarou's face falls at the reminder while Mayaka laughs in his despair, but truly, all these questions are just a mask.


6


"Can you show me how you did the spell?" Satoshi asks, eager as they stand under that familiar orange tree Houtarou and Mayaka spend their Summers completing their homework.

"It's easy." Houtarou admits.

"Oh?" Satoshi double checks.

He almost jokes, 'Even for a lazy slug like you?' but he doesn't and just lets Houtarou nod.

Satoshi can't help but ponder. Since it's a simple spell, like Houtarou had said so, somewhere in Satoshi's mind, he believes would be even easier for him.

"What if I do it myself?"

"What?" Houtarou's green eyes widen.

"Can I practice with your wand?" Satoshi says, though it doesn't sound like a question because he's already reaching out to grab the magical stick.

Uncharacteristically, Houtarou moves quickly, dodging Satoshi's prying hands. "No." Houtarou's hands protectively hovers over his wand – mahogany wood with a dragon heartstring core.

"No?" Satoshi repeats, his eyebrows scrunched together and his mouth plucks itself into a frown. "What do you mean 'no'?"

"You can't use it."

"Why not?" Satoshi grits his teeth. The damn thing is jammed in the back pocket of Houtarou's jeans and it would be so easy for Satoshi to snatch it up.

Houtarou shakes his head. He even takes steps back like he knows what Satoshi is thinking. "It's my wand," Houtarou says. He wishes Mayaka was here.

"I know it's your wand, Houtarou." Satoshi spits, he swears he can hear his temper rising. "I'm asking because don't have one." In Satoshi's mind, he knows Houtarou is only sixteen, naive and young like him, but Satoshi also sees that Houtarou is already acting like the adults – cautious around his kind.

Houtarou's face only falls further. "You know that's not what I mean."

"Whatever." Satoshi says, there's a hiss in his voice.

"Satoshi."

"Forget it." He turns around before Houtarou can apologise.

"My wand's core is dragon heartstring, if you had disarmed me –!" Houtarou tries explaining. "You have to understand!"

"I wouldn't have even if you explained it! The concept of your world is complex enough as it is to me! I didn't go to Hogwarts like you! I didn't take your enchanted classes like you! I didn't grow up with magic like you! I'm a squib, Houtarou! I don't know anything!"

Then Satoshi's running. Running down the hill and running past witches and wizards, and running into his house where dishes don't wash themselves and clothes don't fold mid-air and children don't possess anything special.

Not even re-reading Angus Buchanan's autobiography 'My Life as a Squib' can cheer him up.


Satoshi's never said it aloud, he doesn't think he can. Because once it does, once it passes his lips, it'll come true – like a spell being cast, it requires more than just a wave of a wand; it needs incantations too, words being spoken.

So he doesn't say it. But, he thinks about it. A lot. And the truth is, Satoshi's resentful of his friends.

He's resentful of Mayaka, even when she struggles. Even when she fails. Even if she thinks the work is boring. Because she can float and fly like no other witch he's ever seen. Because she can play Quidditch when all Satoshi can do is stare at the Holyhead Harpies poster stuck on her bedroom wall.

He's resentful of Houtarou too. He dislikes that Hotarou can use magic whenever he wants, and yet the lazy boy chooses not to unless absolutely necessary. It almost implies that he's too lackadaisical to pick up his wand. And a part of Satoshi feels like Houtarou doesn't appreciate the magic that runs through his veins.

Satoshi often wonders, his nature, this gap between magic and no magic, mean that he will have to live in the muggle world like Angus? Banished due to his lack of talents. He means – well – he doesn't even have the proper education. He can't answer the simplest question to homework. What can he provide? How on earth is he supposed to qualify for a job in the magical world?

He can't imagine, he can't imagine, being foreign in two worlds. Will be ever fit in?


"Come on Satoshi-nii," His sister calls as she races down the train station. Their parents let them go ahead.

Satoshi stares, shuffling. He remembers a time when he anticipated the trains too. He remembers the feeling of glee erupting in his chest and engulfing him whole. Oh, how naive he was. How childish.

"Hurry up or we'll be late! We wouldn't want to miss sending Houtarou-san and Maya-san off to Hogwarts, it's their last year! We want to wish them well and say our good-byes!"

Satoshi squeezes his eyes shut, wanting to disappear.

Sending his friends off at the train station isn't anything odd. These departings; they are practically tradition. Since he was a boy, he, Houtarou, Mayaka and his little sister would wave Tomoe off. They did this until the letters came at age eleven. And then it became Tomoe, Houtarou and Mayaka (and no Satoshi).

Satoshi lets his sister rush ahead, passing through the barrier between platform 9 and ¾. His heart aches. He almost didn't follow. He dreads every instant the train leaves without him. He dreads the happy kids and their proud parents.

But he still stands on that damn platform like he's one of them – the magic ones.

For a moment, he wonders if anyone would notice if he slipped on board. He wonders if the conductor would stop the train or if the trolley lady would grab him by the scruff of the neck or if anyone would do something about a Squib riding in a train full of wizards and witches.

He's desperate. Desperate desperate desperate.


7


– it can't be helped.

It can't be helped that sometimes – most times – Satoshi gets this overwhelming urge to do something reckless, like send howlers to his friends.

His only friends.

He feels like shouting at them for leaving him behind and for having fun without him and for taking classes that they probably could care less about while he's pouring time and energy into borrowing and reading library books about magic and history and beasts. He's learning all these facts that he will never be quizzed about, that he will never be able to apply. It's useless knowledge for someone like him, a squib.

There were many incidents; close calls, where Satoshi did have parcel paper ready and a speech written out and enough anger to tear the whole magic world. He was ready to burn bridges, he was ready to send that howler.

But he's always missing a special element – magic. He doesn't have a bloody wand to flick and swish (though he has all the spells memorised and the techniques perfect with snapped twigs).

He shouldn't be wishing for these things. But, God, did he wish. He wished he had magic like everyone else here because maybe – just maybe – magic will fix everything, like it did for Cinderella. Bibbidi bobbidi boo and he'd be like Houtarou and Mayaka when those owls dropped their Hogwarts acceptance letters at age eleven while Satoshi was left staring at the sky until he was forced to reality.

Forced to give up.

Because, on that day, he realised: there was absolutely nothing magical about him.

.

.

.

Satoshi, I know that I may sound like I complain a lot. Especially when I talk about my time at Hogwarts, but my life here isn't as easy as it sounds; the students and teachers treat me very differently, they have high expectations of me. Expectations I don't think I can fill.

Between my time at Hogwarts and my time back home, I enjoy spending it the most with you because you make me feel normal, like I can be myself. It may be odd coming from me, saying this, but I mean it: thank you for always lending an ear.

Despite what you often say about yourself, I holder a higher opinion of you; to me, you are special.

 

Your friend,
Houtarou Oreki.


wand (and core) types

Houtarou - mahogany (symbolises strength, safety, protectiveness, and practicality) with dragon heartstring core (powerful, easy to learn spells, though can easily be committed to another owner)

Tomoe - maple (their ideal owner is nature travellers and explorers; they are not stay-at-home wands and prefer ambition in their owners, otherwise, their magic grows heavy and lacklustre. fresh challenges and regular changes of scene cause this wand to literally shine, burnishing itself as it grows, with its partner, inability, and status) 

Chapter Text

the skeletons that allow your imagination


 vi

maladaptive daydreaming



Eru Chitanda pushes open the door to a store. The bell above her head rings and she notes the smell of burning incense in the air. Clutching onto her handbag, she emits both nervousness and excitement; a young lady curious about her past.

"Eru-chan!" A voice calls, spooking Chitanda.

Her dark ponytail swishes, trying to locate the familiar voice. She hasn't even had a chance to fully into the shop. Chitanda's original plan was to speak politely to whoever was sitting behind the counter but as she turns, her face lights up. She knows that face!

"Kaho-san!" Chitanda gaps at the woman behind the desk.

Kaho Juumonji's eyes stone behind her glasses and Chitanda takes several steps forward, attempting to hug Kaho from across the counter. Kaho laughs, then after a moment, pulls away from the awkward angled embrace and smoothens her braid.

"You're early!" Kaho states after glancing at a near-by clock.

"E – Early?" Chitanda stutters, confused. Her hands back on the strap of her handbag. She was anxious again.

"Well, I mean, we've already booked you a slot so it's not a problem, but we didn't expect you for another ten minutes."

Chitanda's eyebrows squeeze together. "You booked me a slot? Why? I didn't make any appointments, how did you know I was coming?" She asks then guesses, "Did Fuyumi-san tell you?"

Not even two days ago, Fuyumi Irisu had encouraged Chitanda to visit this shop, stating that the people owning it would help her to solve her problem.

"No, Fuyumi-senpai didn't say a word." Kaho shakes her head. "It was predicted that you would come."

Chitanda almost slapped her forehead. Of course, it was a prediction! She was in a shop run by Divinations specialist! "Who predicted it?"

"Oreki-kun." Kaho answers, grinning. "He's one of my business partners. I run this business with him and another co-worker."

"You run this place?" Chitanda asks in amazement. "Oh, then that means you're one of the gifted Seers here! I always knew you had a natural talent for prophecy, but I didn't know that you would open a business for it!"

Kaho's cheeks glow a healthy pink from the praise. "Thank you for saying such kind words. It just felt right to act on it." Then she pulls out a clipboard from behind the counter and hands Chitanda a quill to use. "Even though I already know what you're here for, our business still requires you to fill in a form so we can review the document later. Normally we would let you select which Seer to work with, but Oreki-kun was the one to predicted you coming here so you'll be seeing him."

Chitanda nods. "Ah, alright. Sounds like everything's already planned out for me." Chitanda answers, her nervousness returning to her.

To combat it, she turns her attention to the clipboard. She read over the form carefully before filling it. There is momentary silence.

And once the form is given back to Kaho, the braided woman smiles encouragingly at her friend. Chitanda tries smiling back. A part of her wanted to stay for a chat since Kaho said she was early anyway. But another part of her just wanted to get the whole ordeal over and done with.

"Oreki-kun is already waiting for you." Kaho says before she points to the hall on the right. "Do you see those purple curtains? Go past it then close the door behind you. Your reading will begin immediately after. Don't hold back any questions and don't worry about the time, I'll knock on the door once the hour is up."

Again, Chitanda nods before sucking in a deep breath. Oh gosh, she shouldn't be tense about this, but she is.

Kaho reaches out. "Hey, don't worry, Eru-chan. Oreki-kun is very nice. He may not look like it, but he seemed eager to help you when he told Toba-chan and I about you dropping by for a reading. You'll get your answers."


Chitanda pushes the curtain drapes aside and steps into the new room.

She expects a crystal ball to be sitting in the middle of a small round table and for a deck of cards to be laid out. But the room she enters is neat, simple and plain. Shelves filled with books takes up a majority of the space and some furniture; two chairs and a writing desk. A silver lime wand, stationary and a notebook is all that is displayed on top of the desk.

Shifting her eyes, Chitanda spots a man with messy brown hair. He has his arms folded across his chest and his back leaned against a recliner chair. She notes how his eyes are closed. Is he ... sleeping on the job?

Hesitantly, Chitanda shuts the door behind her and steps closer towards the man. Upon closer inspection, his appearance surprises her. She expects him to be flamboyant like how most Divination wizards are; decorated with scarves and tacky rings, maybe even wear a cape. But he wasn't any of those things. He was simple, but not plain looking.

"Um, excuse me?" She says, barely a whisper. Almost shy sounding.

His eyes open. Chitanda almost gaps at how green they are.

"Oh," The man says and straightens his recliner chair so that he now sat up. "Chitanda, you came earlier than I predicted."

Chitanda smiles nervously, holding her bag in front of her like a shield. She wonders if he should be admitting such a thing. His words sound like something a Seer shouldn't be saying out loud. But, she appreciated his truthfulness, even if laced his Divinations skills with some inaccuracy and uncertainty.

"Please, take a seat." He tells her as he gestures to the pouffe chair opposite of him.

Chitanda does as she's told, sitting with her ankles crossed and her arms folded, her bag now on her lap.

"I'm Houtarou Oreki. It's a pleasure meeting you."

"E – Eru Chitanda." Chitanda bows slightly. Then straightens her back. But, you already knew that. I heard from Kaho-san that you predicted my presence?"

"Yes, the vision woke me up around three in the morning. I was very disoriented but managed to record it in my dream journal before slipping back under."

This little titbit made Chitanda giggle. "You have a dream diary?"

"Dream journal," He corrects her like he's embarrassed. "But … yes, I keep a book with all my visions. It's a pain writing things down when I'm barely awake but it's useful." Houtarou says then moves on to the next topic. "Did Juumonji ease your nerves?"

"I – Why, yes, she did!" Chitanda exclaims, distracted by the new information. "How did you know she helped calm me down?"

"I specifically asked her to man the receptionist counter."

Chitanda's mouth drops, forming a tiny 'O' before she asks, "You did that for me, Oreki-san?"

Houtarou opens his mouth then bites his lower lip. He probably didn't expect her to react so gratefully. "I did." He answers after blinking like he had been caught under a spell.

"Did you predict that I would be nervous before I entered the shop?" Chitanda asks, her eyes now shinning.

It takes a second for Houtarou to compose herself. He nods. "My dream told me you would be jittery." It's clear that he was trying to be business but there was something about Chitanda that pulled him away from it.

"Was someone else supposed to be behind the counter?"

"Asami Toba." He answers. "She's the third business partner."

"Did you predict that I wouldn't get along with Toba-san?"

Houtarou chuckles. "No, I figured seeing a familiar face would help relieve your doubts. We rotate manning the reception counter according to our schedules. It's always random who sits up front, but we usually manage to predict who's free to do it. If no one's free because we're all booked up then we put a sign that asks clients to be seated in the waiting area."

"Oh, that's – that's very kind of you, Oreki-san. You didn't have to do that for me."

"Well, I – I, um, I did it anyway. It, uh, already happened s – so …"

She was staring at him with this certain awe again. It made it difficult for him to tear his eyes away, but he did after coughing into his fist. His face was a little red, it seemed he wasn't accustomed to being praised.

"A – Anyway, do you have any questions before we start the reading?" Houtarou asks.

"Ah, yes!" Chitanda perks up, moving her bag to the floor and leaning closer to the desk. She wasn't sure if she should let him look at her palms or if they should join hands. She doesn't know which area of Divinations Oreki specialised in. In fact, she didn't exactly know much about Divination. "I was recommended this place, but, I must admit, I'm rather sceptic."

Houtarou nods understandingly, not taking Chitanda's words to heart. "Most people think Divination is foolish. Some even think it's a scam. Muggle do, at least. Seers do have quite a reputation." Then he asks, "Do you know much about Divinations, Chitanda?"

"Um, vaguely." Chitanda admits then joins her hands together. "I know that Divination can help gather insights or past, present and future events."

"That's one way to see it." Houtarou agrees. "However, Divination is a little more complex than that. It's more than just guessing." Houtarou starts his explanation. "It requires a lot of work for the mind. A lot of analysing and interpreting. When I do a reading, it requires a lot of energy for me to concentrate. I practice many techniques to improve my sensibility and logical thinking, it's not easy gaining insight due to the many factors that need to be taken into account. When I have visions, even a single event can be muddled with various appearances, surroundings, emotions and thoughts. It's easy to overlook or miss some details. A Seer can't catch everything and may think some facts are insignificant or small."

The gears in Chitanda's head turns as she processes Houtarou's words. That was … quite a lengthy explanation. Houtarou Oreki is not playing around when it comes to Divination. He's serious.

"I – I realise that was somewhat long and a lot to take in. Did you … catch any of that? Should I summarise it?" Houtarou asks when Chitanda didn't add anything.

"N – No, you explained it perfectly. I just – I didn't know what to say. You were really in your element. You are very knowledgeable about Divination." She praises.

Once again, Houtarou found himself blushing a little. He clears his throat this time instead of coughing. "Uh, is there anything else you're interested to know? Any more questions?"

Chitanda opens her mouth then closes it. She combs back her ponytail to buy her some time before admitting, "This may sound odd since it doesn't relate to my issue, but, to me as a person, I have often find myself needing in-depth explanations. I may sound like I'm prying but I've learned that it helps my thinking process. I often need every bit of information I can get my hands on to understand and piece things together. I hope it's not a bother or too much."

"It's no problem. I don't mind answering."

"O – Okay then," She says, fingering the last strand of her ponytail. "May I know what you and your business partners specialise in? I never got a chance to view what areas of magic you do; not that I'm doubting you, Oreki-san" Chitanda says hurriedly. "I just want to know. As I said, I'm not familiar with Divination. I didn't take it as a subject when I was studying, but I want to wrap my head around the general idea before we start."

"If it eases you, I'll try to explain Divination as clearly as I can. I may pause a few times to think of how to string my words. But, ah, feel free to stop me if the topic gets too confusing." He says, making Chitanda admire his patience. Houtarou rubs the side of his cheek, thinking, before answering, "There are three of people running this Seer business; Asami, Juumonji and I. Each of us specialise in two areas of Divination."

Chitanda's smile widens. He's really trying.

"Asami's practise usually involves food; she specialises in Tessomancy and Ovomancy."

Chitanda stares. "Um –?"

"Tea leaf reading and observation of which way an egg yolk falls when cracked open." Houtarou explains.

"Oh!" She exclaims. If Chitanda recalls right, while she was still studying at Hogwarts she remembers seeing a Ravenclaw girl cracking an egg open into a bowl before observing its contents diligently. At the time, Chitanda assumed it because the girl was watching for eggshells to pick out before cooking, but it turns out she was actually practising Ovomancy!

"I can't explain it in great detail since I don't study it. But, I don't think it's relevant. So I'll move on. Since you are friends with Juumonji, you may know that she's rather tradition. She specialises in Palmistry –"

"Palm reading?"

"Yes. She's very good at reading between the lines." He jokes, earning a wider smile from Chitanda. "Her other speciality is Cartomancy."

"That's the one with mirrors, right?" Chitanda asks. "She looks into mirrors to gain insights?"

"No, that's Catoptromancy. Cartomancy is tarot card reading." Houtarou corrects.

"Oh, that actually makes sense! I remember Kaho-san having a habit of keeping tarot cards in her bag when we were studying together."

So far, Houtarou's explained 2/3 of what the business specialises in. Then that leaves one last person.

"And what about you, Oreki-san? You sound very talented; after all, you manage to predict my arrival! Are you sure you only specialise in two areas of Divination?" Chitanda asks.

"I wouldn't call myself talented. Like Asami and Juumonji, I am somewhat skilled in Divination but, just like any subject, there are a variety of areas I'm lacking in. I loathe Numerology; the numbers involved are too complex." He scrunches up his nose before telling her, "I practise Oneiromancy."

"... Oneiromancy?" She repeats, utterly confused.

"Dream interpretation." He rephrases.

Chitanda claps her hands together. "Ah, I see! So that was why you mentioned the dream diary."

"Journal." He corrects a second time. "As embarrassing as it is to admit I have one to begin with, yes, that's the reason I mentioned it. I don't keep one for fun. As I said, it's rather tedious work writing predictions in the middle of the night when all I want to do is roll over and fall asleep again."

Chitanda laughs into her hands.

"Anyway, I have visions while dreaming. It gives me an excuse to sleep and nap a lot." Houtarou says, his mouth quirking into an almost smile. He must really love his job. "Some dreams are easy to decipher than others. Dreams involving teeth, for example. It seems like an event that is universal. Almost everyone's dreamed of their teeth falling out or growing at alarming rates. Even Muggles have them, most even understand the message behind the dream." Houtarou leans back against his recliner, sounding impressed. "However, some of my dreams are very weird and don't make sense. I once dreamed I walked in front of a mirror and saw the skin on my face missing. I could see red meat and veins and my bare eyeballs."

Chitanda pulls a face. "That sounds terrifying."

"I've had worse dreams." Houtarou replies, unphased.

"That's …"

Houtarou waves the issue off.

"But, um," Chitanda mutters. "How was that classified as a weird dream? It sounds more like a nightmare."

"A dream is a dream. I don't see them as either good or bad, just logical or not. It was senseless. I should have been horrified but I simply concluded that I was ugly."

Chitanda wants to say 'You're not ugly' but instead settles on asking, "How did you come to that conclusion?"

"I was missing my skin. I thought my face looked rather odd." Houtarou explains.

Is this man really logical? Chitanda chides, "You should have been concerned."

He smiles at her worried attitude towards him. "But I wasn't. It's nothing, just an illogical dream where I thought I was hideous-looking."

"You thought …" Chitanda trails off.

And now she was thinking too. Started thinking of what to say, what to utter to counter his statement. And because she thought it, she wanted to say it. The words had already entered her mind, why not? Chitanda wants to tell Oreki, 'Well, I think you're handsome', but she swallows down that comment too.

She doesn't say anything further, only keeping an expression on her lovely face.

"It's … It's really nothing. I'll show you." Houtarou turns his head quickly then waves his silver wand and a leather-bound book comes floating towards them.

Now lifting his eyes away from the book, Houtarou grabs it mid-air. Chitanda manages to catch the title and the name of the author – The Dream Oracle written by Inigo Imago – before Houtarou flips to the index. His finger slides down the list of topics then stops on FACE and tap on it. The book springs to life and immediately opens to a certain page. Houtarou lets her read the index of that chapter and there was no mention of skin-less face dreams.

"You can trust me, I know what I'm talking about. I'm … okay." He tells her.

Reassured, Chitanda lets her pinched expression fall. "Alright, if you say so."

Houtarou closes his book, satisfied.

Chitanda gestures to him to continue talking. "So, um, what's the other method of Divination you specialise in?"

"I don't practice this as much Oneiromancy. But, on some occasions, I engage in Ornithomancy." He tells her.

"What's that?"

"A method of predicting omens from the actions of birds. It's just as complex, the reading depends on what species of bird, the colour of its features, the time the bird arrives, the direction it faces." Houtarou explains like he could go on and on about the subject for hours before he realises he's on a time crunch. "Oh, I just realise I took a lot of time talking about myself. Sorry, I …" I find it very easy talking to you. "I lost track of time. I'll disregard the last half an hour I spent rambling."

Chitanda begins insisting, "Oh, no, it's –"

"Please, let me."

"But –"

"Think of it as a discount for first time clients." Houtarou says, surprising Chitanda for what seemed like the hundredth time. And it's barely been an hour. "Do you have any more questions?" Houtarou asks.

Chitanda shakes her head.

"Then, is it okay to assume that we can start our reading?"

This time, Chitanda nods.

Houtarou holds a finger up, signalling – hold on and one moment, please. Quickly writing a message on a sticky note and then folding it into a paper aeroplane, he blows it to life. It performs several loop-de-loops before sliding under the door.

"I've just informed Juumonji to restart our hour," Houtarou says, keeping his promise. "You can tell me about your concerns are. I'll try to help you to the best of my abilities."

Gripping onto her long, pink skirt, Chitanda says, "Please, I would like your help solving a family matter I have. It happened in the past and I can't remember the details, but it haunts me. I would like to resolve the matter, it's become too much."

"I believe this relative of yours is missing, am I correct?" Houtarou asks, earning vigorous nodding. Houtarou opens his dream journal, flipping to an exact page. "In my dream, I vaguely remember a man. Jun Seki … ya?" Houtarou guesses.

"Sekitani," Chitanda corrects in a light tone.

"Apologies. My dreams get muddled at times. I'm not entirely accurate."

"It's alright, I know you mean well. But, yes, Jun Sekitani was my uncle."

"Okay then, let's get down to business."

.

.

.

Three knocks sounded right on time. In a little under an hour, Houtarou Oreki managed to present Chitanda an old book, newspaper clippings and a phone call – all evidence, all answers that solved her Uncle's reasonings when he was a youth.

"Thank you so much, Oreki-san." Chitanda says, wiping the last of her tears.

Oreki nods, staying silent and polite.

"You ... You're very nice. You're the kindest person I've ever met. I appreciate how patient you are with me." Chitanda says, feeling the need to reach forward and squeeze his hand as thanks. She thought, she could even kiss him out of joy.

Houtarou's gaze flits downwards, his cheek flushed a little. "I, I'm only trying to make a good impression."

"You've left a wonderful impression, Oreki-san, I can't thank you enough. I really can't."


"Did the reading go well?" Kaho asks in a quizzical note, though it's obvious that she knows that it did.

Chitanda smiles brightly, answering her friend's question positively.

"You're free now, right?" Kaho asks.

"Very."

"Come, I'll read your palm for free."

"Oh, you don't have to do that. I'll willing to pay." Chitanda says, unwilling to accept Kaho's generosity.

"Nonsense!" Kaho bumps her shoulder against Chitanda's. "I insist! You may not believe me, but this is to satisfy my own curiosity!"

"About what?"

Kaho looks back into the room Chitanda had stepped out from. "I'll never know if you don't let me read your palms."

Chitanda gives her friend a raised eyebrow. "It's like you already know a secret I don't!"

"And what's wrong with that? I'm excited to see what your future holds for you!"


wand types

Houtarou – silver lime (these wands have a reputation for performing their best with Seers and those skilled in Legilimency; the act of magically navigating through the many layers of a person's mind and correctly interpreting one's findings, also known as mind-reading)