Hello! This is the first in a series of collaborations that myself and the lovely and talented Ivy (cuethe-pulse on LJ) are doing together set in the Harry Potter universe, so expect more!
Bent All Out of Shape
It was a double Transfiguration session with the Gryffindors and Slytherins again, which wouldn't have been so bad if Sanji and Zoro hadn't been paired up for what seemed like the third time in as many months.
Sanji had tried to avoid it, even going so far as to make a fairly compelling argument for why he should have been paired with Nami, or even Lucci, who was at the very least silent in his dislike. Zoro was unpleasant at the best of times, and downright hostile at the worst (though to be entirely fair, Sanji encouraged it). And sitting next to him in class was an exercise in keeping his wand in check; you'd have thought Professor Buggy would have known by now that they were better apart. Somehow that fact didn't stop them from being pulled together time and time again, though.
Professor Buggy turned to face the class, Evanesco scrawled out on the chalkboard behind him. The incantation he proceeded to recite loudly, making a big show of the way his wand moved, to make the stick of chalk in his hand vanish.
"Easy, right?" he asked with a smirk, knowing very well it typically wasn't. "Let's see what you kids have got. Those snails on your desks are—"
The rest of his instructions were lost, along with his big red nose.
Face coloring, he whirled on the far-too-pleased-looking Ace, screeching over the snickering that spread through the room. "I said 'those snails'! Not nose! You flashy punk!"
Zoro, chin in hand in a way that was less disinterest and more displeasure with the Slytherin sharing his desk, turned his eyes toward his partner. "Hey, good news for you. We can finally get rid of those spiral-brows. Not that it'd be a complete fix, but it's a start."
"Or we could vanish you completely. I'm sure the rest of the school would be glad of it," Sanji said boredly. At the front of the room, Professor Buggy was still shrieking at Ace, who refused to look even slightly sorry. It wasn't seeming too likely that they'd be learning anything at all today; apparently Ace had done such a good job of vanishing the professor's nose that Buggy was having little success conjuring it back, and his cursing was beginning to reach pitches that only dogs could hear.
The rest of their classmates were losing order, some of them firing spells about in an attempt to copy Ace and get a few laughs. Sanji had to quickly dodge to the side in his seat to avoid another vanishing spell, bumping hard against Zoro in the process, and then there was a sound like a particularly angry dragon awakening behind them. Sanji turned to see Nami, who was presumably missing her uniform shirt considering how tightly she was clutching her robes around herself.
"Fifty points from whoever did this!" she shouted.
"You can't do that," Luffy whined, guiltily hiding his wand behind his back.
"No, she can't," Tashigi piped in. "But I can. Twenty points from Gryffindor, and you can escort her back to her common room so she can pick up a spare."
Luffy made a grumpy, annoyed sound, but stood and headed for the classroom door, not even bothering to check if Nami was following.
"Nice going, little bro!" Ace called after him, still grinning, amid the other Gryffindors groaning over the deducted points.
Professor Buggy had been watching it all unfold, open-mouthed and completely unable to exert any control over the classroom. Such chaos erupting in this class wasn't unfamiliar; Zoro's only reaction was brushing off his robes where Sanji had bumped into him, but Sanji had to laugh. "Gryffindors. What a bunch of idiots."
Honestly, Zoro was inclined to agree with him, at least where Ace and Luffy were concerned. So he dealt with the insult to his obviously superior house with little more than an annoyed twitch of his mouth. "Sorry, I missed that. I couldn't hear you over how thoroughly we beat you snakes in yesterday's Quidditch match."
Sanji grit his teeth but refused to be ruffled by Zoro's comments. "Really? At least we snakes didn't come out of it with more injuries than the emergency ward at St. Mungo's sees in a year. Perhaps you could gain a sense of self-preservation from your victory instead of an overly-inflated ego. And need I remind you that we've won the cup two years in a row now?"
It was a particularly large point of contention between the two of them - Slytherin's two years of the Quidditch cup versus Gryffindor's two years of the House cup, and one that they seemed to bring up during every fight they'd ever had. Sanji wasn't going to break that record now after so many years of tradition.
"'Injuries' is a stretch," Zoro scoffed, that annoyed twitch quickly becoming a full-fledged scowl. "Your Beaters hit with the strength of flobberworms. And please, remind me all you like because, trust me, that lucky streak will be ending this year!"
"Of course. So that's why I saw Luffy practically carrying you off the pitch," Sanji said, turning to look at the front of the room. Professor Buggy's nose had been returned, though it was currently on the front of his shirt rather than actually on his face. "Anyhow, I'd love to see you say that to Jyabura's face. He'd probably knock you out before you'd even finished your sentence."
"Tch. Let him try," Zoro muttered.
Professor Buggy had finally given in, growling as he threw his hands up in exasperation. "All right, class dismissed! By next class, I expect each pair to vanish these snails without incident! Each of you, or both you and your partner will fail this assignment! Now get your flashy asses out of here!"
Sanji groaned, loading his things back into his bag. Figured that not only did they have to see each other in class, now they'd have to see each other outside of class as well. They just couldn't win for losing.
"Library?" he asked after he'd gotten everything put away, lingering by the desk even as much as he wanted to just get the hell out of there.
"I guess," Zoro said, equally thrilled. He stood and shoved his textbook into his own bag before slinging it over his shoulder. His next class wasn't until after lunch so he lacked any excuse to postpone. Might as well get it over with.
They weren't the only ones headed for the library, luckily, so plenty of distraction was available for them to talk to their own housemates instead of each other. But once in the library, it was time to get down to business, and Sanji grabbed a table far away from the other students. They'd gotten into duels over less than having to study together before, and it was better to be prepared for the eventuality.
He got out his textbook and flipped to the chapter on vanishing spells, and after a second of perusing, he sighed. "Is it too much to hope for that I'll cast it on you and you'll disappear on the first try?"
Zoro's textbook remained in his bag, left untouched on the floor, while he leaned back in his chair with his eyes closed. He was really a very excellent study partner. "It'd be worth it to get out of this assignment."
With a noise of annoyance, Sanji retrieved his wand and swirled it a couple times, ending with a poke toward Zoro. "Evanesco!"
Zoro failed to disappear, and Sanji wilted slightly in his chair. Of course he wasn't the greatest at transfiguration, but even vanishing a single hair off of Zoro's head would have been fine by him. "Alright. You try it."
Zoro opened his eyes, raked them thoughtfully over the other boy. How peaceful his life at Hogwarts would be if he didn't have to see that face every day.
He reached into his robes and his fingers fit first around the white wand he never used before he retrieved his own. He mimicked the proper motions, pointed toward Sanji. "Evanesco."
The Slytherin himself remained, but one of his shirt buttons was gone. Good enough.
Of course, it provoked Sanji into a frenzy of annoyance which showed in the way he stabbed his wand at Zoro. "Evanesco!"
Once again it failed to do anything, and that just made him even more frustrated. How dare Zoro be able to do that on the first try! That was yet another way they kept score with each other, and he loathed falling in the ranks.
So he forced himself to take a deep, calming breath, pushed away the anger and frustration and hate until he felt empty inside. Then he flourished his wand exactly as the book said he should and repeated the incantation once more.
This time he watched as Zoro's tie disappeared, and he smirked. "There. I think that more than makes up for my misfires."
The matching smirk Zoro wore, which had blossomed across his face during Sanji's second failed attempt, was unchanged. He glanced down at the space where his tie had been and shrugged, honestly more pleased than irritated. "Thanks, I hate that thing."
"Bastard," Sanji grumbled. Considering they'd both demonstrated that they could perform the spell, it was probably better to head on their separate ways. But Sanji couldn't help wanting to stay here and bother Zoro some more. "Perhaps I'll conjure it back and make it even tighter, then."
Zoro snorted and leaned back in his chair again, stretching his arms out in front of him until he heard a pop. If Sanji left him alone, maybe he would nap through lunch. "I dunno. Sounds a bit too advanced for you."
"Or I could conjure my foot up your ass. Sounds easy enough." As he spoke, Sanji had snapped his textbook shut and put his bag on the table as if packing up to leave, but at the last second, he lobbed the heavy book at Zoro's face, far beyond the point where magic could be used to convey his annoyance.
Reflexes sharpened by both intense Quidditch practice and years of dealing with the Slytherin's quick temper, Zoro punched the book aside before it could hit him. When he stood from his chair, his scowl was heavy and the anger was building inside of his gut—and why was it so easy for this guy to rile him up?
"Don't go starting something you won't be able to finish, curly," he growled. Though technically, none of their fights were ever actually finished since either a professor or a prefect who couldn't mind their own business always broke them up.
"Oh trust me, mosshead," Sanji said, eyes glinting as he leaned across the table toward Zoro. "I can finish it." And he could, considering Tashigi and Nami weren't anywhere in sight, and the only people in the library right now were their gawking, drama-seeking classmates, who were bound to want this to last for as long as it could.
If he wanted a go, Zoro would gladly oblige him. A hand reached out over the table to grab Sanji's green and silver tie, his free hand balling into a fist. Magic was one thing but there was something much more satisfying in good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. Or hand-to-foot, rather, as experience taught him the Slytherin was a kicker.
Before the fun could begin, however, two levitating encyclopedias came shooting at them from behind, smacking them both in the back of their heads.
"Allow me to finish it first." Paula, Hogwarts' librarian, stepped out from behind a shelf, hips swishing and unruly hair held back with a Ravenclaw bandana. "Unless you boys are eager for detention."
For a moment, Sanji nearly slammed the leg he'd lifted up into Zoro's side anyway, but he sighed and dropped it back to the floor, tugging his tie out of Zoro's grip.
"Get off, asshole. Don't you know any manners? There's a lady present," he said, turning a simpering smile on Paula, who simply glared at him before walking away. His eyes stayed on her hips until she'd disappeared around a bookcase, and then he turned his own glare upon Zoro. "You wait until I catch you alone, shithead."
Sanji's threat had Zoro rolling his eyes, and he reluctantly let the tie slip free of his hold, bending to grab his bag and wand; he'd changed his mind about lunch. Arguing had given him a bit of an appetite. "Yeah, I'm terrified." He wouldn't be holding his breath for a fight though; neither of them sought the other out unless it was absolutely necessary.
Before leaving, he spared a moment for a backward glance and one more "evanesco" with his wand aiming for a second shirt button.
Sanji let out an annoyed half-shout and was almost tempted to follow after the bastard, but he decided against it after a moment. It wasn't worth it; he wasn't going to waste his breath on Zoro.
Besides, one way or another the score was going to be settled. And knowing that they were completely incapable of staying away from each other, it was going to be sooner rather than later.
Zoro's Care of Magical Creatures class was held in the Forbidden Forest that day. Professor Hatchan led them through the thick trees that stretched impossibly high, dripping lake water as he went. Due to his ability to move about on land and the effort he'd taken to learn five languages (and counting), the professor was the first merperson to join the faculty at Hogwarts. Not that such an honor gave him a big head or inflated ego; in fact, he was probably the humblest being living on the school grounds. Zoro respected him. But hated his class. He wasn't an animal person, and he had enough dealing with annoying creatures just by being around certain peers of his.
Even in this early afternoon, the forest surrounding them was balefully dark. Professor Hatchan hummed an unidentifiable tune, though it did very little to relieve the students' fear; Zoro could hear someone's knees knocking.
"Oh, here we are," he finally announced once they reached a small clearing. "And there you are!" A suction cup-covered arm gestured grandly and the group's eyes followed to see…
"Professor," Tashigi spoke cautiously, but certain, "there's nothing there."
"There's not?" For a second, he seemed alarmed until he turned his head to look. "Oh, whew. Of course there is," he corrected her cheerfully. "Tell me, has anyone ever wondered what pulls the carriages to the castle when you come to school?"
"Uh," another student offered. "Magic?"
"Thestrals. These creatures here. Picture a fleshless horse with the wings of a giant bat." His words provoked a few disgusted faces. "Well, I—I know how that sounds, but trust me, they're really very magnificent! They're only visible to those who have seen death, so can no one—? Well, I guess, considering, it's not really a disappointment, but—" He checked each student, each one shaking their head. "No? No one? How about you? Zoro?"
Zoro needed a moment before he could speak, a moment that felt as if it lasted for hours. He stared at the skeletal bodies of the thestral herd, the glossy skin he could see through. They were feeding on pieces of meat and one lifted its head and met Zoro's gaze with white eyes.
He felt cold, chilled with remembering. Kuina's dark hair falling in front of her panicked expression, the way he could see the stain of her blood on the floor for weeks after it was gone. Her wand, given to him, and how final that felt, knowing she would never need it back.
"No," he said. His voice came out convincing, but he still wondered. At times, Professor Hatchan could be easily fooled, but he was much more intelligent than many of the students believed. "I can't see them."
Zoro couldn't say for sure how long he'd been sitting on the shore of the Black Lake. The sun was setting and the water was darkening and he could remember sailing across it on that first evening of his first year, wide-eyed and awed. And he could remember the smile on Kuina's face when he was sorted into Gryffindor, and the warmth of her arm when she draped it over his shoulders.
His eyes closed against the night breeze that carried over the lake. He could remember the happiest moments, but they never stayed with him. Not the way her death did.
If Zoro hadn't been so distracted at that moment, he could have seen trouble coming, and probably would have been able to avoid it, because Sanji was making his way down the path toward the lake. Curiosity having gotten the better of him, he stepped toward Zoro, light on his feet, rather than going for his own destination. The slumped, defeated posture was enough to tell him that Zoro wasn't exactly in a good mood, but somehow he couldn't resist.
Company was the last thing Zoro wanted. A quietly optimistic voice suggested that it could be Luffy, who seemed to have a sixth sense for knowing when spirits needed lifting. But as the footfalls got closer he could tell they were too graceful and not loud enough, though they weren't unfamiliar.
And then Sanji sat down beside Zoro, saying not a word.
Of course. Of course it was him. Zoro couldn't begin to fathom why Sanji was sitting next to him, why he wasn't saying anything, why he thought he could join him like they didn't hate each other. But it made sense. They were always being thrown together by forces out of their control. Forced to cooperate, to test how long they could share the same space before blows were exchanged. Why shouldn't Sanji be the one to see him like this, see him still devastated over a single moment from nearly three years ago?
Zoro kept his eyes closed, knowing they were glazed over with ghosts, and let out a dry, aggravated chuckle. "Just my luck."
"Hush," Sanji said, pulling up a couple blades of grass between his knees. The lawn was dry and rough this time of year, and a sharp edge left a tiny cut on his ring finger. He sighed and dropped the handful he had. "Even I'm not so cruel as to heap misery on misery, so don't force me to."
"Right," Zoro snorted unkindly. "Then why are you here?" Wasn't his very presence misery?
Why was Sanji here? He didn't actually know himself, because any other day he'd have attacked Zoro right from the beginning. But it just didn't feel right, deliberately making a situation worse, even considering he didn't know what was going on to make Zoro look so world-weary. "Can't I decide to come sit by the lake where you just so happen to be as well?"
"Only if you're planning to kick me in." Fleetingly, Zoro thought he could try to be nicer, but he really wasn't in the mood. And as much as he perhaps wanted a friend to confide in, Sanji wasn't a friend, and he didn't trust this. Didn't trust him.
"I don't mind kicking you in, if that's what you'd like," said Sanji.
At this point, Zoro was starting to think that might be preferable. He opened his eyes, still haunted but thankfully dry, to glower properly at the boy beside him. "It'd be better than you sitting here like you give a damn how I'm feeling."
That simple implication set Sanji alight immediately. "Who says I give a damn about how you feel?" he growled. He felt suddenly foolish for even trying to be civil, just like he always did when he tried to be half-decent to Zoro and got it thrown right back in his face. This was why they would never get along, why they'd continue to antagonize each other until the day they left this school and hopefully never saw each other again - because they just couldn't leave each other well enough alone.
"I know you don't," Zoro snapped back, teeth bared. His body was tense, legs prepared to stand, his hands wand-ready. "And believe me, I'm glad for that."
"Bet you're not winning too many people to care about you with an attitude like that." Sanji glanced out of the corner of his eye at Zoro, and his own hand went to the wand inside his cloak. Better to be prepared for what they both already knew was going to happen.
But any comeback Zoro would've had died on his tongue as another memory assaulted his heavy heart-weakened mind. His first Hogwarts breakfast, robes on backwards and hair still sleep-tousled; Kuina tugging at his groggy face in an attempt to force him into smiling, teasing, "You're not gonna make any friends with an expression like that!"
The anger slipped out of him and the tightness inside of him loosened. His eyes sliding closed once more, he let himself fall onto his back on the coarse grass. "No. Probably not."
Confused, Sanji could only turn his head to the side and stare at Zoro. He'd thought that comment would have inflamed him further, but it was clear that it had only taken the wind out of his sails. It wasn't like what he'd said was that bad, was it? Just some lame comeback, right?
There was nothing for him to do but stay silent, completely out of his element. Zoro never relented against him like that, and it felt like new and foreign territory. He didn't like it a bit.
In the meantime, Zoro had cooled and slowly started to come back to himself, giving up on the comforting darkness he found behind closed eyelids. He looked first at the reddening sky above him and then at the Slytherin, his bizarre company who, for whatever reason, hadn't left.
His buttons were still missing.
Zoro squinted and stared at his shirt just to be sure, and they were definitely gone. His nostrils flared in amusement and laughter bubbled up in his chest and throat and it was so surprising he couldn't stop it from escaping. And he didn't know why it was so funny, the thought of Sanji walking around like that all afternoon, but it was, and he was laughing like he'd just discovered how, wearing the first smile he'd had since lunch with Ace and Luffy.
"Wh... What the hell are you laughing at, bastard?" Sanji asked, glancing down at himself. When he realized that his shirt was gaping slightly, he lifted a hand to hold the two halves together, a hint of a flush creeping across his cheeks. Somehow he'd been so annoyed with Zoro earlier that he'd completely forgotten about the missing buttons, and it hadn't struck his attention at all over the rest of his day. Someone could have told him, but apparently it'd been funny for everybody. Everybody but him - this was just embarrassing.
Still, he almost didn't mind that Zoro was laughing at him. Anything to get that haunted look off his face. It was unsettling in more than one way; mostly he really didn't want to think about the idiot having actual feelings.
Zoro managed to reign in his mirth, though a grin still stuck to his face. "I didn't realize you liked my improvements so much."
"It's not like I kept it this way on purpose," said Sanji indignantly, glaring down once again at the place where the buttons should be, as if it would make them magically reappear.
Luckily for Sanji, not only was magic obviously an option, but Zoro was feeling rather generous after having his mood lightened, however absurdly it might've happened. Suppressing a few more chuckles, he sat up and retrieved the wand he'd known he would use sooner or later—although he hadn't predicted it'd be like this.
"Hold still." A fluid swish and then he had to lean in, just a little, to tap the tip of his wand against the material of the terribly abused shirt. "Reparo." Two new buttons sprouted in their proper places, and the shirt was perfectly closed again, and not nearly as hilarious.
"... Thanks," Sanji muttered, and dropped his hand away. He was reeling, so far out of the realm of normality that he had to wonder if Zoro had been given some kind of potion that made him incredibly docile. "Er... are you alright?"
"Yeah." Incredibly, Zoro was. And he would forget this moment eventually; it'd be nothing but a speck in the farthest corner of his brain that would probably never cross the path of his thoughts.
But for now, he was grateful, and the storm clouds in his head were cleared enough for him to get to his feet. It was dinnertime and the Portgas brothers would be looking for him.
Before he could talk himself out of it, moving on temporary appreciation alone, he clapped Sanji on the shoulder in thanks as he headed for the castle. "See you."
"Yeah, see you," Sanji said, though Zoro was already gone. He still wasn't sure what in the hell that had been about, and he didn't really want to think about it either.
But he was confident Zoro was going to be completely normal next time they saw each other. He had to be. There was no way Sanji could deal with this brand of strangeness more than once.