Chapter Five: Feathers
A loud explosion could be heard in the distance as Sakura wrote down the calculations for the antidote she was supposed to be creating. She paused in writing and looked expectantly up at Master Sasori, who continued to read through his tome as if he hadn’t heard anything at all.
“You’re wasting time, Miss Haruno,” he reprimanded her without looking up from his heavy book. “Perhaps if I give the poison to your familiar that will be the proper motivation for you to focus on your assignment.”
Sparks ignited from her fingertips and she narrowed her eyes at him. He raised a perfectly arched eyebrow at her and then shifted his gaze to her parchment.
“Ah, shit!” Sakura hissed, using her sleeve to stamp out the small flame that caught on her paper. She was still getting used to the easy access to fire magic and even though her control had improved, she was still creating sparks when she was angered.
“High Priests don’t threaten their students, Master Sasori,” Shizune scolded him from where she was replenishing the stores of potion ingredients. She was doing her normal everyday tasks, but Sakura knew she was keeping an eye on Master Sasori for Lady Tsunade. “The younglings in your coven will be under your care and protection and that includes the familiars.”
“Done!” Sakura cut off whatever retort Sasori had opened his mouth to unleash. Her poison had paled and coagulated and she was able to separate it from the water.
“Amazing, Sakura!” Shizune praised her.
“Could have been done faster.”
“That was an unknown poison and she had created an antidote in under five minutes. A time suspension charm would have granted her more time as well.”
The bickering was becoming commonplace. The two of them were the poisons masters of their covens and they each had their own style in both teaching and the proper usage of poisons. The latter was an age old argument for the two of them ever since they both had been students.
“I’m going to go do bond work,” Sakura excused herself over Shizune’s huffs and Sasori’s disinterest in the discussion.
She packed up her unused ingredients and cleaned up as quickly as possible, waving a hand over her cauldron and manipulated the antidote until swirled up in the air and into a clean vial. With a messier scrawl than she normally would have used, she labeled the vial and slid it into a cubby on the far side of the wall with her written analysis of the poison. She labeled the cubby with the date and made her way out of the room, unnoticed by the adults.
Things were supposed to quiet down after Karin and Suigetsu headed back home to the Hebi coven’s underground bunker. Lessons were a little boring without another witch attending them, but Sakura had Sasuke to accompany her during lessons.
Well, she was supposed to have him around.
Master Sasori had brought his familiar with him and the fire demon was proving to be a handful. He had been explosive at times when Sasuke and Obito had gone home for Obon, but none of it was destructive or that bothersome. Deidara had stuck to the art therapy Master Sasori had instructed him to practice while they were guests in Senju Manor. As soon as the tengu had come back from the trip home, Deidara had become even more excitable.
Kakashi had explained that Deidara was only a toddler the last time he had accompanied Sasori to the Senju School and that there had been multiple cases of property damage when they took their eyes off of him for longer than a second. He was calmer now that he was a young man of twenty, but finding out that Sasuke and Obito were practically fireproof had him rising to some sort of challenge to set off more explosions.
Because Sasuke was closer in age to Deidara and more resistant to fire than Kakashi, he had been assigned with babysitting him. He had been angered at being given an order by Tsunade, but when Deidara had taken to attempting to prank Sakura, Sasuke took to the task with much more enthusiasm than anyone had expected.
The consequence of Sasuke and Deidara being in each other’s company was that the fire alarm went off at least twice a day and on occasion the power would go out. It was an interesting way to find out that Sasuke could summon lightning of all things.
“Hello, Sakura!” Deidara greeted her as he approached her walking down the hall. He had a hop in his step and his arms were behind his back, hiding something from her. “Just the person I was looking for.”
“You were looking for me?” Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest and fixed him with a deadpan expression.
Deidara grunted in affirmation and pulled his arms from behind his back. In his hands was a clay lotus flower. It was beautiful, but after a month of dealing with him, Sakura knew better than to accept anything Deidara made in his art therapy sessions.
“That’s way too nice for me, Deidara.” Sakura waved her hands in front of her in an attempt to decline the gift.
“Yeah, it is,” he agreed without hesitation,” but I don’t really care for flowers. I only make them because of Konan.”
Konan was a high rank witch from the Akatsuki coven and one of Master Sasori’s closest friends. She sent him messages about the going ons back home and was the person Deidara mentioned the most whenever he talked about his coven life.
The Akatsuki coven was larger than the Senju coven and Deidara was used to being surrounded by people. Sakura sighed in defeat. She was sure he was just feeling homesick and had made the flower sculpture because he was thinking about Master Konan. If it had been the other way around, with her visiting a different coven, Sakura was sure she would be missing Sister Shizune just as much if not more.
She barely stretched her hand out to receive the lotus when she was tackled into an embrace. Chestnut colored wings spread out and blocked her view of Deidara. An explosion went off and the wings wrapped around her as Sasuke cradled her head against his clavicle.
“Are you stupid?” Sasuke scolded her as his wings fluttered, shaking off the debris from the explosive sculpture. He folded them behind his back and shot a glare over his shoulder at Deidara.
Deidara grunted, a pout forming on his face at his spoiled fun. The expression barely flashed across his face before it slipped into one of boredom. Deidara shrugged and turned to head down the hall in the opposite direction.
Sakura followed Sasuke’s gaze to the windows that made up the wall of the hall that looked into the conservatory. The explosion had caused a few of them to completely shatter.
“We should fix that,” Sakura mumbled. “If Lady Tsunade sees any more property damage, she’s gonna turn to the bottle.”
Sasuke snorted, shaking his head. “Too late. She’s been sneaking into the wine cellar every day since those two have arrived.”
The both of them headed down the hall to look for the closest broom closet. Sasuke pulled his wings back in, sealing them back into their tattoo form. Due to the heat and because of the constant threat of Deidara’s fire and explosives he had taken to wearing tank tops. Sakura wasn’t entirely sure about the magic and the way wings worked for tengu, but dealing with Deidara made Sasuke━and even Obito━sloppy at times and without his focus, his wings had burst through his shirts, ripping them apart
The first time it had happened it had been awkward for both teenagers, especially with Tsunade and Deidara cackling at how ridiculous Sasuke looked with scraps of his shirt hanging off of him.
“Master Sasori threatened to poison you to motivate me in my lesson.”
“That’s…not even that surprising.” Sasuke ruffled the spiky hair at the back of his head. “He’s weird.”
“I’m pretty sure he has a giant puppet that’s almost a foot taller than me in his room.”
Sasuke had never expected for his favorite part of the day to be when Sakura and he had their designated two hours to work on their bond.
They were supposed to do anything from channeling their chakra━or mana as the witches called it━to just spending time together. It was just a period of time during the day that Lady Tsunade had instructed everyone to leave them be so that they could become closer as a witch and familiar. It was supposed to help with their relationship and Sasuke appreciated the peace that came with it. Despite the freedom that Sasori granted Deidara to do whatever he wanted, he respected the need to develop the bond and made sure Deidara didn’t interrupt.
“Even the mundane can use Hamamelis virginiana,” Sakura explained as she plucked a small bundle from her basket.
The both of them were curled up under a tree in the backyard, reading one of Sakura’s giant books. She was teaching him about the properties of different herbs and plants they grew in their garden and greenhouse and explaining which ones they had to request from other covens.
Sasori had brought them a trunk of saffron as his tribute to the coven for taking him in and it was an ingredient that the Senju coven had difficulty growing. It had many uses but it was an extremely valuable herb for healing magic.
“My mother uses this one.” Sasuke picked up a sprig of rosemary. “She would put some under my pillow when I was younger.”
“It has protective properties,” Sakura chirped excitedly. “It’s used under pillows to ward off nightmares.”
“And this one?” Sasuke lifted a sprig of little yellow flowers with a thick long stem.
“Ruteola gravieolens.” Sakura plucked it from his hand. “A very important herb. You can prepare a bath with rue to negate curses or hexes. It’s also a good herb to use for poisons and is used in plenty of antidote recipes.”
“So much power in a small flower.”
“Yup!” Sakura nodded, placing the rue stem back into her basket. “There’s a coven that lives really close to a werewolf settlement. They grow lots of rue and every full moon they place bundles of rue on their doors and windows to ward them off when they’re in their manic state.”
“Hm,” Sasuke hums, only to let her know that he had been listening.
The gentle breeze cut through the summer heat. In the distance, Sasuke could hear the faint sounds from the city. It wasn’t the tranquility of home, but the peace of being only with Sakura and hearing her flip through her book and her soft voice reading caused a tingling sensation in his brain.
It was nice.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, taking in the scents of the grass and the leaves and the aroma of all of the mixed herbs in Sakura’s basket. Among them was the apples and blossoms smell of Sakura’s shampoo.
It was comforting.
Sasuke woke up to the sound of a giant splash. He moved abruptly, confused as to when he fell asleep. Sakura pulled away from him, jostled by his quick movements. She blinked up at him with bleary eyes. She had fallen asleep as well.
“About time the lovebirds woke up.” Deidara was standing on the patio on the other side of the pool. “Some of us would like to use the backyard as well.”
“Bullshit,” Sakura muttered under her breath, face pinched up in frustration over being woken up. “He avoids the backyard because of the pool.”
Deidara was a fire demon and while his human skin offered him protection from water, he detested the sensation of being submerged and wouldn’t willingly throw himself into a pool of water. Deidara also wasn’t the type to allow himself to be vulnerable and being soaked with water weakened his powers until he could get properly dry.
“If he’s standing there,” Sasuke stood up in alarm, “what made the━”
Something exploded inside the pool, causing water to shoot out of the center of the pool like a geyser. Sasuke shielded Sakura in case any large clay chunks came their way. Deidara cackled and turned to head back into the house.
“What the fuck?” Sasuke huffed in annoyance over getting soaked.
“I’m feeling more and more guilty that I’ll at least be able to escape him after next week when I head back to school while you’re stuck here with him.”
Sakura was due back to her mundane school for her final compulsory year. Sasuke had finished his schooling with tutors last Spring so her parents found it redundant for him to enroll into her high school when he didn’t need a mundane education. He was supposed to be learning how to lead his clan and how to assist Sakura as her familiar. There were no dangers in Sakura’s high school that required Sasuke’s protection.
Senju Manor needed his protection more. It was just unfortunate that the threat was a current resident that Tsunade had been more than adamant that Sasuke couldn’t cause actual harm to.
With a sigh, Sasuke shook his head, ruffling his hair of the excess water. “Can we go home now?”
“Yeah, let me just take the herbs back to the ingredient stores.” Sakura lifted her arm, gesturing to the basket hanging from the crook of her elbow. “I’ll meet you in the foyer.”
They split ways, Sasuke crossing the sun room to make his way to the front of the house. In order to make it to foyer, he had to enter the kitchen and head down the hall towards the living room and past two sitting rooms that flanked the main hall to the foyer. Entering the main hall he had to walk under the archway created by the twin staircases that led to the second floor.
Walking under the joining of the staircases, there was nowhere to escape from anyone that stood on the second floor landing and looked over the rail. It also made it impossible not to over hear any conversation that could be taking place just above.
It was how Sasuke discovered what Obito did in his free time when he wasn’t bothering Sasuke or training or bothering Sasuke about training.
Sasori’s face didn’t shift at all. It remained impassive even as Obito bashfully offered him a black feather. The feather had been plucked from his wings━there was nowhere else Obito could have gotten it as Sasuke knew exactly what his cousin was doing.
Really? Sasuke’s nose scrunched up in distaste. He had been so sure that Obito had better taste than creepy redheaded midgets. Creepy redheaded word weaving midgets.
But then again, it was his odd older cousin Obito who was always doing something weird or collecting strange objects. He was a kind man that was always running late to clan meetings because he was assisting someone, whether it was with the farmers or the elderly members of their clan, but he was still the odd duck of the family.
“Hmm…” Sasori raised the feather gifted to him up to his eye and took out a small magnifying scope to examine it. “Do you have any larger feathers?”
“The fuck?” Sasuke muttered, watching the exchange. Sasori seemed like a smart man, did he not understand the gesture?
Shrugging, Sasori pocketed the feather in an inner pocket of his blazer. “I guess this will do for now.”
Sasuke shook his head as he watched Obito eagerly chase after Sasori as the man turned and walked to the set of the stairs for the next landing.
“Unbelievable,” he scoffed. Leave it to Obito to gain enough affection for another person in such a short amount of time. He knew Sakura far longer and he wasn’t plucking a feather for her.
Sasuke stiffened, the thought finally registering and his neck flushed with heat as it ran through his mind again. Sakura had come to mind far too quickly. A feather for Sakura!? That was just━
But was it? Would it have been preposterous?
What would Sakura even do with his feather? Knowing her she was likely to use it as a bookmark. Or maybe she would fashion herself a new hair pin for the next gathering that required them to wear their formal clothes.
“Unbelievable,” Sasuke huffed, mocking himself. He had just been judging Obito for his careless affectionate gestures and now he was thinking about scenarios in which he would give away his own. And to a witch no less!
But Sakura wasn’t just any witch. She was Sakura. Being a witch was just random circumstance. One that allowed them to meet in the first place.
“Ready to go home?” Sakura startled him out of his musings, appearing from one of the random doors that was definitely created by an extension charm.
As large as the manor was, there were too many rooms that had specific purposes and the building always seemed much larger on the inside than it appeared on the outside.
Sasuke nodded, taking Sakura’s backpack and swinging it over one of his shoulders. It was time for another favorite part of the day.
Sasuke was acting off. At least more than usual in Sakura’s opinion.
He was sulking more as it was getting closer for her to return to school. They had made plans for him to spend a few days at her parents’ bakery and help them out so that he wasn’t spending the whole day at Senju Manor. It would give him some reprieve from Deidara and he can learn more about the kind of kitchen magic Kizashi did and that Sakura would end up doing when she was a proper adult and took over the bakery when her father eventually retired.
Sasuke was quicker to snap at Deidara when being playful was bordering more on homicidal. At some point, Shizune had to separate them and heal an injury Deidara had sustained. Sasuke was stubborn and refused to be looked over until Sakura was done with Sasori’s lecture on animation for the day.
Despite being harsh in lessons, Sakura was enjoying learning from Master Sasori. While he was training to take over as High Priest for his coven, he was also teaching Sakura some forms of magical arts that Tsunade and Shizune didn’t practice. She wouldn’t be practicing some of the darker arts, but it was nice to get some more information from someone that was so knowledgeable.
Sometimes Obito would sit in on the lessons. He would find a seat where he wouldn’t be disruptive and just listen to Sasori as he drolled on. Sakura found it kind of sweet. He almost always left Sasori with a feather token whenever he had to take care of one of his responsibilities as a member of Sasuke’s retainer.
Sakura had caught Sasori using the feathers in his experiments and it seemed a waste to her. There was something about the gesture that seemed special, especially with the dopey looks Obito gave Sasori whenever he accepted the feathers. She just hoped that whatever point Obito was trying to drive home with his feather tokens would finally be realized before he lost every single feather in his wings to Sasori.
Sakura was setting out her new dress for the last first day of school she would have in the mundane world when there was a knock on her door.
“Come in,” she called out as she placed newly cleansed crystals on her bedroom altar. She had a few of them charged by Shizune and her father. She even had her mother hold one to transfer positive energy so that she could carry it with her into her first week of school.
“Hey.” Sasuke slid into her room, closing her bedroom door softly behind him.
“Hey.” Sakura smiled softly at him and the careful way he held himself in her room. Sometimes he was so casual as if the space was made for him as well and there were times where he carried himself with a sort of tension for daring to invade her space.
It seemed like tonight was going to be one of those nights. Sakura gripped him by both of his wrists and pulled him deeper into her room, guiding him to take a seat at her window seat. She sat down on the bench and turned her body to face him causing their knees to touch.
“Do you think Obito can handle Deidara on his own tomorrow?” Sakura asked him, playing with the edge of her window seat’s cushion. “Or do you think Tsunade will finally make good on her threat of trapping him in an urn?”
Sasuke snorted, playing with the same edge of the cushion she was. He ran the tips of his fingers along the binding, almost brushing against her fingers.
“If she puts him in an urn, I wanna be there to see it happen.”
“He’s been stressing you out, huh?” Sakura gave him a knowing smile. “I have something for you.”
Hopping up from her seat, Sakura rifled through a wooden box she kept on her desk. It held her crystals and she pushed some aside until she found one of her nicer cabochons of green aventurine. She selected a piece that was nicely shaped, more round with less bumps and held it in her closed hands, channeling energy into it. When the cabochon was fully charged she placed it in Sasuke’s hand.
“I know you’ve been kind of stressed out, but this should help you,” Sakura explained. “It helps with the emotional body and brings inner harmony. It should balance you out and give you some emotional tranquility.”
She watched as he rolled it around in his hand, feeling its smoothness.
“It’s cool.” Sasuke transferred it to his other hand. “No matter how long I hold it, it’s not warming up.”
“Yeah, that’s my energy doing that.”
Sasuke rolled it around his hand a few more times before slipping it into the pocket of his joggers. “I actually came to give you something.”
From the same pocket, he pulled out a chestnut and speckled feather. He twirled it between his thumb and index finger and handed it over to her. It wasn’t a large feather, nor was it small. It was about the span of her hand from the heel of her palm to the tip of her middle finger.
The size didn’t really matter. Sakura stared at it in awe, her cheeks flushing with how giddy she was. She still wasn’t entirely sure what the significance of the gesture was, but it felt important to her.
“I just thought,” Sasuke cleared his throat, “I just thought you could have something of mine with you when you’re off with the mundane all day. It doesn’t do anything special like the rock you gave me, but━”
“It doesn’t have to do anything,” Sakura interrupted him, voice soft. “It’s pretty and I like it.”
There was something so purposeful about this very feather. It was relatively clean with no bent parts or frayed tufts. It was perfect and clean as if carefully selected.
“I really like it.”
She liked it just as much as she liked the way the tips of Sasuke’s ears turned red when he was flustered. She brought it up to her nose, sniffing it slightly. It carried Sasuke’s scent━something earthy and smokey at the same time.
“Don’t smell it!” Sasuke snapped in embarrassment, hopping up from his seat. He called back to her as he made to exit her room, “And go to sleep, you have to wake up early tomorrow.”
“So do you!” Sakura shouted back between giggles. She fell back slightly against her window, sighing contently. She looked at her feather fondly, thinking sweet thoughts of the boy who gave it to her.
It deserved special care.
Sasuke was once again cursing the fact that the Haruno family were morning people. Mebuki had insisted that he could come in later but he refused the special treatment. Which is how he found himself at the breakfast table at four in the morning.
He was helping clean up before they left for the bakery when Sakura made her way down the stairs dressed for school in her new light blue dress with the feather and old fashion key print. The hem fluttered with her steps down the stairs, flirting with her knees.
She looked nice, just as she had wanted, but what had Sasuke’s focus was what she had chosen for an accessory.
Sakura had fashioned herself a necklace with his feather. The necklace was long enough that his feather settled between her breasts against the buttons that lined the front of her dress. Joining his feather was a light pink crystal wrapped so that it dangled with it as a pendant.
Sakura followed his gaze to her new necklace and her cheeks bloomed with a pleasant blush.
“I had to do something with it,” she offered as an explanation.
“What’s this stone?” Sasuke asked, lifting the pink crystal. He twirled it in his fingers, feeling the coolness of Sakura’s energy in it.
“It’s a rose quartz.” Sakura gently pulled it out of his grasp and dropped it back in place against her chest.
“What does it do?”
Sakura averted her gaze, her blush growing brighter. She slipped around him and examined all of the apples in the fruit bowl as if they were the most fascinating object in the world.
“Hm?” She hummed, not turning away from the fruit.
“What does rose quartz help with?”
“Oh, nothing.” Sakura finally looked back at him, a bashful smile on her face. “Nothing at all.”