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The last weekend before Rose and Holly were due to move into their quarters at Hogwarts, Rose took them for one last night out on the town.


“You know,” Holly said, drifting past Rose’s room while fastening on a pair of sparkly earrings, “Alcohol will continue to exist even when we’re teachers.”


“Yeah,” Rose agreed, “But a few pints in the Three Broomsticks on Faculty Friday isn’t my idea of a roaring weekend.” She frowned critically at her reflection, gathering her red curls in one hand. “Hair up or down?”


“Up, it looks nice.” Taking her cue, Holly took her wand and the handful of bobby pins Rose passed over her shoulder. Rose had always tended towards the “ponytail or nothing” hairstyling technique – and had embraced the mad potioneer aesthetic fully in their final year of training, her naturally bushy hair made even more volumous by constant exposure to steam and fumes. Sometimes she attempted to contain it by erratically stabbing it with bobby pins, but most of the time she let it roam wild and free, occasionally using it as dependable storage for quills and wands. Holly had dealt to it with innumerable products earlier, leaving Rose with a head of auburn ringlets that she was almost immediately jealous of.


Holly herself never put much effort into their nights out – not that they went out much. Rose was an unlikely party animal, but she lived by a doctrine of “work hard, play hard” which involved keeping ridiculous hours throughout the week (when Lester moved out and convinced Hugo to take his room, he had to explain that one did not so much live with Rose as occasionally cross paths with her. Even Holly, as Rose’s best friend for ten years, seldom saw her but for the general teaching classes they had together) and hitting the New Quarter on Friday nights with an endlessly circulating group of classmates and Potioneer’s Guild associates. She spent Saturdays hung over and asleep, and Sundays doing all the things she didn’t have time to do during the rest of the week – laundry, for example, or chores, or eating enough vegetables to ward off scurvy, or assuring her family she was still alive.


Holly, by contrast, had settled into a grandma routine within a few weeks of their first year – early nights and earlier mornings, cooking and grocery shopping with Lester, evenings wiled away in front of the fire with the cat, kicking her slippered feet idly in the air while she read over her course notes. Things were a bit lonelier in third year, after Lester had moved out and taken the cat with him (Tybalt, while sometimes allowing Holly to share proximity with him, was nevertheless very much a one-man cat, and had accompanied Lester to Ollivander’s on more than one occasion) leaving Holly with two Weasley siblings incapable of a normal sleeping pattern or decent dietary habits. Rose had always been the natural leader of their group at school, and she still spent inordinate amounts of time with Lester or the boys helping them through the myriad of issues they seemed to face, but she was incapable of looking after herself. (Actually, Holly reflected, she’d always been a bit like that.)


Holly was always Rose’s first choice of wingwoman or drinking buddy, but seldom took up the offer – she enjoyed the finer things in life (‘the finer things’ being bed, onesies, and perfectly spiced chai tea) and had a mild alcohol intolerance to boot, but every now and then, when the stars aligned and studying had gotten too much or the sight of their four walls became unbearable, and Rose came home early with a bottle of rosé (she appreciated the pun, Holly appreciated the wine) Holly would don a dress and hit the bars. Tonight, however, had been pencilled into their calendars since they’d found out their official move-in date (August 16, giving them two weeks for lesson preparation, curriculum setting and timetabling before the students arrived.)


“So we don’t have Floo Network fireplaces in our offices unless we’re Head of House or other senior staff,” Rose mused, now pouting in the mirror as she applied mascara, “And nobody lives with a partner at Hogwarts. How does that work? Is everyone celibate by default? How do you even meet people? You can’t exactly bring them home with you – unless you want to send them on a walk of shame through a castle full of gawking teenagers. ‘I had fun last night, hope you can make your way back to the staffroom Floo.’”


“Well,” Holly said wryly, “I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it.”


“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” Rose decided. “So, where should we head first? I’m thinking we start out at the Phoenix – their happy hour lasts till seven, and the boys said they’ll come by for a couple drinks after work – then maybe Skrewt’s? Or James’s…then again, there’ll probably be screeds of newly-seventeen Hogwarts kids there, and I don’t want to face them two weeks later as their teacher when they’ve seen me dancing on tabletops.”


“Unicorn?” Holly suggested.


When the New District took off, it didn’t take long before entrepreneurial young witches and wizards realised the opportunities to be had from opening wizarding Britain’s first gay bar. Owned and operated by their former classmates, Logan Fenwick and Abigail Linworth, it had opened its doors only a few months after they all graduated Hogwarts and quickly became the hub of the burgeoning LGBTQA community. It started out as a simple bar and nightclub, but now nearly three years later it was a café by day, hosting various events and meetups for various LGBTQA organisations, and had a number of upcoming young artists perform by night – it was the home of singer/songwriters, eclectic musicians, spoken-word poetry and performance magic. Rose was an early investor (aware of her comfortable financial position, she had a tendency to throw Galleons in the direction of anyone who looked like they needed it or to support a cause she felt strongly about – often at the expense of her own groceries) and she split her time equally between it, their flat, the Ministry, and various apothecaries and brewers. Holly was a member of the MagiQ group Rose had founded with the help of Abigail and Alfie Harrison, but she wasn’t particularly active in it. There had been a grand total of one other person who identified as ace, and she found him dull, irritating and downright offensive (he was of the belief that those identifying as bi or pan were being “greedy,” and that sexual attraction in general was “bestial” and “primitive.” Rose kicked him out after six weeks.)


“Hmm,” Rose said thoughtfully to this suggestion. “Actually, yeah. I’m feeling the ‘dance with cute ladies’ vibe tonight.” She turned, picking up her glass of wine and perching on the bed beside Holly. “I don’t want to abandon you, though. This is our night.”


“It’s fine,” Holly assured her. In truth, by the time Rose was ‘on the prowl,’ (her words, not Holly’s) on any given night out, Holly was usually ready to go home anyway. It was an arrangement that had always worked to their advantage, and in truth, the idea of staying out all night dancing was a daunting one. They would have their bonding time, and then Holly would head home and be tucked up in bed while Rose continued to take the New Quarter by storm.


It was still relatively early by the time they were dressed and ready, so with characteristic impulse Rose Apparated them to Brighton for fish and chips on the beach.


“I can’t believe it’s nearly here,” she said, once they were settled on the sand gazing out at the water. “In a month’s time, classes will have started. We’ll be teaching. Us. Three years of studying and I still don’t think I’m prepared.”


“You’re starting out as an assistant teacher,” Holly pointed out. “Llodewick’ll have your back. Aren’t you starting out with the wee ones anyway?”


“First through third year,” Rose confirmed, nodding. “That’s an even split – six classes each, and it means I won’t be teaching the OWL and NEWT years.”


“That’s more than me. I’ve got five.”


“Third through seventh year though.”


“Don’t remind me.” Holly snagged a handful of chips. “I’ll be teaching kids who were third years when we were at school. In seventh year. Pranking.”


“Maybe they won’t remember us,” Rose suggested cautiously.


“We left a pretty big legacy.”


They fell into a contemplative silence. Holly threw chips at advancing seagulls.


The shadows lengthened and the sun sank steadily towards the horizon before Rose, with perfect priorities, leapt to her feet with a yelp. “Happy Hour at the Phoenix finishes in fifteen minutes, come on.”


She held out a hand and Holly just managed to grab it before Rose turned on the spot, Apparating them back into Diagon Alley and teetering slightly on her heels.


The Two-Feathered Phoenix was another new bar, in direct competition with the Leaky Cauldron for the after-work drinks crowd. It had little to distinguish it from the other bars, except for a very reasonable Happy Hour and half-price Wednesdays – factors that saw it safely into their group’s top three alongside James’s and the Unicorn.


Albus and Scorpius were already there when they arrived, and Rose was quick to order another round before seven o’clock.


“Are Lester and Lily coming?” she threw over her shoulder.


“Think so,” Albus replied.


She returned with six drinks, sliding Holly’s usual crisp pear cider across the table and doling out the others. Lester and Lily arrived just as Rose was twisting around muttering, “I wonder where the lovebirds are – ”


“Look!” Lily called, eschewing a proper greeting in favour of thrusting her left hand at Holly and Rose. A small emerald glittered on her ring finger, and Holly let out an involuntary squeak and threw her arms around Lily.


“It’s gorgeous I’m so happy for you!”


“Thanks,” Lily said happily, hugging her back and beaming.


Holly and Lily had never been particularly close – certainly not compared to their criss-crossing relationships with Rose and Lester that brought them into proximity with each other (and Lily had admitted, years later, that she had actively disliked Holly in the beginning) but they grew close out of necessity more than anything else when Scorpius was hitting rock bottom and Rose, far from her usual role as group leader or maternal figure, was supplying his potion addiction without realising fully what she was doing. Albus and Lester, as they were wont to do, asked Lily for help, but Lily was stuck at Hogwarts and, at a loss for what to do, owled Holly and enlisted her help. After coming to the realisation that they both unconditionally loved and looked out for the same people, they had not only buried the hatchet but cemented their friendship – especially the previous year, when most of Lily’s school friends were focused on starting careers or taking gap years overseas, and most of Holly’s were busy (Holly was too, but not to the same extent as tireless-activist Rose or the almost-Healer boys.) They spent a lot of time chatting endlessly over ice cream (summer) and hot beverages (winter) and Holly could now barely imagine a time in which Lily wasn’t an essential part of their group.


“So, you two set a date yet?” Albus asked conversationally.


“Well, no,” Lester answered. “I only just bought the ring.”


“Good,” Albus said firmly. “Because Scorpius and I have.”


At last,” Rose breathed, and raised thankful hands to the heavens.


“Ooh, you’re finally getting married?” Holly asked. “When? Where? Is it going to be a big ceremony? Can I do the photography?”


“Yes,” Scorpius said, ticking things off on his fingers, “Though the finally is a bit unwarranted because we have only been engaged for two years – ”


“And a half,” Rose interjected.


“And a half,” Scorpius conceded, “And it’s on November twentieth, and probably at Malfoy Manor if Mum gets her way, and again, probably if Mum gets her way, and I was just about to ask you if you could, so I’m guessing that’s a yes?”


“November twentieth…”


“That’s a Saturday,” Albus said helpfully.


“I think there’s a match on,” Lily said with a frown. “We’re playing Puddlemere.”


“You are not missing my wedding because of Quidditch,” Albus said, affronted.


“No, I’ll still be there. Wouldn’t miss it for the world. But my reserve’s useless.”


“You wouldn’t miss it for the world?” Albus repeated.


“Suck it up, Albutt, I’m not saying it again.”


With only one sibling, who was not only a Hufflepuff of infinite kindness and patience but also five years younger than her, Holly was eternally amazed at the Potters’ ability to swing from insulting to touching and back to insulting again, seemingly astonished by the simple fact that they thought the world of the other. She didn’t know James particularly well, but from what she’d seen of him he fell into the same pattern as well. It struck her, not for the first time but with renewed clarity, how strong the bonds were that bound them all together, and that when she and Rose left for Hogwarts in two days’ time it would be the end of an era.


“I love you guys,” she said suddenly, hopping off her bar stool to smoosh the others in a bear hug. “And I’m going to miss you so much – ”


“Holly, I’m going with you,” Rose said.


“Except Rose because she’s coming with me,” Holly conceded, crushed against Lester’s chest with a faceful of Lily’s red mane, “But the rest of you – ”


“You’re becoming teachers, not Azkaban inmates,” Albus pointed out. “You’re allowed to leave the grounds and come see us.”


“Let the girl have her moment,” Lily said firmly.


“Thanks, Lily.”


“Anytime.”






The couples parted ways shortly after ten, leaving Holly and Rose headed down Diagon Alley to the Unicorn. On the way, Rose poked her head briefly into James’s and withdrew with a dramatic whisper of “Seventeen-year-olds.


“Run before they see you,” Holly advised, and was left scrambling to catch up as Rose legged it to the beacon-like rainbow glow of Unicorn.


They were in the bar for approximately half an hour, chatting over discounted cocktails (as an investor, Rose technically didn’t need to pay for her drinks, but she did anyway. Abigail insisted on half-price) before Rose hit the dance floor with a girl Holly recognised as Emma, a Hufflepuff in the year above them. Five minutes later they were kissing, and Holly eyed the remainder of her drink and started thinking about home.


Having succeeded in catching Rose’s eye and miming that she was heading off (a gesture that had, over the years, been refined from an elaborate charade to a vague finger wiggle and a thumbs up) Holly was just shrugging into her jacket when someone tapped her on the shoulder.


“Hi,” a smiling, dark-haired man said as she turned around, “Sorry – I hope I’m not bothering you, but I’d kick myself if I didn’t ask – can I buy you a drink?”


“Oh,” Holly said, stunned. “Oh, well – ”


“It’s okay,” the man said quickly.”If you’re not interested – ”


“Oh, no,” Holly said, feeling slightly flustered, “It’s just that I’m – ”


“Gay?”


“Asexual.”


The man grinned. “Hey, me too. I’m Brodie.”


Holly took his proffered hand and shook it, feeling slightly dazed – she was so used to being the only asexual person (apart from the MagiQ douchebag) in the wizarding community that she had long given up hope of ever finding another –


“I didn’t catch your name,” Brodie said.


“Oh,” Holly said again, feeling her face flush scarlet, “It’s Holly.”


“What are you drinking, Holly?”


“Pear cider.” Holly followed him back to the bar, ignoring Rose’s look of surprise and wild “tell me later” gestures. “What do you do, Brodie?”


“I’m a teacher. I’ve been at Beauxbatons for the past four years, but I’ve got a new position at Hogwarts. Heading up there on Sunday, actually.”


“Really?” Holly asked eagerly. “Me too! Well, not the Beauxbatons part, obviously, but I’m starting at Hogwarts – ”


“What’s your subject?”


“Arithmancy.”


Brodie whistled. “That’s impressive. I failed my Arithmancy NEWT.”


“What do you teach?”


“Used to be Charms, at Beauxbatons, but I’ve landed the Runes job at Hogwarts. Head of Hufflepuff as well, there’ve been a lot of staff retiring.”


“Babbling and Sinistra left as well?”


“Yeah, I think Professor Sprout leaving had a bit of a domino effect. I think it’s going to be good for the school– new faces, new ideas, all that. I graduated in 2018 so I’m not sure what it’s been like since then, though.”


“What’s Beauxbaton’s like?”


“Huge. I was one of three Charms teachers, and of course they don’t sit exams until sixth year so there are more students continuing with it to a higher level. It’s an excellent school – but I’m excited about teaching in English. Nothing like trying to teach summoning charms to a bunch of kids who keep mocking your tenuous grasp on the French language.”


They talked for another half an hour, about Hogwarts and teaching and the year to come, before Holly caught herself stifling a yawn. Brodie was quick to notice.


“I’m sorry – I’ve kept you here too long – ”


“No, it’s fine,” Holly said quickly, cursing her elderly sleeping habits. “I’m not really that tired – ”


Another yawn betrayed her, and she risked a glance over at Rose, who showed no signs of wanting to leave.


“I should…” Holly gestured vaguely in the direction of her flat.


“Are you walking?” Brodie asked.


“Yeah, I’m only like, ten minutes down the road.”


“I’ll walk you.”


“No, really, it’s fine…” Her protests were halfhearted, though, and Brodie knew it.


“I insist. Besides, I like talking to you.”


“Oh.” Holly beamed. “I mean – I like talking to you too. Let’s just – ” She waved to the door.


Once out in the cool evening air, Holly’s mind cleared enough to resume their previous conversation about the nature of education.


“Subject-specific content is just the tip of the iceberg,” she continued, “And teachers have an invaluable role in the lives of their students that goes far beyond just getting them through exams, you know? There’s definitely a place for those sorts of teachers in a school, but it’s never been the kind I intend to be – ”


“Exactly, exactly. Especially the nature of wizarding schools, which are residential and have an entirely different set of pastoral needs. I mean, it’s essential for all schools to have support networks in place for their students, but it’s especially important when those students are away from home.”


“Did you have much of a support role at Beauxbatons?”


Brodie scrunched his face in thought. “Sort of? I was the go-to teacher for the British kids – there are a few families who traditionally send their kids to Beauxbatons instead of Hogwarts, though most of them didn’t have worse problems than Monsieur Hall, I suck at French. I couldn’t really help them with that.”


“I’m sure your French wasn’t that bad.”


“To French ears, it was. I’m theoretically fluent.”


“How many languages do you speak?”


“Speak? Two. Read? Six or seven, I think. That’s including Runes, of course. And Greek, Latin and German.”


“You should meet my friend Scorpius, I think he knows eight.”


Brodie let out a low whistle. “I recognise the name. Is he a Malfoy?”


“Yeah, and he’s a linguistic genius. He’s the only reason any of us passed NEWT Ancient Runes, he got top scholar in ’24.”


“He didn’t apply for the teaching job, did he?”


“No, he’s a Healer.”


Before Holly knew it, they’d reached the front door of her flat. “You don’t want a cup of tea or anything…?” she asked, fishing around for her keys.


“No, it’s fine, I’ll let you get to bed. We could grab a coffee at the Three Broomsticks on Sunday though, if you like?”


“That would be lovely.”


“Good. Well, I’ll see you Sunday, then – around eleven?”


“Sounds good. It was nice to meet you, Brodie.”


“You too, Holly. Sleep well.” He gave her a parting smile and headed back down the rickety staircase, and it struck Holly that maybe the move to Hogwarts wouldn’t be as lonely as she feared.
 

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