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 “I love you.”

“I should hope so too.” Turning, Holly carried two cups of tea over to her bed, passing the first one over and taking a deep, appreciative sip of the other as she leaned back on her pillows.

“I hope that’s not what you said in response to Brodie.”

Holly sighed. It was the night before Rose’s meeting with Professors Vector and Llodewick, and her best friend had Floo’d over in crisis mode at precisely the same time Holly was facing her own crisis. Rose was now bundled in Holly’s bed, drinking Holly’s tea, and had apparently decided it was now Holly’s turn to talk about her problems.

“It wasn’t,” she said instead, and drank more tea.

“What did you say?” Rose pressed, apparently not getting the point.

“So,” Holly said. “Your meeting tomorrow.”

“I’m terrified, my future hangs in the balance, my hopes and dreams are on the line, yada yada. We’ve exhausted that avenue of conversation.”

“Want to stay here tonight?”

“I’m suspended – ”

“No, here. In my office. I’m sure we could both do with some platonic spooning.”

“I have missed the platonic spooning.” Rose frowned. “You’re not using me for your own ends, are you?”

“The natural human craving for companionship and close emotional connections?”

Rose shoved her. “As an excuse. ‘Oh, Brodie, I can’t talk tonight, Rose very conveniently dropped by in a state of emotional turmoil, hoes before bros. Sisters before misters. Etc.’”

“Well, you did very conveniently drop by in a state of emotional turmoil.”

“So that’s a yes.”

“Maybe.”

“Are you gonna tell me what’s on your mind or do I have to take up Legilimency?”

Holly sighed. “I don’t know. Not about whether you should take up Legilimency – you definitely shouldn’t – but I don’t even know what’s on my mind. I just kind of panicked when he said it and I haven’t really stopped panicking.”

“What did you say to him?”

She grimaced. “He kind of panicked as well, like oh god I’m sorry that just slipped out, and I just said “no no it’s fine,” and then “I’m really tired,” and pretended to go to sleep.”

“Oh, Holly.”

“I ended up leaving before dawn and I’ve avoided him all day.”

“You need to talk to him. He’ll understand that you can’t say it back yet – ”

“I can,” Holly interrupted. “I can, and that scares me, and I wasn’t sure for a while but then once he said it I knew –”

“So why are you hiding in your room with me instead of being gross and sappy with him?”

“Like I said, I panicked.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. It feels like this whole  - thing is moving really fast, you know? We haven’t even known each other for six months and we’ve been dating for a few months and he wants to take me overseas in the summer – ”

“He does?”

“Yeah, I told him I’ve never left Britain and he said he’s going to take me travelling, and this is the longest I’ve gone without seeing him since Christmas and it’s only been, like, twelve hours, and I’m happy and I like spending time with him but it’s moving so fast. And all the couples we know went to Hogwarts together and have so much history and he’s just...brand new.”

“Well...” Rose began. “He is quite a bit older than you, he’s had a lot more time to work out what he wants and then he met you and he was like ‘yeah okay she’s the one.’”

“Yeah,” Holly said noncommittally, not sure why Rose’s comment had hit a nerve. “I guess that’s...I don’t know,” she said again, dragging her fingers through her hair. “I know I shouldn’t be comparing my relationship with anyone else’s but everyone else we know – they all happened really organically, you know? Like, Albus and Scorpius have been together since their third year and they moved in together after four years and now they’re married, and Lester and Lily were eyeing each other from across the Potters’ kitchen table for two consecutive summers before they made a move, and they’ve been together for ages, and whatever’s going on with Lucy and Emily has been obviously building for a while, and me and Brodie are just – ” she waved her arms hopelessly – “A whirlwind. And sometimes I wonder if...” she faltered, suddenly uneasy. “I just wonder if the reason this is happening so quickly is because he’s settling.”

“What do you mean?”

“If he’s settling for me. If he’d given up hope of actually having a long-term asexual relationship and then along I came, ticking all his boxes, and maybe he doesn’t actually love me, he just loves the idea of me and the relationship he can have with me, and he’s twenty-eight and all his friends are married and ‘okay Holly will do.’”

“I get what you mean,” Rose began. “I honestly do, and I don’t want to invalidate what you’re feeling. But as your best friend and chief defender of your well-being, I can tell you that boy is completely head over heels for you.”

“Says the aromantic,” Holly said after a pause.

“Fair point,” Rose agreed, “But he said something to me over Christmas. Well, not to me specifically, he said it to Vector, kind of accidentally, and begged us all not to tell you. Not that I was ever going to listen.”

“Sisters before misters,” Holly nodded. “What did he say?”

“He was asking Vector about if there are any rules about staff dating and she said no, but then asked what he would do if there were, and he said he’d leave Hogwarts. I think his exact words were ‘For Holly, in a heartbeat.’ So I really don’t think he’s settling, I think he’s fucking smitten with you.”

“Oh.”

“You should go talk to him.”

“I screwed up.”

“Go fix it.”

“Yep.” Holly bounded out of bed and headed for the door. “I’ll lock up behind me, if someone knocks just ignore it and they’ll go away.”

“You going in your pajamas?”

“Yeah,” she called, already pulling the door closed behind her and hurrying through the castle. The distance from her quarters at the base of Ravenclaw Tower to Brodie’s beside the Hufflepuff common room had never been especially short, but it seemed to have grown over the past several hours. She scattered a handful of students by barking “Oi! Curfew!” in their direction, not even bothering to slow her pace as she swept past them.

She knocked on Brodie’s door slightly out of breath, running through a list of everything she wanted to discuss with him and an apology for avoiding him all day, but when he answered the door with his hair sticking up in tufts like it did when he’d been running his hands through it and his reading glasses half-slid down his nose, a puzzled look on his face, all other thoughts fled from her mind.

“I love you,” she blurted. “I love you and I should have told you last night and I’m sorry I didn’t – ”

She cut herself off, watching as Brodie’s face went from puzzled to uncomfortable, and the way his eyes slid from her to the room behind him, and she risked a glance over his shoulder.

Two third year boys were sitting in Brodie’s office, one with a black eye and one with asparagus sprouting from his ears, both staring at her.

“Um,” she said.

“Um,” Brodie echoed, and cleared his throat. “I’m – ah – in the middle of a disciplinary meeting right now, Professor Holyoake, if you could – ”

“I’ll come back later,” she said hastily, not wanting to risk another glance at the boys to see if either were in her Arithmancy class, and fled.

She didn’t have a lot of options for where to flee to, considering she was right beside the Hufflepuff common room, so she made a beeline for it and was pleased to find her sister, surrounded by a group of friends at one of the main tables by the fire.

“Hi, Professor!” Emma’s best friend Alyssa Morrow said cheerfully. “Don’t suppose you can help me with the assignment?”

Holly glanced down at the blank parchment in front of Alyssa. “That’s due tomorrow morning and I set it a week ago. No, I can’t help you.”

“Shot down!” one of the boys at the table crowed.

“Excuse you,” Emma said, “She’s my sister before she’s your Arithmancy professor. I’ve got something to tell you anyway, Hol.”

They took a seat in a set of comfy armchairs by the window, vacated by a pair of second years the moment they saw them approaching.

“I have a weird amount of authority in here,” Emma said conversationally, waving a thank you to the second years. “We always assume that when we get passed over for Head Prefects it’s because there’s a bias against Hufflepuff House, so as far as everyone’s concerned I’m the rightful Head Girl. And Draco Dormiens has been a Hufflepuff-run publication for the past seven years, so being its editor makes me queen of the common room.”

“Yeah, how did the takeover go?”

“There wasn’t really anything to take over. They hadn’t found anyone to replace Cynthia after she left, so they pretty much begged me to come on board. But anyway – what I was going to talk to you about. I’ve been talking to Charlotte Scamander – you know, she runs MagiQ – about Queer Hogwarts and I mentioned that I’m doing Draco Dormiens as well, and did you know her partner’s Roxanne Weasley? The foreign correspondent at the Prophet?”

“I did, yeah. I went to school with Charlotte.”

“Right, yeah, course you would have. But anyway. Roxanne’s planning on starting a new magazine for young adults, non-gendered, because there’s nothing quite like it in the market at the moment. She said she’s taking inspiration from Muggle university student magazines, and it’ll have features and columns about art and music and stuff. She’s calling it Wix, and she’s going to keep an eye on what I do with Draco Dormiens for the rest of the year and maybe offer me a position with it after I finish.”

“That’s amazing!”

“Thanks,” Emma beamed. “I’m going to tell Mum and Dad over Easter.”

“I still love being able to say Mum and Dad in the same sentence.”

“Right? But anyway, what brings you to our common room in your pajamas?”

“Ah,” Holly began. “I went to tell Brodie something important. Well, I did tell Brodie something important, but it was while he was standing in his office doorway in front of two students who I didn’t realise were in there. Until I finished telling him the something important.”

“Was the something important ‘I love you’?”

“That was the something important, yeah.”

“Who were the students?”

“I don’t think I teach them. Third year boys.”

“Did one of them have asparagus sprouting out his ears?”

“They’re the ones.”

“Jack and Aubrey,” Emma said, nodding. “Yeah...Yeah, that’s going to be all over the common room before midnight.”

“I thought we were already all over the common room.”

“It’s mostly just rumour at this point,” Emma explained. “Lots of speculation. I haven’t confirmed anything – ”

“I thought you said you were honour-bound.”

“Well, I was to my friends, but it hasn’t spread like wildfire yet. With Jack and Aubrey, though – it’ll hit Ravenclaw by breakfast.”

“Fantastic.”

“It was bound to happen eventually,” Emma offered.

“What, me telling a man I love him while two asparagus-sprouting thirteen year olds listen in?”

“Maybe not precisely that,” Emma conceded. “But still. At least you don’t have to teach either of them. What did Professor Hall say?”

“You can call him Brodie when you’re talking to me.”

Emma wrinkled her nose. “He’s my Head of House, I’m not calling him Br – nope, can’t even finish that. Anyway, what did he say?”

I’m in the middle of a disciplinary meeting right now, Professor Holyoake.”

Professor Holyoake!” Emma shrieked, promptly incapacitating herself with laughter, and there were tears in her eyes when she finally faced Holly again.

“People do call me that, yes.”

Context,” Emma hooted, and started cackling again. Holly looked around helplessly, spotting the now black-eye-and-asparagus-free Jack and Aubrey skulking back into the common room.

“That’s my cue,” she announced, patting her wheezing sister on the shoulder and making good her escape.

This time she didn’t say anything when Brodie answered the door, just peered surreptitiously around him to make sure he wasn’t holding two consecutive disciplinary meetings.

“There’s nobody in there,” Brodie said eventually.

“I wanted to make sure.”

He was silent, gazing at her with something that set everything within her alight, and she couldn’t break eye contact if she tried. He took her hand, pulling her into his office and kissing her like he had never kissed her before.

“Wow,” she managed when they finally pulled apart, her arms still wrapped around his neck and his still around her waist, holding her so she barely even noticed she was on tiptoes.

“I love you, Holly.”

“I love you too,” she said softly, beaming, and kissed him. “But I can’t stay, Rose is here. I just had to tell you that.”

“Rose is here?”

“Rose is here. She’s got her meeting tomorrow and she needs the kind of comfort only platonic spooning can provide.”

“Her needs are greater than mine,” Brodie decided. “It’s only fair, considering I get to spoon with you every other night.”

“You’re such a Hufflepuff,” she said fondly, kissing him again. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Give my best to Rose,” he called after her.




A/N: I meant to make this in the previous chapter but was apparently in too much of a rush to get it posted, but I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who's reviewed this story, and especially to Katie/InkStainedFingers who left the 100th review! I'm awful at responding to them, I know, but I promise I read every word and appreciate you all so much! If you have any questions about the story or the tfwms-verse in general, please feel free to drop by my MTA as well. 

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