彡[ʙᴏʀɴ ᴛᴏ ꜰʟʏ]彡

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02/10/2024 10:37 PM 

Catching Feelings. Part 1

 
Catching feelings. Part 1

A squeal of elation rang out from somewhere near the middle of the Hufflepuff table and Rolanda’s hawk-like gaze tracked the source to the 5th year girl. Clutching a stuffed niffler to her chest, the girl–Rhian Davies–was gazing up at a Ravenclaw boy in the same year with a lovestruck expression. Based on the shape of his head–since she couldn’t quite see his face from this angle–Rolanda recognized it to be Finley MacLeod, or simply ‘Fin’ in her mind. Not a terrible nickname, all things considered, but given because his rounded head and small, high-placed ears reminded her of a bloated pufferfish.

Given that it was the second week full in February, and rose petals had been falling from the enchanted ceiling for the last two days, Rolanda knew that Fin had more than likely just asked Rhian to the St. Valentine’s Day ball that would be held that weekend. Rhian’s reaction told her the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’

Hooch smiled wistfully as her gaze moved from the young couple and swept over the rest of the students. Some were slogging their way through breakfast, trying to shake off the dregs of sleep that still clung to them while oblivious to Rhian’s glee; others had stopped to watch the exchange with varying degrees of second-hand excitement and jealousy; more than a handful watched the couple with longing.

A pang of empathy shot through her as memories of Charity surfaced, bringing with them a similar sense of longing.

Charity had loved Valentine’s Day for one reason and one reason only: Chocolate.

“You don’t need an excuse to eat chocolates,” Rolanda had insisted with a laugh watching Charity practically gorge herself on the box of chocolates in her hand.

“You say that now, but if I were to indulge myself every day the way I do on Valentine’s Day, I’d balloon up like a bloody sea elephant in a week.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, you’d make for a rather lovely sea elephant, but have you considered that if you didn’t limit yourself to indulging in chocolates only once a year, you might find that you would actually eat less of them because you wouldn’t have to cram a year’s worth of chocolate into your mouth in a 24 hour period?”

Charity considered this for a moment. “Perhaps, but have you considered that I could very well develop an addiction and eat nothing but chocolate all day, every day for the rest of my life? Forget being the size of just one sea elephant; I’d be the whole herd! Best I just limit myself to indulging only on Valentine’s Day.”

She had popped a chocolate in her mouth resolutely, smiling at Rolanda with complete satisfaction as she savored the treat.

Rolanda closed her eyes, trying desperately to hold the memory in place before it faded away; always fearful it might be the last time she remembered her love so vividly.

“This holiday is making me feel terribly sad,” the melodic Slavic voice sounded beside her, drawing her out of the precious memory with a slight start. Rolanda glanced at the woman beside her who was slightly slumped over her plate of toast and fruit, chin resting in her hand and lips pulled in a gentle frown as she watched the scene at the Hufflepuff table.

Ekaterina Dobrić had only been at Hogwarts since the start of term, taking up the seemingly endless revolving position as professor of Defence Against the Darks Arts, but she and Rolanda had become fast friends. Despite being younger than Rolanda by half a century, Kat was a kindred spirit with a wicked sense of humor that never failed to have Rolanda laughing until her sides ached. To see the melancholic look on her pretty face in that moment seemed almost a crime.

“Sad?” Hooch questioned with genuine curiosity.

“Valentine’s Day is good for young love,” she gestured to Fin and Rhian, then pointed to a small group of Gryffindors wearing identical mopey expressions. “Not so good if you are alone.”

She couldn’t argue that, and also couldn’t help the soft chuckle that escaped her. “You sound like Charity.”

“You always say this,” Kat’s lips tipped up as sharp umber eyes turned to Rolanda, shimmering with mirth. “And I always tell you–”

“That Charity was a smart woman,” Hooch nodded, mirroring Ekaterina’s smile.

Kat’s free hand reached over and gave Rolanda’s forearm a gentle squeeze, hatching a clutch of butterflies in her stomach. There were very few people in her life who had ever had that effect on her from a mere touch. Only two, in fact: The woman sitting beside her, and the woman she had loved with all of her heart and soul.

Not for the first time, Rolanda felt heat rise to her cheeks and looked away from the Croatian witch with a modicum of guilt.

“Did you and Charity have traditions for Valentine’s Day?” Kat asked with unsurprising inquisitiveness, never shying away from the one topic that the rest of the world seemed to completely avoid out of concern that they might upset her. Not that she blamed anyone; it was simply human nature not to inquire after the dead.

It had taken some time for Rolanda to let her guard down and fully open up to Kat about her life with…and without…Charity. As the bond of friendship grew between them, they found themselves spending quite a bit of time together–talking, laughing, getting to know one another. Rolanda had always considered herself close to other women on the staff like Minerva McGonagall, Poppy Pomfrey, and Pomona Sprout, but even they hadn’t been privy to the full view of her heart and her grief.

When she had finally let that final wall come down from around her heart, and had shared the whole of her love story with Charity, Rolanda realized that even though it had been over ten years since she’d lost her, the wound was still as fresh as the night she learned Charity had died. She’d never liked letting others see her cry, but telling Kat about how Charity had died and how she’d finally found out what had happened released a torrent of emotions that had manifested in heart-wrenching sobs. She’d been mortified by the tears, trying to turn away from Ekaterina in hopes of hanging on to a sliver of her dignity, but the younger witch had moved to sit next to her on the couch, enfolding her into her arms.

The warmth and tenderness of the embrace had touched Rolanda profoundly, serving to almost cauterize the Charity-sized hole in her heart. For the first time since her lover’s death, the burden of her grief had felt a little lighter. She had expected Kat to never mention Charity again, but the woman continually surprised her by finding moments to ask about her. It had been after that moment that Rolanda truly began to see the similarities between Ekaterina and Charity–the kindness, the humor, the inquisitiveness, even the snarkiness. A part of her wished she hadn’t come to that realization, afraid that being around someone that reminded her of Charity would only serve to make her miss her more. Instead, she found comfort in it.

“Nothing terribly special,” Rolanda responded to the question, smiling at the memory still lingering in her mind. “She had a rule that she would only ever indulge in chocolate on Valentine’s Day. From the moment she woke up until the moment she was in bed that night, she would eat nothing but chocolates. It’s a wonder she didn’t make herself absolutely sick each year.” A soft chuckle escaped her as she shook her head. “The night before Valentine’s Day, I would go around leaving small boxes of chocolates all over the place–our room, her classroom and office, even my office so that no matter where she was that day, there would be chocolates for her.”

Ekaterina’s head tipped back with a gentle laugh. “That was very sweet of you. I wish I had her discipline to only eat chocolate once a year. I have a terrible sweet tooth.”

“So did she,” Rolanda mused. “I tried not to tempt her too often with sweeties, but I knew she enjoyed them. Seeing her happy always made me happy.”

Kat naturally moved the conversation further. “And what did she do for you?”

Rolanda’s lip twitched at the corner, a gentle smile settling in place as she rested her chin in her hand, looking beyond Kat to a new memory that formed in her mind. “She would put a small vase of red sweet peas on the desk in my office. True to her Hufflepuff core, she had a love of plants–flowers mostly–and knew all the meanings of them. The meaning behind all sweet peas is blissful pleasure, but red ones specifically symbolise passion, love and romance. There was a third meaning attached to them that only existed between her and I.”

When Rolanda paused, living in the memory rather than the moment, Ekaterina gently prodded her. “What was the third meaning?”

“That they were my flower. Charity tended to call everyone ‘petal,’ a habit I picked up from her, but her pet name for me, in those tender moments alone, was Pea. As in Sweet Pea.”

Kat’s warm, gentle smile expressed her sentimental approval, and gratitude that Rolanda had shared yet another deeply personal story with her.

Rolanda’s own curiosity took hold and she tilted her head slightly at the younger woman. “What about you? How did you celebrate the holiday?”

“Valentine’s Day in Croatia is a little bit different–more about traditions and customs than giving flowers or chocolates–”

“Of stuffed nifflers,” Rolanda chuckled, nodding back to the happy couple at the Hufflepuff table.

Kat added a short laugh, nodding. “Definitely far fewer stuffed nifflers. Though, each new generation does something a little bit different, so…who knows. This year may be the year of the niffler.”

They both fell into a shared laugh before Kat continued. “We have some superstitions about the day. If a girl sees a robin on Valentine’s Day, she will get married to a sailor. If a girl sees a sparrow, she will get married to a poor man. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a rich man. And…” she grinned and reached for Rolanda’s hand, flattening it out between them before taking out her wand and transfiguring a raspberry from her plate into a small ladybug. Enchanting it to land on the back of Rolanda’s hand, she explained, “If a ladybug lands on your hand, it will bring you good luck. It’s also said that whichever side the ladybug flies away, from that side your loved one will come.”

Both sets of eyes were transfixed on the tiny bug crawling on the back of her hand, but before they could see which way it might fly off, two students approached the high table where they were seated. Their eyes turned to the two boys–the team captains for Slytherin and Gryffindor. Kat plucked the ladybug off of Rolanda’s hand and popped it into her mouth without transfiguring it back into its natural state. The Gryffindor boy made a face of disgust while the Slytherin looked impressed.

“Madam Hooch,” Thomas Chapman from the Gryffindor team spoke first. “I reserved the pitch for Gryffindor weeks ago and I’ve just found out that Slytherin’s erased our reservation and booked the pitch solid for the entire week! How are we meant to practice before the match?”

Rolanda looked to the Slytherin who seemed to be smirking, albeit almost imperceptibly. “Is this true, Mr. Marshall?”

“Honestly, Madam Hooch, Tom should consider it high praise that I don’t think his team needs as much practice as mine.”

Rolanda gave him a reproachful look. “You’ll find my sense of humor does not extend to tampering with my pitch or the scheduling thereof, Ben. Put the schedule back as it was or I’ll give all the slots this week to Gryffindor.”

Ben Marshall had the good sense to look abashed as he gave a small nod of understanding, knowing the small prank had gone over like a lead balloon. “Yes, Madam Hooch.”

Kat was chuckling next to her as the two boys retreated and Rolanda lifted a curious brow at her. Whatever it was she found humorous, she didn’t give voice to. Instead she sipped the last of her coffee and touched Rolanda’s hand. “I should get ready for my first class. Bok za sada, moja bubamara.”

Over the course of their friendship, Rolanda had learned a few common phrases in Croatian, and knew that ‘bok za sada’ meant ‘see you later’ but bubamara was a new one. “Bubamara?”

“My ladybug,” Ekaterina replied with a playful grin, leaning in to press two quick kisses to Rolanda’s cheek and wiping the smudge of lipstick away before she rose from her seat and swept away in a swirl of plum colored robes.

The blush had returned to Rolanda’s cheeks full force, painting them a pink as the butterflies stirred in her belly, wings flapping wildly. The kiss on the cheek was nothing new from Kat, it was part of her culture and something Rolanda had grown accustomed to whenever they parted ways. It was a friendly gesture, nothing more.

But the nickname…the story behind it… She wasn’t sure if there was more behind it all, or if she simply wanted there to be more behind it.

She had never expected to care for anyone the way she had cared for Charity; she hadn’t wanted to, in all honesty. But the closer she and Ekaterina became, the deeper she found herself caring. She allowed herself to enjoy the moments of closeness they shared, but had always been certain that whatever Kat felt for her was purely platonic. Now she was uncertain, and even more uncertain about what to do about it.

She inwardly cringed at the thought of point blank asking Kat about her feelings and being told there was absolutely no romantic interest at all, and paralyzed by the possibility that there might be. Having a crush on the younger witch and caring for her was one thing–she could keep those feelings to herself. Pursuing a relationship of that nature, however… Was she ready for that? Could she ever be ready for that again?

“Oh, sweet Circe, you really are terribly unkind,” she murmured, looking skyward for a moment as she trapped the butterflies in a cage and willed the blush to fade from her cheeks. Later she would have a good long think about how to sort out her feelings for Kat, but for now…flying duty called.

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