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02/16/2024 08:42 PM 

Catching Feelings. Part 3

 
Catching feelings. Part 3

As they nibbled on the treats Kat had brought, sipping coffee, conversation became easy again. Rolanda asked her deeper questions about her family, about Croatia, about her past romances. She learned that Kat was bisexual, but preferred women because they ‘smelled better.’

“Clearly you haven’t been around me right after a Quidditch match,” she mused, picking up on the jest.

Kat had grinned at her, leaning slightly across the table and running her hand along Rolanda’s forearm. With the shirt sleeve cuffed at her wrist, Rolanda wasn’t able to get the full effect of her nails dragging along her skin, but it still managed to make her shiver as the woman voiced her desire, “But I would really like to be.”

Before she could respond, the distant sound of the clock bells ringing alerted them to the time, and both knew they needed to get a move on in order to make it to their first classes.

Parting should have been natural to them by now, but as they rose from the table, neither knew quite what to do. Their normal kiss on the cheek seemed inadequate now that they had decided to take a step beyond mere friendship, but Rolanda wasn’t sure she was ready to move too far beyond that just yet.

“Well, this is a bit awkward,” Rolanda couldn’t help but say something to break the mild tension that had formed.

Kat smiled tenderly, seeming to sense Rolanda’s apprehension, and merely threaded her long, slender arms around her, drawing her into a gentle embrace. “Perhaps we can speak more this evening? After curfew, since I have patrolling duties.”

“I would like that. Why don’t you come here after you’ve finished?”

Ekaterina gave a small nod and leaned in, pressing a lingering kiss against her cheek before wiping away the smudge of lipstick. Rolanda retrieved her wand and the two of them left her room together. As they headed towards the Astronomy wing of the castle, Rolanda gave her some tips about where she should make sure to patrol that evening. Kat seemed amused by the number of locations the older witch mentioned, and gave her a teasing look.

“Something tells me you know some of these locations from personal experience.”

Rolanda smirked mischievously, but refused to confirm or deny the suspicion.

They bid each other goodbye once they reached the juncture in the corridor where Kat would have to go left to the Defence classroom and Rolanda would have to go right to work her way to the western most part of the castle, where her office sat above the flying class lawn. Now that she didn’t have Kat to distract her, she was keenly aware of students who were holding hands on the way to their classes, or exchanging cards and gifts. A few brave souls unabashedly stole kisses from one another, either oblivious to her presence or uncaring of it. She cleared her throat loudly in reprimand, but otherwise didn’t stop to chastise or take points from them.

Heading up the stairs into her classroom, she pulled her robes off the rack by the door and shrugged them on as she moved towards her desk to retrieve her whistle. She stopped in her tracks as she caught sight of another vase of red sweet peas, sitting right where Charity always left them. Her eyes misted with tears, heart both swelling with love and aching with loss. Touching the soft petals, she allowed herself a moment to reflect on the morning.

Rolanda had been fully prepared to have her confession met with rejection. While the part of her that had harbored feelings for Kat might have hoped there would be a chance for them, she had never seriously considered the possibility. Now that she knew Kat felt the same, it meant having to separate herself from what was and what could be. Logically she knew that people found love again after losing a partner to death, but she’d never expected to be one of them. It was far too soon to be sure where a new relationship might go or how long it might last, but it would require her to let go of her past with Charity in order to fully embrace the potential between her and Kat.

That was going to be the hardest part of it for her, and would take longer than the few minutes remaining before her class. With a deep breath, she recentered herself to focus on the day ahead. Placing the whistle around her neck, she enchanted her eyes with her signature gaze, then strode out of the classroom and back down the steps to the lawn. Using her wand to open the broom closet, she enchanted the brooms to line up in two rows as the students began to arrive.

While the younger students perfected their skills of attitude and speed, Rolanda gave advanced instruction to the more seasoned flyers–teaching loops, rolls, and even inverted flying skills. After her last class, she put the brooms back in the closet, then headed down to the Quidditch pitch to oversee afternoon practice.

Though most of her focus was on the players, watching their form and taking mental notes to discuss with the captain, she found her thoughts drifting between Ekaterina and Charity. She knew that a large part of what held her back was guilt. Guilt that Charity had been the one to die, guilt that her heart had seemed to move on before the rest of her was ready to, guilt that Kat made her feel as happy as she did.

It seemed silly to harbor such feelings, and in her mind she could hear Charity scoffing at her, but she still felt like it was a betrayal of the woman she had loved for so long.

Movement caught her eye and she glanced over to see Minerva McGonagall striding closer, her eyes turned to the players huddled on their brooms over the pitch. Other than herself, McGonagall was likely the biggest Quidditch fanatic among the whole staff. She was fully invested in her Gryffindor players, and regularly came by practices and friendlies in order to see how they were fairing.

“I really think Mr. Chapman is doing a splendid job of leading Gryffindor to the cup this year,” her voice was brimming with delight through the heavy Scottish brogue.

While Rolanda wasn’t officially allowed to play favorites, she never missed an opportunity to goad the other woman with a bit of rivalry. “Ravenclaw is strong this year, between them and Slytherin, Chapman is certainly having to work his team hard for the wins.”

“Perhaps so, but Gryffindor is still leading,” the woman grinned triumphantly.

A companionable silence lapsed between them as they watched the team run through a series of drills. Minerva was the first to speak again. “What do you think of our new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor?”

Though the question was seemingly innocent enough, Rolanda had known Minerva for a very long time and knew the real question that lurked beneath the surface. “Let’s just say that I hope she stays around a great deal longer than the average person in the post.”

Minerva smiled at her. “I thought I saw a spark there.”

“We’ve only just admitted our feelings to one another this morning.” Rolanda confessed, feeling slightly overwhelmed. “To be honest, it’s all a bit…daunting and I can’t seem to reconcile the feelings I still have for Charity and the feelings I want to explore with Ekaterina. I haven’t really even properly had time to think about it all.”

“While I’m hardly one to give advice, there is a story I’d like to share with you. I’ve only ever told Albus about this, but I feel that if anyone can relate to it…it would be you.” Minerva took a moment to collect her thoughts. “Just as you fell in love with Charity when you were young, I fell in love with a muggle boy named Dougal. It was the summer after I graduated from Hogwarts. I’d gone home to spend time with my parents before moving to London to start my career with the Ministry. Dougal was handsome and clever, the son of a local farmer. He was every bit my equal…except where it came to magic. I had been so terribly joyful when he asked me to marry him, but I quickly realized that in order to do so I would have to give up everything the way my mother did. I would have to put my wand in a box, never practice magic, and give up my own career to be with him. I had already seen what can happen in a marriage between a muggle and a witch with my own parents, and so I turned him down. I chose magic over love and my heart never forgave me.

“Dougal eventually married someone else, and I was devastated. I told myself it was for the best, that I might have had a happy life with him but the price for that happiness was simply too great. Still, for years I denied myself the chance at being in love again because it felt like a betrayal to Dougal because of how fiercely I still loved him. Around the time that Voldemort was first defeated, I received word that Dougal had died. I was devastated; inconsolable at times–I’m sure you remember, though you weren’t privy to all the details at the time, only that someone dear to me had passed. As terribly heartbroken as I was, I felt a sense of freedom after he died. I could finally move on with my own life. That’s when I married Elphinstone, who had been asking me for years to marry him.

“We were very happy together, however short-lived it was, but after Elph died, I realized how many years I had wasted holding on to someone who was no longer in my life. I know how much you still love Charity, and I know how it feels to think about moving on and loving someone else…but I also know that Charity would want this for you. Letting go doesn’t mean erasing your past. I never stopped loving Dougal, even after he died and I married Elph. You won’t forget Charity. It’s okay to let yourself be happy again.”

Though their stories weren’t identical, they were similar enough that Rolanda knew that Minerva understood her pain and hesitation better than anyone else could have. “I’m not sure Kat would let me forget Charity,” Rolanda smiled softly. “I told her that Charity used to give me a vase of sweet peas every Valentine’s Day. This morning she brought me several gifts that are traditional valentines in Croatia…but included in the gifts was a bouquet of sweet peas to honor Charity’s memory. When I arrived in my office this morning before my classes, she’d left another vase there…just like Charity used to do.”

Minerva put her hand to her heart with a watery expression. “I said I wasn’t going to give you advice, but I lied. Don’t stop living just because your heart is still grieving. Don’t miss your second chance at happiness the way I did.”

Rolanda had stayed in the stands long after Minerva made her exit and the players left the pitch, giving herself the space she needed to be alone and sort through her emotions, slotting them into as comfortable a place as they would fit. Looking up at the sky, rapidly growing dark as the sun began to set, she let out a heavy breath.

“You know I will always love you. No one could ever change that, Charity. I know Minerva’s right–that you would want me to be happy–and maybe the flowers are some sort of sign that it’s okay for me to share my heart with someone else.” Tears burned her eyes and she looked down at the wood of the stands beneath her feet, watching them fall and splash against the slats. “Thank you for sharing as much of your life with me as possible. Thank you for choosing to love me. Thank you for letting me love you.”

She stayed for a while longer, then made her way down from the top of the stands, stopping by her office to leave her robes and whistle before heading to the Great Hall for supper.

02/12/2024 11:33 PM 

Catching Feelings. Part 2

 
Catching feelings. Part 2

By the time supper rolled around, Rolanda had managed to convince herself that Ekaterina’s feelings were that of a close friend, and nothing more. Her own loneliness and affections felt for the woman were coloring her perception of what were, essentially, innocent gestures. Once the holiday had passed and love was no longer–literally–in the air with all the damned rose petals, she knew…she hoped...the feelings would start to subside and she would be able to move beyond the silly school girl crush that had taken hold of her in recent months.

Her resolve, however, didn’t stop the blush that insisted on invading her cheeks when Kat arrived at the Great Hall and greeted Rolanda with the customary kiss on the cheek as she took her seat.

“Dobra večer, Ekaterina,” Rolanda greeted her, earning a bright smile. Kat always seemed pleased anytime Rolanda spoke to her in her native tongue–however limited her own knowledge still was.

“Dobra večer, Rolanda!” With most people, Rolanda insisted they simply call her Ro, but she secretly enjoyed the way Kat said her full name. The Slavic pronunciation of it was quite beautiful, and if Ekaterina began to shorten her name, she knew she’d miss hearing it.

“How was your day?”

“Quite good, although I’m not certain the boys from this morning have quite gotten over matters.”

Rolanda couldn’t help but grin. “I’m afraid that is a feud that won’t ever be resolved. The rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin has existed for centuries. Of all the matches between the Houses, theirs always tends to be the most…” she paused, searching for an appropriate phrase. “Spirited. Minerva can tell you all about the Gryffindor side of it; back when she was at school here, a match with Slytherin very nearly killed her.”

“I never realized there was such risk involved playing on non-professional teams,” Kat rested her hand against her heart, a look of morbid curiosity crossing her face as she leaned in and lowered her voice. “Has anyone actually been killed before?”

“Not while I’ve been in charge. A few close calls, more broken bones than I can count, and some very grizzly injuries, but my fatality count remains at zero.”

Conversation flowed naturally, much as it always did between them, over the course of the dinner. They took turns asking each other questions, sharing stories, and even playfully arguing about which teams would be going to the Quidditch World Cup this summer. Professional Quidditch was something that Kat had long ago admitted to not following closely, but because it was of great interest to Rolanda, she had started to pay closer attention in order to be able to talk about the subject with her. Rolanda was fairly certain that most of the arguments that spawned as a result were intentionally started just to ruffle her feathers.

Yet another quality Kat shared with Charity.

“I’m telling you, the Harpies are in the running,” Rolanda said emphatically. “I know every single one of those women personally. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, and I would bet on them against every other team in the league right now.”

Kat was simply grinning at her, and Rolanda knew she’d been suckered. Was she that amusing when riled up? Judging by the frequency with which both women had goaded her into an argument, it seemed highly likely.

She leveled her fork at the other woman and playfully narrowed her eyes. “You know, it’s not very nice to tease your elders, young lady.”

Ekaterina’s head fell back with a laugh, clearly unperturbed. A round of applause from the Gryffindor table caught their attention and they saw two students smiling shyly at each other. Avery Featherstone, 5th year Gryffindor, was standing in the aisle between the tables, holding the hands of Sage Thistlethwaite, a Slytherin.

“Seems like maybe there is hope that the rivalry won’t always exist,” Kat teased.

“In matters of the heart, perhaps, but Quidditch rivalry can divide even the strongest couples.” Hooch watched the young couple leave the Great Hall together, not allowing herself to think of what they might get up to. She’d been young and in love once, she knew exactly what went on in dark corners and secluded corridors. “Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day itself. Brace yourself for all manner of hopeless, teenage, romantic displays of affection. I imagine we’ll see more ball proposals, and likely a lot of heartbroken tears. Classes are always interrupted with special deliveries of flowers, chocolates, and lovebird notes.”

“Lovebird notes?”

“A transfiguration spell that Minerva teaches to the fifth years every year. Far cleaner than a million owls swooping around all day to deliver notes.”

“Mm,” Kat’s hand squeezed Rolanda’s forearm gently as she finished the last of her wine. “This reminds me, I must visit with the kitchen elves.”

Rolanda had turned her head to inquire further just as Ekaterina had leaned in to kiss her cheek, and her lips ended up brushing against Rolanda’s instead.

“Žao mi je,” Kat apologized, laughing softly, her thumb brushing over Rolanda’s lower lip to wipe away the lipstick left in the wake of the accidental kiss.

Rolanda laughed good naturedly, waving her off even as her cheeks burned with a blush. When Kat swept from the table, Rolanda scanned the long tables of students, making sure none of them had witnessed the very brief moment, as she didn’t fancy having any rumors swirling about.

That kiss had lingered in her mind far longer than was appropriate for someone determined to move beyond the feelings that had developed for the witch. It had been so quick that Rolanda hadn’t really even registered it fully until Kat was wiping away the lipstick stain. But now, as she lay down to sleep, staring up at the canopy above the bed, it was all she could think about. Turning on her side, Rolanda propped her head in her hand and stared at the picture of herself and Charity that sat on the nightstand.

“I’m sure you’re highly amused by all of this,” she sighed, “but I truly don’t know how to rein in my feelings for this woman. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this and…it scares the hell out of me. Putting aside the fact that I have no idea if she even remotely shares my feelings, how am I supposed to love someone else when I haven’t stopped loving you? And if I do let myself love her…does that mean I have to stop loving you? I know you well enough to know you’d be scolding me right now, telling me I’ve wasted enough damn time mourning you, and to get on with my life…but you were my life, Chari. Or at least the biggest part of it that mattered to me. I could give up Quidditch, if I had too–Merlin, please don’t ever make me make good on that–but you?” She shook her head. Her eyes stung with tears, and she closed them in an effort to pull up every memory of Charity she could still remember. “I’m afraid I’m going to forget you if I give someone else space in my heart and soul.” She sighed deeply, wiping away a tear that escaped. “I’m going to have to look like a fool and talk to her, aren’t I? Poor girl. The last thing she would probably expect, or want, is for someone old enough to be her grandmother admitting to caring for her in that way.”

She resolved to find time in the next day or two to talk to Kat in private, knowing that the only way she would ever move past her feelings would be to get them in the open and hear the other woman declare that they weren’t mutual. She only hoped that it didn’t affect their friendship to the point that Kat became uncomfortable around her. She could get over unrequited love, but losing the closeness they’d developed over the course of the last few months would devastate her.

Sleep was fitful that night, filled with dreams that she couldn’t quite remember, but had left her anxious all the same. Rolanda found herself grateful when it was actually time to get out of bed, ready to leave the nightmares behind and get on with the day. A hot shower, freshly brushed teeth, and the application of her makeup had helped to restore a bit of normalcy, but as she painted her lips with her usual shade, her mind readily supplied the memory of the brief kiss, the apologetic laugh, and Kat’s thumb lightly rubbing her lower lip.

“Damn…” she swore, feeling the brush creep into her cheeks. She gave her reflection a reproachful look. “Let this go before you wind up getting your heart broken for absolutely no reason other than your own foolishness.”

Moving to the wardrobe, she pulled out a crisp white collared shirt, black tie with the Hogwarts crest, navy gymslip with a black sash belt and matching breeches, and black knee-high boots. It was her typical attire as flying instructor–the gymslip allowing for unrestricted movement and the breeches providing comfort while on a broom all day. Perhaps it was an outdated look, but function was far more important in her line of work than fashion. The wrong clothes on a broom could prove disastrous. The last two items Rolanda would put on were her black teaching robes and the boatswain whistle that hung around her neck, but she kept both of these in her office and would retrieve them before the first flying class of the day.

She was just about to leave her chamber for breakfast when there was a knock at the heavy door. Somehow, whether by instinct or desire, Rolanda knew it would be Ekaterina. Curiosity had her moving towards the door before she could even think of a single reason why the woman would be calling on her so early in the morning. Keeping her eagerness at bay, she opened the door and found the witch standing just on the other side of the threshold wearing ruby red robes with a gold heart necklace resting against the gentle swell of her breasts. Her hair was intricately plaited, a few chestnut tendrils pulled free to frame her face with delicate curls. In her hands, she held a silver tray with several items, but only one of them held Rolanda’s attention–a small vase with red sweet pea flowers.

Not yet enchanting her eyes to grant her the keen eyesight of a hawk, Rolanda’s naturally vibrant blue gaze lifted to meet Kat’s with open curiosity.

“Sretno Valentinovo, Rolanda,” Kat smiled before adding the translation. “Happy Valentine’s Day. May I come in?”

Still struck by the sight of the sweet pea, it took a moment for her to process the request before she nodded and stepped back to grant Ekaterina entry. “What is all this?” She asked, her eyes finally taking in the other items on the tray.

“Well,” Kat moved past her to the small table near the window, and set the tray down. “Where I’m from in Croatia, we bake dough in the shape of birds and give them as gifts on Valentine’s Day.” She removed a bread towel from the basket on the tray to reveal two dough birds baked to perfection. Rolanda couldn’t help but smile, her eyes following Kat’s hand as she then gestured to a plate of heart-shaped biscuits, decorated with a red glaze and piped with vibrant colors of royal icing. Some had words piped across the center, but the words were in Croatian so Rolanda wasn’t quite sure what they said. There was a slightly larger one at the center of the pile that had a small mirror in the middle of it rather than writing. “These are licitars, which are very traditional. There’s even a ballet that was written about them,” she laughed softly. “They’re made with a honey dough; very, very sweet but delicious. Normally, we would have gvirc–a like…spicy mead–with them, but I figured you might prefer coffee so early in the morning.”

“Good call,” Rolanda chuckled lightly, watching as Kat picked up the vase of sweet pea, turning to face her and holding it out to her.

“I am certain you must miss Charity on days like this, so…this is in honor of her.”

A lump of emotion swelled in her throat and she had to blink back tears as she took the vase and brought the flowers to her nose, inhaling the delicate scent. She felt herself choking on the words. “Thank you. This is very sweet of you, Ekaterina. Excuse me for a moment, please.”

She moved towards the nightstand next to her bed, smelling the flowers once more before setting the vase next to Charity’s picture. This just makes what I have to do even more difficult… she thought, the unexpected gifts and gesture deepening the affection she felt for Kat. Taking a brief moment to compose herself, she returned to the table where Kat had seated herself and was pouring them both a cup of coffee.

“I like that you prefer coffee instead of tea in the morning,” Kat grinned at her. “Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice cup of tea, but I also need my coffee.”

“I’ve always been the same,” Rolanda sat across from her. “I’ve never understood anyone who didn’t need coffee to start their day. “I remember during World War II–long before you were ever born–we weren’t able to import things like coffee because of the Germans. Those years were among the crankiest I’ve ever been in my life. I very nearly joined the war efforts just to bring the damned thing to an end so trade routes could be reestablished.”

Kat laughed, reaching for one of the bread birds and tearing a piece of it off, popping it into her mouth. “You have had such an adventurous life. Even as an auror, I feel like none of the things I’ve done have been half as exciting as what you’ve lived through.”

“Believe me, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it seems. I’ve seen too much war in my time–both wizard and muggle. I’ve lost so many people who were dear to me, whom I loved more than anything. Not just Charity. Friends, family, students I tried to save from joining the Dark Lord’s cause… There were plenty of times I thought I would never see the light again, never feel happiness again, moreso within the last decade than ever before.” She rested her chin in her hand, looking across the table at her companion and internally warring with herself whether or not now was the time to have the conversation she didn’t want to have. It seemed almost unfair, somehow, to burden Kat with such a confession after she had put so much thought and effort into the gifts this morning. Kat seemed to sense there was something she wasn’t saying and tilted her head curiously, wordlessly prompting her.

“Ekaterina, there’s something I need to tell you. I’m afraid if I don’t say it now that it could hurt our friendship later, and I don’t wish for that to happen.”

“There is nothing you can say or not say that could hurt our friendship, bubamara.” Kat assured her, reaching across the small table to place her hand over Rolanda’s.

Rolanda couldn’t help but smile at the sweet new nickname. “Well, let’s hope you feel that way after I tell you what it is.”

Kat gave her a gentle squeeze of her hand, signaling she was listening.

“Meeting you and getting to know you has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I enjoy every moment of our time together, and have probably spent more time laughing with you in the last few months than I have in the entire time since I lost Charity. You are, quite possibly, the best friend I’ve ever had. But…lately, I’ve begun to develop certain…feelings for you. Feelings I never expected to experience again after I lost Charity. I’ve told myself it’s absolutely ridiculous and inappropriate for me to have such affection for you, and each time I think I’ve talked some sense into myself, I see you again and immediately they swim right back to the surface. I really didn’t want to have this conversation with you, but I feel the only way for me to get over this silly crush I have on you is to tell you and hear you say that you don’t feel the same way for me.” She could feel her cheeks burning from the heat of her blush, her eyes refusing to meet Kat’s under the weight of her embarrassment, but the silence began to stretch on, causing her hand to tremble beneath Kat’s. She finally lifted her gaze, pleadingly. “Tell me I haven’t completely ruined our friendship by telling you this.”

Ekaterina’s lips began to pull into a sweet smile and she released Rolanda’s hand in order to reach for the licitar with the small mirror, placing it in front of Rolanda. “I think now I can tell you more about the meaning of this particular licitar. When this one is given as a gift, it is to symbolise that the giver has whoever is reflected in their heart.”

Rolanda looked down and could see her own reflection in the center of the heart. The heart in her chest began to beat wildly as she looked back up at Kat. She didn’t want to jump to conclusions, even though the message seemed fairly clear. “What exactly does that mean?”

“It means that I have feelings for you, as well. There is no one who makes me laugh the way you do, no one I look forward to spending time with more than you. I know how much you still love Charity, how much her death has affected you. I didn’t wish to push you into something you were maybe not ready for, but I hoped that you might someday feel the same for me.”

Rolanda was certain she was dreaming, but she felt far too lucid to simply have dreamt this entire thing up. She digested the words carefully, making sure not to misinterpret them on any level. “I’m not certain if I am ready,” she admitted, considering her feelings in light of the new information that they were–in fact–reciprocated. “But I suppose I won’t ever know for certain if I don’t at least try.”

Kat’s hand was on hers again, holding it tenderly. “Then we try, as much or as little as you want.”

Rolanda inhaled deeply and released it slowly, moving her hand to lace their fingers together as she smiled at Ekaterina. “Alright, but with one condition. If this doesn’t work out between us, we don’t let it affect the friendship we have. I’d rather not explore these feelings at all if there’s any chance I would lose you completely.”

“I promise. Friends, no matter what.”

“Then I have a question I’d like to ask you…”

Kat tilted her head again curiously.

“Would you like to go to the Valentine’s Day ball with me?” Rolanda couldn’t help but chuckle as she said the words, knowing they were both meant to be there as chaperones but deciding to make her own ball proposal.

Kat’s head fell back with a laugh that swelled Rolanda’s heart. “Yes, Rolanda Hooch; I would love to go with the ball with you.”

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.

08/15/2023 12:04 PM 

Storyline Ideas

Plotting can be difficult. I know it is for me. Throwing ideas around and hoping the other person will be interested always seems more challenging than the actual writing. In an effort to try and alleviate some of that burden, I've developed a few ideas that can be used to kick off writing between our characters. These can be used singularly or in any combination of ideas, or completely disregarded in favor of something else.  There are three main categories of storylines: Off-Pitch (ideas that don't revolve around Quidditch or Flying), War Storylines (can take place either in first or second war), and On the Pitch (Quidditch and flying-related ideas). More to come as I think of them.

Off-Pitch

The Cataclysm.

When magic disappears from the world, every witch, wizard, and magical creature must work together to determine the cause and find a way to restore it. The longer magical creatures go without magic, the deadlier it becomes to them.  The Ministry is relying on the combined expertise of academics at every Wizarding school, Aurors, curse breakers, and magically educated volunteers to uncover the answer. 

 

Time-Turner Classics.

Bad things happen to witches and wizards who meddle with time. 

 

Realm of Perdition.

It was no accident that Hogwarts was built on its current location. A great duel between two powerful wizards had torn through the fabric of reality, creating a portal into another magical plane of existence full of dark wonder…and terrible beasts. When the portal could not be sealed, the Four Founders had built Hogwarts on top of it, putting charms in place that would conceal its location and keep the beats in their own reality. Time and ravages of war have eroded both magic and stone, leaving the portal opening vulnerable. Strange things begin to happen around the castle and both students and staff have started disappearing. With the Ministry on the verge of shutting the school down, it’s a race against time to solve the mystery and face down a new foe in order to save Hogwarts.

 

Detention.

A month of detention with Madam Hooch may sound like you’re getting off easy when compared to the things Filch might have you do, but she always saves the worst chores for the unfortunate few who wind up in her charge. 

 

Dragon Club.

Founded in the 1800s, the Dragon Club accepts students with advanced skills in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Duelling, Flying and Quidditch, offering members a safe place to further advance their skills and study. As faculty sponsor, Hooch oversees the activities of the Club to ensure student safety.  Occasionally she can be convinced to provide advanced lessons to members if given good cause or reason.

 

War Storylines

Prisoner of War

Rolanda is taken captive alongside Charity Burbage during Voldemort’s second rise to power. Both are held captive at Malfoy Manor with several others, including Garrick Olivander. This storyline will likely entail dark themes. Depending on which side you’re on (Good, Bad, or Neutral), you could be trying to help Hooch and the others escape, you could simply be following Voldemort’s orders, or you could greatly enjoy torturing the captives. Perhaps you even feel conflicted… 

 

Whose Side Are You On?

Even good friends can have very different opinions. When Voldemort begins to rise to power (either the first time or the second time), a line is drawn in the proverbial sand and sides must be taken. There can be no neutrality in war. Which cause will you choose to fight for, and can you rally Hooch to your side?

 

A Time to Heal.

After the war (either first or second), every life has been touched in some way. Everyone who has fought has been changed. Can there be healing or are some wounds too deep to recover from? Angst driven, can lead to romance if desired, but not necessary.

 

On the Pitch

Quidditch Un-Friendlies.

As referee and coach, Hooch must remain neutral when it comes to House favoritism. She expects good sportsmanship from all players, regardless of affiliations or friendships off the pitch, and has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who engages in unsportsmanlike behavior (i.e., bullying, threatening, unnecessary roughness, etc.). Your House Team has been set up to look as though your players are breaking Hooch’s rules of conduct and are in jeopardy of being suspended from playing for the season, risking the chance to win Quidditch Cup. Will you try to convince Madam Hooch that your team is being framed, will you risk sorting it out yourself, or are you guilty of the accusations?

 

Nimbus Society.

Outside of the Dragon Club, there is a special club sponsored by Hooch for gifted fliers who may or may not enjoy Quidditch but do share a love of flying and compete in competitions with other Wizarding Schools all over the world. Known for daring maneuvers and awe-inspiring synchronous flight formations, students must show an aptitude for flying to receive an invite from Hooch to join.

 

Flying Lessons.

Not everyone loves flying. A number of fears can prevent students from reaching their full potential on a broom, and one bad fall can have some never touching a broom again for the rest of their lives. Rolanda loves nothing more than to work one-on-one with students, meeting them at their comfort level and encouraging them to face their fears. Will she be able to help you overcome your fears and discover a love for flying or could a trip to the hospital wing reinforce your belief that if you were meant to fly, the gods would have given you wings?


 

08/15/2023 05:40 PM 

Cataclysm.

 
Cataclysm.

It came without warning.

Generations to come would refer to it as The Cataclysm. The end of magic as all wizardkind knew it. Those who had lost their magic that day would forever be able to describe in great detail where they were the moment magic died.

For Rolanda, it had been a rather painful event that had nearly killed her. Soaring 50 feet in the air over the Black Lake on her favored broom, she’d been in her element when she felt the shift on a near molecular level. It was as if a part of her deep inside had flickered out like the flame of a candle kissed by an extinguishing breath.

In that very same moment, the broom went limp beneath her and gravity overcame both broom and rider. Although no stranger to falls, Rolanda was so dumbstruck that it took her several seconds before she began to scramble for her wand.

Arresto Momentum!” she shouted over the rush of wind.

Nothing happened.

Her plummet towards the dark, cold water hadn’t slowed in the slightest.

Flicking her wand through the movements to conjure a Cushioning Charm yielded the same results. Her wand was as useless in that moment as the broom had been. In moments she would impact the water.

Trying to fight against gravity and wind resistance to make herself as vertical as possible, Rolanda felt the impact as violently as if she’d hit solid ground. Unlike the ground, however, the water didn’t break her fall–merely began to slow it as it dragged around her body and clothing.

The rush of cold was a shock to her system and she had to fight the urge to gasp against it, knowing she would surely drown if she took in water or expelled any oxygen in her stores. Having taken the brunt of the fall, her legs ached, but didn’t feel broken. As soon as her wits were about her, she began kicking and pushing through the water back to the surface, knowing there were greater dangers in the lake than drowning or freezing to death.

She wasn’t sure how deep she’d been dragged down by the force of her fall, but she could see the sunlight streaming above her. Each time she thought she was about to breach the surface, her hands only encountered more water, and a sickening panic started to take hold as her lungs burned with the need for oxygen. Her throat reflexively opened, chest expanding as she swallowed whatever air was left in her mouth. She was seconds away from her body’s autonomy kicking in and she fought as hard as she could to reach the top.

Her vision was starting to dim, the fight becoming a struggle to make her limbs cooperate. She was sure this was it. This was how she would die. One last final claw through the water and air kissed her fingers. She kicked hard one final time and drew in a deep lungful of cold air that burned her lungs almost as much as the oxygen deprivation. She coughed and sputtered and gagged, gasping in air in every moment in between until she had finally regulated her breathing again.

Her heart was hammering in her chest, limbs trembling, but she was alive… in the middle of the bloody lake. Her wand was somewhere at the bottom of the lake now, ripped from her grip upon impact. She had no idea where the broom was, but assumed it had suffered the same watery fate.

Why had both failed? What had she felt in that moment before the fall? So many questions were racing through her mind, but now was not the time to think on it. Setting out towards the nearest shoreline, Rolanda alternated between front crawl and backstroke in order to conserve her energy and keep her arms and legs from growing too weak and tired.

It seemed to take hours to swim into shore, and she weakly pulled herself onto the pebbled shore, past the point of where the water lapped at the land, and collapsed into an exhausted heap. Rolanda knew she needed to get back to the castle and find out what had happened to her–why she couldn’t use magic anymore–but she couldn’t even will her body to move. Unable to fight any longer, she lost consciousness at the edge of the lake.

When the darkness began to recede, Rolanda felt herself being carried, her limbs dangling uselessly like a ragdoll around her. A warm, musky scent tickled her olfactory senses that experience told her was a horse. She could hear hooves clomping the earth rhythmically–loads of them–like a pack. Moving her head to try and bring herself fully around, a low voice reassured her she was alright and slowly her eyes opened–greeted by the broad, bare chest of a centaur.

“Where am I?”

“We found you on the shore near the forest; we’re taking you back to Hogwarts…although I’m not sure it will do any good.”

“What do you mean?” Hooch struggled weakly in the centaur’s arms, head lulling to catch sight of the pack following behind them. “What’s going on?”

“Something’s happened to the magic in our world,” he told her. “We all feel it.”

The Magic… Rolanda inhaled sharply. “I was flying over the lake and felt this…I don’t know…thing happen inside of me. My broom fell away and I couldn’t cast any spells.”

“Kiros was near the shore when it happened, he saw you fall. I was quite surprised to find you alive.”

“That makes two of us.”

As her wits came about her a bit more, Rolanda realized they were deep in the forest, which seemed to be a roundabout way of getting back to the castle when they could have followed the shoreline. When she said as much, she saw the centaur’s jaw tense.

“Whatever has dampened the magic in our world has weakened the charms that have repelled muggles from this area for centuries. We can smell them on the outskirts of the forest, and need to remain as hidden as possible.”

Her inquisitive nature was churning over the possibilities of what might have happened. If it wasn’t just her affected by the loss of magic, then something must have caused the interference. Could a spell gone horribly wrong have such a catastrophic effect? She couldn’t even begin to fathom the type of spell that would have such a powerful backfire. Perhaps an object that had been improperly used? Magic couldn’t just simply die…could it?

The centaurs came to a stop, still well within the thick treeline, but Rolanda recognized the path that would lead out of the forest and up to the castle. “I’m sorry, but this is as far as we dare go. Will you be able to walk?”

Gritting her teeth to brace herself, Rolanda gave a nod and steadied herself against him until she was sure her knees wouldn’t buckle under her weight. Her muscles ached and burned, and though she swayed momentarily, she remained standing. “Where will you go? What will you do?”

“Stay hidden,” he answered. “For as long as we can.”

Before she could tell them that she would do her best to keep them apprised of what was going on, the pack turned and cantored back into the recesses of the treeline.

Tired, dirty, damp, and smelling of lake water and centaur musk, Rolanda trudged up the long, winding paths towards the castle. There was a sense of eeriness that surrounded the grounds, a hush as if the earth itself was holding its breath. There were no signs of any students or staff, no smoke issuing from Hagrid’s chimney. It was as if all life had vanished, and a small part of her seized with fear that perhaps they had. Perhaps whatever had taken the magic, had taken all who had been at Hogwarts.

The large wooden doors to the main corridor were shut as she approached, but creaked open just before her hand lifted to press against it and the age-lined face of Minerva McGonagall swam into view, visibly relieved.

“There you are!” The Scots woman breathed. “Hagrid looked everywhere.”

“What’s happened?”

“We don’t know,” she sighed, clearly agitated. She took hold of Rolanda’s arm, helping to support and guide her to the nearest place to sit. “We have sent all the students home. Only staff remain. Most are in the library trying to find anything that may shed light on what’s happened.”

A pair of heels clicked on stone and Rolanda looked over to see Poppy Pomfrey hurrying towards her, a heavy war-time medic bag slung around her shoulder. “Thank Merlin you’re alright!” The medic breathed, already assessing Rolanda’s vitals without the aid of her wand.

Rolanda tried to pull her wrist away from the woman checking her pulse. “I’m fine. Just sore and very, very grumpy. I wasn’t expecting to have to swim across the lake after falling 50 feet from a broom.”

Poppy’s lips pulled into a tight line, “Well it’s better than hitting the ground. Your bones would have been shattered to bits and without magic…” Her voice wavered, clearly emotional and Minerva touched her shoulder empathetically.

“Get some rest for now, Rolanda. Whatever has happened…” she took a deep breath, looking equally overwhelmed and alarmed. “We’re going to need to find a way through this together.”

There was a quality to her voice that led Rolanda to the terrible thought that this could be permanent. That if they couldn’t figure out what had happened and find a way to reverse it, their lives as they knew it–Hogwarts, Quidditch, everything magical–would come to an end. Poppy was pushing something into Rolanda’s hand and she looked down at the vial of ruby colored liquid.

“It may not be at full potency,” she said. “I’m not sure how much the magical properties of the ingredients were affected, but it should still help with the pain.”

Rolanda uncorked the vial and tipped the contents down her throat, wiping her lips with the back of her hand before handing it back to Poppy with a nod of thanks. She watched the two women retreat down the corridor, and let her head fall back against the stone wall with a bone-weary sigh. She knew she needed to take Minerva’s advice and rest, but how could she possibly do that while everything hung in the balance?

After several moments, and with great effort, she forced herself to her feet and set off to join her colleagues in the library, determined not to rest until an answer was found.

08/13/2023 11:10 PM 

Point of Contention

 
point of contention.

October 1993

The early October wind in the Scottish Highlands could be unforgiving at times, but rarely were the vistas so beautiful. It was for this reason that Rolanda had dragged Charity out of the castle and in the opposite direction of the group of students destined for Hogsmeade, despite the protests of the woman lagging a few steps behind.

“Honestly, Ro, you’re the flying instructor. Why can’t we just take a couple of brooms up to wherever it is you’re taking us?”

“Because it’s about more than just the destination.”

“Merlin help me if you say it’s the blessed journey…” Charity huffed as they made their way along a narrow trail leading up the mountainside.

The white-haired witch turned to grin deviously at her partner, who–in turn–rolled her eyes dramatically. “I’m getting too old for this.”

“Oh, pish posh. I’m older than you and I find this invigorating.”

“I was never terribly athletic.”

Hooch chuckled, remembering how anti-sports Burbage had been in their youth. She had thought it all rather unladylike. Just getting the witch to mount a broom had been a feat… But, she was here now, however reluctantly, and Rolanda knew that once they reached the top, Charity would swallow all further complaints.

At least until they had to make their way back down.

Trying to get Charity to engage in conversation along the hike hadn’t yielded any positive results. Too winded, too busy concentrating on her footing, and in too sour of a mood to be terribly delightful, Rolanda had wondered if perhaps they should have just taken the brooms after all. She had thought this might be fun, but had forgotten just how much Charity hated physical activity.

“Shall we just turn around and go back to the castle?” Hooch asked with a defeated sigh.

“You’re only asking me this now?”

“Well, if you’re not enjoying it, then what’s the point?”

“For the life of me, I don’t know why you thought I would enjoy this! I’ve never enjoyed this sort of thing.”

Rolanda’s chin fell against her chest, lips pursing with choleric humour, but she kept the irritation out of her voice. “I thought you might at least enjoy spending time with me, away from the students, away from other staff. We always do the things you like, but never anything I enjoy. I wouldn’t have brought you here if I didn’t think it would have been worth it, but I can see now that I was mistaken and I’m sorry. Let’s go back.”

Despite her disdain for all things physical, Charity had the decency to look abashed. Perhaps Rolanda was embellishing slightly by saying they never did things she enjoyed–how many Quidditch matches had Charity gone to when she would have much rather stayed in with a book?–but she could tell this bloody hike meant something to the other woman, and that she’d been looking forward to bringing Charity. Stepping up the footpath until they were closer, Charity laid a gloved hand along Rolanda’s cheek–pink from the cold and wind. “I love you. And I’m sorry for being such a pillock. Come on, we’re nearly there. Let’s keep going.”

Yellow eyes locked onto the saxe blues of her partner, seeing the love mingled with the sincerity of her apology. A soft breath melted her irritation and she felt the tension leave her shoulders as a smile pulled at the corners of her lips. “You’re sure?”

Charity looked past her towards the trail that lay ahead, and though Rolanda could tell the woman wasn’t thrilled, Charity nodded anyways. “Lead on,” she said with a decisive nod.

Brushing a lock of blonde hair behind the other woman’s ear, Rolanda leaned in and silently thanked her with a soft kiss. Charity’s lips were cold from the wind and Rolanda was pleased that she had a thermos of tea shrunk down and tucked away in her hiking robes to warm them up when they finally reached where they were going.

Trying to be a bit more mindful of Charity’s discomfort, they moved a bit slower so that the other woman wasn’t quite as breathless. Rolanda occasionally reached back to offer her hand on a particularly steep incline, and soon–both in better spirits–they were reaching the small outcrop with a view of the entire valley surrounding the Black Lake.

“Oh!” Charity exclaimed, breathless as her eyes took in the burst of autumnal colors as far as her eyes could see. A kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and greens painted the hillsides against the clear blue sky. The sun was reflected on the surface of the lake, light scattering like a million yellow diamonds. Plumes of soft, gray smoke could be seen issuing from chimneys in Hogsmeade.

Rolanda’s gaze, however, was fixed on the woman before her, taking in every moment of Charity’s delight and swelling with affection. “Didn’t I tell you it would be worth it?”

“Not in as many words, no.” Charity teased, a cheeky grin flashing in Rolanda’s direction. “How on earth did you find this spot?”

“Luck,” she answered, pulling several items from her pocket and using her wand to enlarge them back to their normal size. She passed the thermos to Charity before shaking out a blanket and setting it on the ground. Next came a tin full of biscuits and small nibbles. “Oh, I do love you,” Charity sighed happily, hugging the warm thermos against her chest as she watched Rolanda fix a spot for them to sit and rest.

“As much as I know you hated the hike, I at least know you well enough to know you would appreciate this bit.”

They sat shoulder to shoulder, passing the thermos back and forth between them as they enjoyed the small sampling of treats. Conversation always came easy between them, and it drifted between what they thought of the new crop of first years to whether or not the curse of the DADA position would be broken this time around.

“If anyone’s capable, it would be him,” Rolanda argued in favor of the newly appointed professor. “He was a brilliant student, good head about him.”

As a companionable silence drifted over them, Rolanda took Charity’s hand in hers. A clutch of butterflies hatched in her stomach, knowing that her next words might sour the mood. “I know we agreed not to talk about it again, but I love you more than anything in the world–more than bloody Quidditch, more than flying–and I know that you love me.”

“Oh, gods… Please, Ro. Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say.” Charity pulled her hand back, face turning away with a pinched expression.

“Why? What’s so wrong about me wanting to marry you?”

“Sweetheart, I love that you want to marry me, I truly do…but you know how I feel about marriage. The entire institution of marriage was never intended for the purposes most people associate with it now. It was never about love. It was about property. It was about ensuring a man’s lineage. While the concept of marriage has evolved over time and more people have the freedom to choose who they marry and why, it’s still archaic and I don’t need anyone else validating the fact that I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Hooch’s lips thinned into a nearly invisible line. She understood Charity’s view, but she still disagreed with it. Even in wizarding society, you needed to be legally married to be recognized as any sort of beneficiary. “You know it’s more than that. If something were to happen to me, or–Circe forbid–you…neither of us have any legal claim. Regardless of what we may have written in our wills, what if someone were to challenge it?”

“Who would challenge it?” Charity couldn’t help but laugh, finding the idea absurd.

“Your family.” Rolanda said with no hesitation, her voice low and gravely with disdain. “Your parents ensured we wouldn’t be together when we were younger–you honestly think your siblings would allow me any rights if we aren’t legally married?”

Charity gave an exasperated sigh. “Gods above, Rolanda–”

Hooch shook her head, muttering angrily. “If you tell me I’m being foolish, so help me–”

“You are being foolish.” Charity’s voice was sharp as it cut across Rolanda’s words. “You know damn well I haven’t had any contact with my brother or sisters in years. Years. Because I chose you. I chose you and this world and they couldn’t abide by either. So spare me your sanctimonious sh*t. I know how important marriage is to you, regardless of whatever reasons you’re trying to sell me on, but it’s not to me, Ro, and nothing you say will ever change my opinion on that.”

“So that’s it, then? No compromise. You get what you want and to hell with what I want.” Even as the words left her mouth, Rolanda knew how selfish they were. The look of incredulity she was met with confirmed they’d been received just as such. She knew she should apologize, but those words seemed to stick in her throat.

“You really are unbelievable sometimes,” Charity scoffed before pushing herself to her feet. Before Rolanda could get a word out, she vanished with a soft pop.

Hooch drew her knees up, resting her elbows there as she dropped her head into her hands, fingers tugging at the silver strands of her hair in quiet rage. Why couldn’t she leave well enough alone when it came to the subject of marriage? Marriage had never been something she’d been keen on or even wanted in her youth…or her 20s…30…40s…50s… It hadn’t been until the second wizarding war against Voldemort that it had started to matter to her. She often thought about the Longbottoms and the Potters. Former pupils who had been touched–in very different ways–by Dark Magic. Even though she and Charity had no children, she couldn’t bear the thought that one of them would be denied any sort of rights or privilege that were only afforded to those related by blood or marriage.

She understood Charity’s views on marriage, she respected them, but couldn’t Charity see her point of view? Even if Charity’s family didn’t protest, archaic wizarding laws still might overrule any sort of last wishes or will. And what if they weren’t lost in death? What if they ended up as the Longbottoms had? What then? Neither would have any say in the sort of care or treatment the other would receive.

Rolanda knew this would always be a point of contention between herself and Charity, but she refused to give up. Even if she ended up in the doghouse every time she brought it up, she wouldn’t stop trying to change Charity’s mind on it. Or at least whittle her down until she gave up out of sheer exhaustion.

Lifting her head with a wearied sigh, Rolanda let her gaze take in the beauty of the sprawling Highlands before her. She wished she hadn’t ruined the time with Charity by bringing up the conversation of marriage, but she wouldn’t apologize for her convictions on the matter. She wished it didn’t always end in an argument, but both were too mulish for their own good.

“Like a bloody niffler with a galleon,” she told herself before pulling out her wand and shrinking everything back down so that it fit in her pocket once more.

She could have apparated back, but Rolanda knew the hike down would do her good. It would give Charity time to cool off and let Rolanda figure out how she would apologize this time around. This would probably require more than just a visit to Pomona for a bouquet of Charity’s favorite flowers, but she wasn’t quite sure exactly what would be needed. Hopefully the answer would come to her by the time she was back down the mountainside.

06/20/2023 10:34 PM 

Morning Rays of Bliss

 
Morning rays of bliss.

Golden rays from the early morning sun crept through the darkened room, consuming every shadow in their path and slowly bleeding the night away. Soon, Rolanda knew, those rays would reach the bed and stir her beloved, which in turn meant the day would officially begin. And so, the white-haired witch with the enchanted hawk eyes propped herself up on her elbow, content to watch her lover drift on the sea of dreamless sleep.

An errant lock of blonde hair threatened to tickle Charity’s nose and prematurely wake her; beckoning Rolanda to gently sweep it back in a feather-light touch to tuck it behind her ear. Her fingers itched to run through the silken locks, but she denied herself the pleasure. The Tickle, having been denied its primary target, found another victim to prey upon, and Roland twitched her nose as she felt a sneeze coming on.

Trying desperately to fight it off, the Tickle refused to be deterred, and Rolanda had to concede the win, turning her head to try and stifle the sneeze and muffle the sound. It was no use. Ever the light sleeper, Charity had been roused and inhaled softly as consciousness found her.

“Bless you.”

“Damn. I was trying not to wake you.”

A sleepy smile pulled at Charity’s face as her eyes slowly peeked open, “Do I want to know how long you’ve been lying there staring at me?”

“Not staring,” Rolanda argued, finally giving into temptation and stroking Charity’s hair. “Simply…admiring.”

The blonde witch hummed, rolling towards the other woman and nuzzling in against her, still reluctant to be torn from slumber. “Admiring what? My crow’s feet? Sun spots? Counting how many new gray hairs have appeared during the night?”

“Oh, fiddle-faddle. You’re ravishing, and no amount of crow's feet will ever change that.”

“You’re a liar,” Charity murmured, her lips pressing against Rolanda’s neck, voice turning a bit breathy, taking her hand and guiding it between her legs. “Tell me more.”

A playful smirk curled Hooch’s lips at the corners, her fingers skimming over Charity’s moist heat. “Well, if I’d known staring at you would have this sort of reaction, I would have confessed to watching you sleep ages ago.”

Teeth nipped playfully. “And here I thought you said you were simply admiring.”

“I can do both, can’t I?” Two fingers pressed deeper into Charity’s warmth, drawing a soft sigh of pleasure. Rather than answer, the younger witch wove her fingers into short silver locks, still messy from sleep and directed Rolanda’s lips to her own.

The kiss was needy as Charity shifted to allow Rolanda more access, her own hands tugging at the witch’s short, spiky locks–always messier in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Hooch growled, somewhere between pleasure and protest, teeth capturing Charity’s lower lip as yellow orbs penetrated Charity’s leaden-blue eyes.

Charity’s gaze softened, her hand resting along the sharp angle of Rolanda’s cheek, gently stroking until Hooch relinquished her hold. “Let me see you.” Charity’s voice was soft, barely a whisper, but Rolanda didn’t need clarification. It was always the one request Charity made whenever they were intimate.

Closing her eyes, Rolanda wordlessly reversed the spell that gifted her with her hawk-like gaze and slowly reopened them so that Charity could look fixedly at the vibrant blue of Rolanda’s natural eye color. “There’s my love,” Charity murmured, drawing Rolanda into a tender kiss that quickly spiraled into heated passion.

When Charity’s fingers began to tease and caress her in return, Rolanda released a soft moan, trailing kisses along her jaw and behind her ear. As teasing turned to earnestness, the sounds of their pleasure surrounded them like a sweet symphony, slowly rising to the crescendo. Charity was the first to hit her peak, head thrown back against the pillows, blonde hair splayed out around her.

Merlin, but she is beautiful like this. Rolanda couldn’t help but tell herself as she saw her lover through the euphoric waves of bliss.

And then it was her turn.

Charity shifted, urging Rolanda onto her back so that she could hover over her as her fingers moved rhythmically inside of her and her thumb caressed the rest of her. Rolanda was quickly coming undone–unable to keep her eyes open as her mind and body honed in on the pleasure being doled to her. When Charity’s mouth found her breast, her back arched as she presented herself wantonly to her lover. It seemed to simultaneously last forever and no time at all before she hoarsely cried out her release, fingers gripping the sheets in an effort not to pull Charity’s hair.

As she slowly came back down, Charity was pressing soft kisses along her chest, shoulders and neck. Rolanda sighed almost forlornly. “Damn…”

The blonde witch lifted her head at the sound of disappointment, curiosity and concern etched into every beautiful line on her face.

“Now we have to get up and get ready for our first classes of the day when all I want to do is stay right here with you the whole day.”

A bright, albeit mischievous, smile filled Charity’s face. “Well, I suppose you simply have something to look forward to later, hm?” She gifted Rolanda with a promising kiss, then slipped out of bed with a cheeky grin. “If you’re not in too much of a hurry, I might be convinced to share my bath with you.”

With movement far more spry than others among Rolanda’s age group, the witch sprung from the bed, chasing her lover into their shared bathroom. The sounds of delighted laughter echoing off the stone and setting the tone for the rest of the day.

05/17/2023 12:47 PM 

Quintessential Muggle - Drabble

 
quintessential muggle.

There was something about this spot that had become a source of solace for Rolanda in the years since Charity had been lost. Something about the way the sunlight filtered through the tall window panes and warmed the wood was comforting, like an invisible hug by arms she longed to be held by.

Charity had loved London. “Quintessential Muggle,” she’d always deemed it, ever eager to school Rolanda on the history of everything from the electric streetlamps to the London Eye. If she aligned her vision just right between the buildings, she could see the large glass bubbles of the Eye in the distance, slowly making their way around. Charity had taken her on the Eye once, insisting it was a ‘must’ for anyone who enjoyed flying as much as Rolanda did, and while Rolanda had argued that it was nothing like flying, she’d enjoyed it nonetheless.

She missed the arguments most, some days. The playful needling at each other in the way only good friends and lovers could do. “Merlin save me!” Charity would exclaim whenever she knew she wasn’t going to win one of their matches, throwing up her hands in exasperated defeat and shaking her blonde head with a roll of her blue eyes. The two would laugh gaily, even though Charity would attempt to act as if she were cross. The memory never failed to bring a smile to Rolanda’s face, even if her heart still panged with longing to hear that laugh one more time.

Occasionally Rolanda would find herself talking to Charity when she visited this spot, though she didn’t know why. Not having a body to bury meant having no physical connection to any one spot. Her name was on the memorial at Hogwarts, of course, but Rolanda had only managed to visit the memorial a handful of times since its unveiling. Far too many names; far too many innocents lost. She couldn’t feel Charity there, despite the fact that they’d spent so much time on the grounds together, but here… here she could feel her. In her “Quintessential Muggle” London. And it was here that Rolanda came whenever the need to feel Charity near her became suffocating.

“I’m so sorry,” she would inevitably always say. “If I hadn’t insisted you go see your family, you’d be safe. You’d be here with me. I know you would tell me it’s not my fault, not to be so daft, but you’re not here to win that argument and so I shall continue to blame myself.” Her eyes would burn with tears, but Rolanda would refuse to let them fall; keeping her eyes shut tight until they receded. “Gods in Heaven, Chari, I miss the hell out of you.”

She would stay for as long as the warmth remained in the spot, sometimes for hours on end, but always fortified to face another day without the love of her life. Before departing, Rolanda touched the panes of the glass with her fingertips just as she always did, picturing Charity in her mind’s eye. “I’ll see you soon, my love.”

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