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The Maiden and the Crone

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Rose reaches out impulsively to steady the heavy tome in Minerva's delicate hands, and Minerva rebukes her gently: "I can manage, thank you." Rose clasps her hands behind her back, unsure if the heat she feels is a blush or just the heat of Minerva's room, filled with the heady liquorice scent of the potion on the fire.

Minerva places the book on the stand and turns the whisper-thin pages. At last she finds the spell: There stand youthful Artemis and ancient Hecate, nude and facing one another beneath a starry sky, above the text explaining the bond that can be made only on this liminal night.

A smile crinkles Minerva's jewel-bright eyes, bespeaking quiet pride. "No witch in my family has taken an apprentice in seven generations."

Rose swallows, her mouth gone dry. "Mum always says the wizarding world doesn't put enough emphasis on higher education..."

A soft, knowing chuckle. Minerva takes Rose's hand in hers. There is an ethereal beauty to her careworn face, and it makes Rose's chest go tight.

"Are you certain?"

In her nineteen years, Rose has never been more certain. She nods.

Moving as one, they bring their fingertips to touch the goddesses' names.