Santana Lopez stands on Platform 9 ¾, clutching her trunk in one hand and the cage of her owl in the other. The September wind is cold, whipping through her dark curls and ruffling the fabric of her robes.
Santana stares at the Hogwarts Express, studying the frantic parents and students milling about the edge of the train platform. She takes a deep breath, setting her jaw in grim determination.
It’s her first year at Hogwarts, and she’s going to be a queen.
So, head held high and ignoring the squawks of her snowy owl, Santana boards the train. She is going to rule this school. She is going to be amazing. She already knows where she’ll be sorted-- Slytherin, the house where ambitious girls are accepted and where dreams come true.
She keeps her vision in her head as she stalks the train passageways, glancing between the windows of closed compartment doors. She needs to find someone to sit with-- someone who she can instantly befriend, someone who can be her support when she conquers all of Hogwarts. Someone to be her second-in-command.
She spots a compartment that’s empty save for a girl-- a first year girl, judging by the way her small legs dangle off the bench she’s perched on. She’s very pretty, with a short blonde ponytail that curls at the nape of her neck.
Santana decides she likes the girl’s hair. She’s perfect.
So she enters the girl’s compartment and slides the clear door shut behind her. The blonde girl glances up, chewing contentedly at a chocolate frog, and grins. Even with chocolate staining her lips, Santana can’t help but think, wow, she’s so pretty. “I’m Brittany. Do you want a chocolate frog?”
Santana shakes her head. She doesn’t need candy on her teeth on her first day. Even so, she takes a seat across from Brittany in the compartment.
“Hello,” Santana replies, all business. “I’m Santana Lopez, your new best friend.”
The Sorting Hat puts Santana in Slytherin, and she walks smugly to her place on the Slytherin bench. She can’t help but hope that Brittany will be placed with her, but-- no, Brittany is put in Ravenclaw. It doesn’t really make much sense to Santana, because Brittany hadn’t exactly seemed like the sharpest tool in the shed, but she knows better than to judge people based on how they seem.
But when Brittany sits down at the Ravenclaw table, she meets Santana’s eyes across the Great Hall and gives a little smile and a wave, like they’re sharing a secret. It makes Santana’s heart thump in her chest.
So this is what it feels like to have a friend.
“I kissed a boy the other day,” Brittany says absently while they’re doing their Potions homework in the library.
Santana startles so much she accidentally knocks over her ink bottle. Ink spills across her paper, staining it dark, but she doesn’t care. Her heart is pounding, stomach twisting in an uncomfortable way. “What?”
“Yeah,” Brittany shrugs, seemingly unconcerned. She’s doodling flowers all over the margins of her paper. “Some Gryffindor boy. I don’t know.”
“Oh,” Santana says, feeling lost. The tightness in her stomach grows. “How… how was it?”
“Okay,” Brittany answers thoughtfully. She frowns. “He smelled very minty.”
Santana clutches her quill so hard it might break. She doesn’t like the thought of Brittany-- her Brittany, her best friend-- kissing a strange Gryffindor in the school corridors. It makes her feel wrong, somehow. Wrong and angry.
“Whatever,” Santana mutters. “You’re going to fail this essay, by the way, if you keep drawing all over your paper like that.”
Brittany glances up, hurt scrawled across her face, because Santana never talks to her like that, never.
Santana forces down the guilt that bubbles up in her chest. “I have to go,” she lies, standing up and cramming her parchment and books into her bag. “I need to go meet with some of my friends.”
She has no friends other than Brittany. Brittany, who just keeps staring at her, hurt and confused beyond belief.
Santana makes it all the way to the nearest bathroom before locking herself into a stall and crying hateful tears for no reason at all.
In the past year, Brittany has kissed so many boys.
Santana gets better at controlling her emotions. She gets better at listening to all of Brittany’s conquests and keeping a neutral expression on her face. She gets better at talking about cute boys with her best friend because that’s what best friends do.
But the ugly thing inside her always rears its head during these conversations, and Santana can’t figure out why.
It hits her one night, though, as she’s writing a paper in the Slytherin Common Room. It’s beyond late-- other than herself, the only person sprawled out across one of the luxurious couches is Noah Puckerman, who seems more focused on trying to make the silver throw pillow in front of him explode than on finishing his homework.
Santana sighs under her breath. He’ll have to do. They may only be thirteen, but she knows from rumors that Puck’s had almost as many… partners as Brittany has.
Even though the thought of kissing him makes her stomach churn with nausea, she has to do it. Because she can’t go on being jealous of her best friend-- and that, Santana decided long ago, is why she’s been so… uncomfortable with the idea of Brittany kissing other people.
She’s jealous that her best friend’s had her first kiss and she still hasn’t. Tonight is the night to remedy that.
“Puckerman,” Santana snaps, and the boy across the room glances up at her, looking a mixture of annoyed and intrigued.
“What?” he asks dumbly. Boys are so dumb. Santana decides to forgive him, though, because she supposes he’s good-looking enough.
Instead of answering, she does what any powerful Slytherin woman would do-- she takes initiative and gets up from the couch, stalking across the Common Room towards Puck.
He looks slightly terrified, and Santana can’t help but feel a glimmer pleased at that.
She sits down practically on his lap and he startles so much she almost falls of the couch. After a second, it seems that Puck finally catches on to what she’s doing because he loops his arms around her neck and tugs her closer.
Only when their lips are mere millimeters apart does the wave of pure panic crash over Santana, making her heart slam furiously into her ribcage. But she’s not a coward.
She steels herself and seals her mouth with Puck’s.
It takes all of her willpower not to recoil in horror. His lips are soft enough , she tells herself desperately, and at least he’s closed his eyes so they don’t have to make eye-contact while they do it. That would be so awkward.
So Santana keeps her lips pressed up against Puck’s, not really sure if she should be moving or not. She’s seen girls thread their hands through their boyfriends’ hair in films, but Puck doesn’t have much hair, so that option’s gone. Instead, she braces her palms against his chest, which is uncomfortably flat and stiff. Muscular, though, she’ll admit; maybe he’ll tell her his exercise routine so she can use it.
Puck finally pulls back, lips reddened and eyes lidded. “Uh,” he mumbles, glancing up at her. “That was…”
“You’re decent,” Santana manages, playing for casual and hoping he can’t hear the tremor in her voice. She can’t help but feel that she just lost something that could have been special with this… this person who means nothing to her. “Anyway. You’re welcome for that. I’m going to bed.”
The next morning, she smugly announces her victory to Brittany over breakfast. Brittany is enthusiastic and supportive and hungry for details.
For some reason, it doesn’t feel much like a victory.
Santana makes sure to kiss a new person at least every other week, just to keep up appearances. Truthfully, though, every kiss makes her more and more uneasy because she doesn’t like kissing.
She can stomach it for a few minutes or so, but it’s exhausting. And she just… she doesn’t like it. At all. Not like Brittany does-- Brittany, who talks about her ever-changing series of boyfriends.
Santana keeps her secret close to her heart. She doesn’t like kissing.
She’s such a freak. Nobody can ever know.
Because she’s risen in the ranks of popularity at Hogwarts, easily striding towards her position on the top. People fear her. She loves it. And the only person standing in her way is Quinn-fucking-Fabray, because she’s still angry that Santana keeps making out with the love of her life.
Sucks for her, though, because Puck is always readily available whenever Santana needs him. Besides, she revels in Quinn’s rage.
Anyway, life at Hogwarts is all fine and good and Santana thinks she might even be happy.
Then Brittany has to go and ruin it all by kissing a girl.
She says it while they’re at dinner one night-- Brittany has taken to sitting at the Slytherin table, and people are too afraid of Santana to do anything about it-- and her comment is so offhand that Santana almost misses it: “I kissed Quinn yesterday.”
The words register in Santana’s head and she spits out her pumpkin juice across her plate of treacle tart. KissedQuinnkissedQuinnkissedQuinn--
“You what?” Santana hisses under her breath and she’s furious. Seething. Angrier than she’s ever been in her entire life because what the fuck? Brittany-- her Brittany-- has gone and kissed the singular worst person in the entire world and it feels like Santana’s whole life is crumbling to pieces.
She doesn’t know who she hates more in that moment-- Quinn, for having the nerve to kiss her best friend, or Brittany, for kissing Quinn. A girl. Revulsion and something else collide in her chest, making it hard to breathe. Brittany can’t go around kissing girls, she just can’t. It won’t-- it will--
“So are you-- are you gay now?” Santana spits, the word flying from her lips like the filthiest of curses. “Have you been-- have you been spying on me while I change every day? This entire time?”
She doesn’t know where the words are coming from. This stuff has been drilled into her head since she was born; her family whispers over those “corrupted couples” in the Daily Prophet at the breakfast table.
Brittany can’t be-- she can’t be--
Santana risks a glance at her best friend and the pain in Brittany’s eyes is overwhelming. It makes her heart throb in her chest, makes bile burn the back of her throat.
“Bisexual is a thing, you know,” Brittany breathes, and no, Santana does not know-- what the fuck is a bisexual? What is going on? Hot, frustrated tears prickle at the corners of her eyes.
“Is that really how you feel?” Brittany chokes out, and-- shit, she’s crying. Brittany is crying and it’s all Santana’s fault. But before she can say a single word, Brittany stands in a swish of her robes and practically sprints from the Great Hall.
Santana feels the eyes of other students bore into her back as she stares at her plate of ruined dessert. She feels betrayed-- by Quinn, by Brittany, but mostly by herself. How could she-- what had pushed her to say things like that? Things that hurt Brittany so much?
Santana needs to scream. She needs to punch someone. She needs to burn the walls of the entire damned school to the ground.
She needs to find a bathroom, because she’s going to throw up.
So she, too, stands up from her plate and fights the dizziness threatening to tip her over. As purposefully as she can, Santana strides from the Great Hall and into the blessedly quiet Hogwarts corridors.
She doesn’t know where she’s going. There’s no destination in mind, only pain and anger and, most of all, confusion. She just doesn’t understand. Did Brittany like girls before today? Before she kissed Quinn?
Did Quinn-- is this all Quinn’s fault?
Santana’s teeth clench so hard she thinks she might break her jaw. Of course this is Quinn’s fault-- everything that goes wrong in the world is Quinn’s fault.
“I am going to find that bitch,” Santana growls under her breath, “and I am going to--”
“I’m assuming you’re talking about me,” comes an infuriatingly cool voice from behind her. Santana whirls around and there she is-- the devil herself, arms crossed over her chest and a stupid little smirk plastered over her hideous face.
Santana opens her mouth to speak but finds her wand in her hand instead, and she shouts a curse-- she doesn’t even know which one-- that Quinn counters so fast it’s almost enough to knock her off her feet.
“What the hell, Lopez?” Quinn shrieks. “What’s this even about?”
Santana’s wand clatters to the ground and before she even knows what she’s doing, she’s slumping to her knees and the cold stones of the corridor are digging into her shins. She’s sobbing, tears racing down her cheeks and she scrubs them furiously away.
“GO AWAY!” Santana bellows, hiding her face in her hands because she’s so ashamed. She’s breaking down in front of Quinn, of all people, and she hates everything. “Get-- get out of my life, get out, get out--”
And then there’s a hand rubbing her shoulder and Quinn’s whispering soothing nonsense into her ear and Santana weeps, utterly humiliated. She’s sunk so low that Quinn has to comfort her. She hates herself. She hates hates hates herself--
“This is about Brittany, isn’t it?” Quinn murmurs, and Santana wails brokenly. Quinn sighs and then wraps her up into a tight embrace and they stay there, a crumpled heap in an empty hallway, both trying and failing to keep Santana from breaking apart.
It only takes about two more minutes-- two minutes that feel like an eternity to Santana-- before she gets herself under control. Hiccupping unattractively, she tears herself from Quinn’s arms.
“Why-- why did you do it?” Santana whispers, voice cracking. She doesn’t even care anymore. Quinn’s seen it all-- seen all her weaknesses, something that could eventually lead to her demise.
And Santana can’t bring herself to care.
“I was experimenting. So was Brittany,” Quinn answers gently. “She realized she likes girls, just as much as she likes boys. That’s what bisexual is.”
Santana hugs herself tightly, wondering how exactly Quinn knows just what questions need to be answered.
“And,” Quinn continues, “I realized that I don’t. Like girls, I mean. Does it bother you that Brittany experimented? Or that she experimented with me?”
“Both,” Santana confesses in a voice so soft she marvels at how Quinn can hear her. “I-- I thought-- she’s my best friend. I… I’d know if she liked girls, wouldn’t I? I’d… I’d know, and it would be… it would be different.”
She can’t explain it.
“Sometimes,” Quinn says, and her voice holds levels of meaningfulness that Santana despises, “it takes people a little longer to figure out who they like. But that’s okay. Remember that.”
Santana’s head snaps up so fast she gets whiplash. “Are you implying something?” she sneers. “What? You think I’m a-- you think I’m like Brittany? You think I like girls, you think I--”
She can’t. Do. This.
So she spins around and because she’s already lost all of her dignity, Santana runs.
She ends up in the Room of Requirement-- which offers her nothing but an empty room with an enormous armchair that gives her a place to curl up and cry.
She’s a wreck.
Attempting to sort out the feelings tearing her apart is like trying to untangle the all the mysteries of the universe at once-- impossible. And yet Santana finds herself trying, extracting each emotion on its own and attempting to analyze it with a Slytherin’s efficiency.
She’s angry. That’s the first thing, the thing that’s easiest to identify. She’s angry at herself for showing Quinn how vulnerable she is. She’s angry at Quinn for trying to act understanding. She’s angry at Brittany for kissing Quinn because Brittany knows that Quinn’s literally her biggest enemy on the planet.
She’s angry at herself for hurting Brittany, and she’s angry at Brittany for kissing a girl.
And she’s confused. Confused because she knows that girls kissing girls is wrong; her family says it is. And she’s confused because Brittany is… Brittany. No matter who she kisses, she’s no freak; she’s not disgusting, or corrupted, or perverted, or a creep. She’s Brittany, the same girl who cries when people get hurt in Quidditch matches, who tries and fails to help first-years with their homework, who once made her Potions cauldron explode because she accidentally stirred the mixture too much.
Santana smiles weakly through her tears. The smile disappears in an instant, though, because she hurt Brittany.
She hurt her best friend, the most beautifully perfect human being to ever walk the planet. The person who would go to the moon and back for her, the person who accepts her despite her ambition and her drive and every bitchy remark.
Santana stands on wobbly legs and leaves the Room of Requirement.
She finds herself in the bronze-and-blue Ravenclaw Common Room a few minutes later-- Brittany had given her the password a few days ago-- and she stares at the couches through the darkness. Everyone’s asleep; not even the seventh-year Ravenclaws are still up studying, but Santana’s been in this room plenty of times. She knows it just as well as she knows the Slytherin Common Room, and she’s at the foot of the spiral stairs that lead to the girls’ dormitory in no time.
She cracks open the door to the dormitory and slips inside, careful not to wake any snoring Ravenclaw girls. Through the beams of moonlight filtering through the window at the side of the room, she tiptoes over to Brittany’s bed all the way in the back.
As she nears, she can hear the faintest sound of sniffling from behind the filmy curtains surrounding the bed and her heart breaks all over again.
“Brittany?” Santana whispers, as loud as she dares. “Britt?”
The sniffling stops. There’s no response.
Santana takes a deep breath by the foot of Brittany’s bed. “Can we… talk?”
She hears the creak of bedsprings as Brittany sits up, and Santana takes that as an invitation to crawl onto the mattress and push past the privacy curtains. She casts a quick silencing spell so nobody overhears them, snapping the curtains shut once more, and then a Lumos charm.
Light glows from the tip of her wand and she can see Brittany-- dressed in her softest silk pajamas-- propped up against the pillows and leaning on the headboard. Her blonde hair is a mess, eyes rimmed with red, and the light casts all sorts of haunting shadows across Brittany’s face.
“I,” Santana begins, and the breath leaves her lungs in a rush. She doesn’t know how to begin; sorry won’t even make up for a quarter of the things she had said.
Brittany chews on her lower lip and waits, afraid.
“I said things,” Santana begins in a low voice, “that I didn’t mean. Not at all. And I said them because I… I was angry and confused. I was angry at you for being with Quinn-- she’s a bitch, and you deserve so much better than her. You deserve so much better than all the people you’ve ever kissed, actually. But that’s-- that’s not the point.
“The point is that I… I didn’t understand. You-- I’ve told you about my family before. You know how they are. They don’t… I’ve just always been taught that-- that anything even close to ‘gay’ is bad. And, um, I didn’t know what bisexual was before tonight, so… there’s that. But I was confused and afraid because I guess…
“I guess I thought that kissing Quinn made you a different person? But you’re not. You’re my Brittany, my very best friend. And you’re the same person you always were, ever since that day we met on the train in first year. And I-- I realize that now. So… I hope you can-- can forgive me, even if I don’t deserve it. Because--” her voice cracks “-- Brittany, I need you. I can’t do this without you. I am so, so fucking sorry.”
She stares at her hands, folded in her lap. There are no more tears left in her to cry.
She’s never been more terrified in her entire life.
But then she feels a hand on her shoulder and she risks a glance up, and Brittany’s eyes are filled with sympathy and warmth and forgiveness.
That night, Santana falls asleep in the safety of her best friend’s arms.
Okay, so Brittany spends the next year kissing boys. And girls.
It’s… interesting, to say the least.
Santana isn’t comfortable with it, not exactly, but she knows she’s not repulsed; her family would be, which is why she doesn’t tell them that her best friend’s bisexual, but she’s most certainly not repulsed.
At first, she still doesn’t entirely get it.
As time goes on, though, she starts to wonder. She and Brittany don’t talk about the people they kiss anymore, but she wonders. And every once in a while, when she’s lying awake at night and can’t sleep, she thinks about what Brittany sees in girls.
They’re gorgeous, for one thing-- much, much prettier than boys. And softer. And they smell nicer. And probably even kiss better, but--
And that’s where Santana always cuts off that dangerous line of thinking. Because, unlike Quinn-- that bitch, because some things never change, even if the blonde girl wants to have stupid bonding moments in the middle of the hallway-- she can’t afford to experiment. Her family would ruin her. Throw her out, torture her with the Cruciatus Curse…
Yeah. No experimenting.
Still, though, the thoughts sometimes pop into her head unbidden-- little snippets, like wow, Brittany looks good today or Brittany’s hair looks like gold in the sun or Brittany’s eyes are so--
Okay, so most of her girl-related thoughts revolve around Brittany, but that’s really no surprise. Brittany is her sun and Santana is a planet caught in orbit, no matter how much she tries to distance herself from any thoughts that aren’t strictly platonic.
But it’s fine. She’s fine. Because she keeps kissing boys every once in a while and makes sure she reminds herself that they aren’t so bad and she most certainly doesn’t admire the planes of Brittany’s face while she’s sleeping.
So, basically, all is well.
There’s this Gryffindor boy named Kurt in her Transfiguration class, and he’s gay.
He doesn’t seem to care that everyone in the entire school knows it; Santana constantly watches him out of the corner of her eye, wondering what makes him different. Wondering how he can be so… comfortable in his own skin even when he’s, you know, gay.
It takes her almost two months to work up the nerve to ask him.
She corners him one day after class as he’s packing up his stuff.
“You,” she says to him sharply, because she can’t let him know that she knows his name. That would be so embarassing, and that would mean letting him know that she isn’t as above everyone else as she pretends to be.
Kurt glances up at her, one eyebrow raised. “Me,” he says mildly, albeit a little warily. “What do you want, Santana?”
Santana opens her mouth and then closes it, because this is… much, much harder than she thought it would be. “What’s it like being gay?” she blurts finally, and it’s the shock widening his blue eyes that makes her add, “Just for scientific purposes, of course.”
Kurt fidgets hesitantly with his hands. “It’s… I don’t know?”
Santana rolls her eyes. “Of course you know. You’re gay. You’re probably one of the only people in this school who truly does know, for real.”
Besides, it’s not like she can ask Brittany. She doesn’t want her best friend to have any idea that she’s curious about things like sexuality. That would just… not end well.
“No, I really don’t know,” Kurt repeats with an exasperated huff. “Like… it’s just who I am. That’s like me asking you-- asking you, ‘ what’s it like being straight?’”
For a fleeting moment, Santana panics. What is it like being straight?
Terrible, she thinks immediately. Kissing boys is no fun at all and sometimes I wonder why I’m even kissing them but I can’t wonder things like that because my family would hate me and my best friend’s bisexual and I think she’s beautiful and--
Kurt freezes, understanding filtering over his features. “Wait. Are you--”
Santana presses her knuckles to her mouth, holding back either a sob or a scream, she can’t tell which. Oh my god. Yes, she is. She is.
Kurt exhales long and slow, like he’s being confronted with a situation that he doesn’t really know what to do with. Which is-- understandable, actually, because Santana doesn’t really know what to do either.
“Can I-- can I get rid of it?” she squeaks, and she hates how trembly and thin her voice sounds. Her family is going to kill--
“It’s not something you can get rid of,” Kurt says softly. “And I hope it’s something you eventually never want to get rid of. Being gay and being straight-- Santana, they’re just tiny, tiny aspects of your life. It’s a part of you, so… try not to be afraid, okay? Because you are not broken. You are perfect and whole and so amazingly you, and just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly stop being the all-powerful, scary Slytherin queen that you are.”
And then he leaves the classroom, and Santana stares at the spot where he once stood in a sort of fascination.
She was just comforted by a Gryffindor.
And he reminded her of…
She thinks back to when she was a first-year, head held high on the train and ready to conquer Hogwarts single-handedly. She thinks about Brittany and Kurt, comfortable with themselves like she’s never been. She thinks about Quinn, who was a bitch but still strong enough to experiment. She thinks about her family, who really don’t know all that much about her.
She thinks about herself liking girls instead of guys.
This time, Santana doesn’t cry.
She doesn’t tell Brittany, or anybody else. And, somehow, she isn’t afraid that Kurt will out her to the school-- he’s a Gryffindor, noble and righteous and true, and she knows he’d never do that.
So she figures she’s safe.
But it’s easier to breathe now, in a way. Because Santana knows and she isn’t stuck in that perpetual state of wondering. It feels nice to… to just know who she is and who she likes. And even if it’s kind of completely and totally new to her, at least now she can tell herself she’s allowed to admire (aka not-so-subtly check out) girls in her classes without feeling all twisted up inside.
She feels like she should probably thank Kurt, somehow, because his speech hit her right in the heart. His words were pretty wise ones, especially coming from a Gryffindor.
But Santana doesn’t know how to thank people, so she settles for hexing David Karofsky when she sees him shove Kurt in the hallway. She plays it off with an eye-roll, but the small smile Kurt wears is enough to tell her that her gesture was appreciated.
So apparently Gryffindors aren’t half bad.
Santana is having a crisis.
And the crisis is that she’s sixteen and she’s in love. With Brittany.
She’s so, so screwed.
Because Brittany is her best friend and just because she’s bisexual doesn’t mean she likes Santana. Santana knows this, but it doesn’t stop her stupid traitorous heart from leaping into overtime whenever Brittany smiles at her.
She hasn’t even told Brittany she’s gay yet.
And it’s not that she doesn’t trust Brittany, because she does-- she trusts Brittany more than she trusts anyone else in the entire world. But she’s terrified that if she tells Brittany the truth, Brittany will suddenly start noticing the star-struck looks Santana tries (and fails) to hide. Because even though pretty much all of Hogwarts, student and teacher alike, seems to believe that Brittany’s dumb, Santana knows better.
The girl’s in Ravenclaw for a reason. And Santana knows that Brittany is much, much smarter than she seems.
But other than the fact Santana’s in love with her best friend and it’s basically tearing apart her world piece by piece, everything’s pretty okay.
She works up the courage to tell Brittany-- about her sexuality, not about her being in love-- while they’re walking around the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, skipping Herbology class together. It’s the end of November and the air is frigid; both Brittany and Santana have their house scarves pulled up over their noses.
Still, though, freezing their fingers off while they drift through the Hogwarts grounds is a million times better than being in class. Santana’s just pleasantly surprised they haven’t been caught yet.
She says the words when there’s a comfortable lull in the conversation: “Britt, I’m gay.” Her voice is quiet, muffled by her scarf and by the sound of the wind shaking through the bare branches of the trees surrounding them, but Brittany hears her loud and clear.
“You are?” she says, surprise clear in her voice, and something flashes through her eyes-- and emotion that’s gone too quickly for Santana to place. But she just holds Brittany’s gaze and nods once, firmly, glad her silver-and-green scarf is hiding her trembling lips from sight.
She’s not afraid, per say, just… overwhelmed. She can still taste the words on her tongue, strange and unfamiliar and yet very, very right.
“Oh, Santana,” Brittany says, and her eyes crinkle up in the corners like they do when she’s smiling and then she laughs, bright and clear and happy and pulls Santana in for a hug that squeezes the air from her lungs.
“Oof,” she mutters into Brittany’s shoulder, but a few hot tears manage to stain Brittany’s robes with water. She’s so happy.
“Congratulations,” Brittany is saying into her ear, over and over and over again, and Santana starts laughing, too. She has no idea what Brittany’s congratulating her for, but they’re both laughing and maybe crying a little bit and they stay there, hugging in a circle of dying trees, until Professor Sylvester finds them and barks at them to get to class.
Despite the chill in the air, Santana feels like she’s radiating with warmth.
Santana is silent on the train ride to Hogwarts, mind in overdrive and skin coated in a sheen of clammy sweat. Her throat is tight, stomach lurching as the train speeds past miles and miles of cloudy sky.
She kind of wants to projectile vomit and also burst into song at the same time. But mostly projectile vomit.
Because she came out to her family and they…
Don’t come back.
She swallows hard, glancing over at Brittany in their empty compartment. Brittany seems to feel her stare and immediately glances up, sending Santana an encouraging, if sad, smile. Santana takes a shaky breath and holds out her hand.
Brittany takes it and squeezes tight.
Santana blinks back the sudden onslaught of tears that have sprung to her eyes and instead leans her forehead against the glass window pane. It doesn’t matter. They don’t matter, she tells herself for the millionth time. In a few months, she’ll be an adult by wizarding-world standards and then she can live on her own. Somehow. Without any money to support herself.
“You still have a year to figure it out,” Brittany says softly from across from her.
Santana looks up at her best friend and-- oh. Her heart slams against her ribs and she thinks, holy shit, I’m whipped. Because Brittany is so beautiful and warm and perfect and--
She never wants to leave Brittany.
She doesn’t want to leave Hogwarts, not ever, because what if she and Brittany somehow… lose touch? What if-- what happens when Brittany gets married or starts a serious relationship and falls in love?
The thoughts hurt more than anything her family ever said.
Santana doesn’t know why she chooses to say the words now, of all times. Maybe it’s because she’s already lost her family-- but not really, because Brittany is her family. She always has been, and Santana hopes she always will be. Maybe it’s because childhood is almost over and she needs to-- to get this off her chest. To start with a clean slate before she enters adulthood.
To finally break free from all the lies that she’s used as a shield for years and years.
Maybe it’s because their story started on a train, and-- if this goes badly-- it’ll end there, too. Everything has to come full circle someday.
“I’m in love with you, Brittany,” Santana says quietly. It’s a whispered confession, a terrifying truth that will probably shatter her already-shattered world.
Santana forces herself to hold Brittany’s gaze.
Neither of them look away.
But there’s a light in Brittany’s eyes, a light that wasn’t there before. “I love you too,” she breathes, and Santana wonders if maybe she’s living in some sort of dream world. Maybe she’s living in a trance.
She doesn’t know who leans forward first, but suddenly they’re kissing and the planets are aligning and it’s like the sun has finally emerged from behind the moon in an eclipse. Brittany’s hands are soft and her lips are softer and she tastes like chocolate, and all the while as they’re kissing they hold hands.
When the break apart, Brittany keeps their foreheads pressed together and just stares directly into Santana’s eyes, reading her soul. It’s as if every nerve in Santana’s body is alight with flames, singing finallyfinallyfinallyfinally--
“Everything will be okay,” Brittany whispers, and Santana feels a swell of affection, of love, for her gorgeous perfect Ravenclaw girl.
“I love you,” Santana says again, because she needs to make sure Brittany knows. She needs to make sure the message is understood, bright and clear as day, because she’s tired of hiding.
“I know,” Brittany answers, and she leans forward again.
They kiss, and Santana realizes that she may have lost her house but she hasn’t lost her home. Brittany’s been her home all along.