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Here is the problem: Beau has a crush.

In and of itself, this isn’t a problem. She’s had plenty of crushes before, and, objectively speaking, those haven’t gone awful (shut up, Jester). Beau can deal with passing attraction and the like—take the month-long flirtation and then some she had with Keg last year. Crushes aren’t a problem.

No, the problem is who Beau’s crush is on.

Yasha Nydoorin is so much out of Beau’s league that it’s laughable. For one, she’s the Head Girl, whereas Beau almost had to repeat fourth year because she’d spent most of exam season selling “brain-enhancing” potions to upperclassmen. Yasha is the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team as well as one of its Beaters, and damn does she look hot on a broomstick. (Well, she looks hot all the time, but especially on a broomstick. Which is a problem when Beau looks at her instead of looking for the Snitch.) And though Yasha has a temper on the Quidditch pitch, and more than one person has commented on her social awkwardness, she’s one of the nicest people Beau’s ever known. Much more so than Beau, at least.

The only reason Beau is entertaining this whole thing for more than a second is because she knows Yasha isn’t straight, given her public three-year relationship with Hufflepuff Prefect Zuala that had been mutually broken off at the beginning of their sixth year. (Something to do with Zuala’s family, as near as Beau can tell.) However little dignity Beau might have, she has enough that she won’t subject herself to straight girl crushes. Even so, this isn’t much more than incidental. Beau’s chances are as low as can be.

Simply put, Yasha is a six-foot-something mass of more beauty, strength (both mental and physical—don’t think Beau hasn’t noticed those rippling biceps), and kindness than should be allowed in one person. And Beau knows Yasha wouldn’t so much as glance in her direction if they didn’t happen to be in the same year at the same school. Still, here she is, getting weak in the knees every time Yasha walks by.

It’s tragic.

+

Here is how Beau comes to realize her unfortunate feelings:

It’s a stormy day late into her sixth year, thirty-some minutes into a Quidditch game—Ravenclaw versus Gryffindor, Ravenclaw leading by a head. Beau clings to her broomstick for dear life and snaps her head around every time she hears a swish. Shaking raindrops out of her eyes, she scans the pitch with a hint of desperation; she’s not having much luck so far, ducking under and weaving around the other players as she struggles to stay afloat and aware. But—

But. A flash of gold and the telltale glitter of the Snitch whips past her, and she moves on the pure instinct she’s been trained to trust since she joined the team as a Seeker. She gives her broomstick a tug and surges forward—

And then a body collides with hers, and deft hands grab her broomstick (foul, foul, foul, she thinks, somewhere, in the five remaining percent of her brain not focused on grabbing that fucking Snitch). She’s held in place, but she snaps her hand out and pushes, hard, against the grip, and closes her hand around a solid weight—

Something slams into her cheek, and her grip slips, and—

When she next opens her eyes, Beau is sitting on the ground. It’s still raining. The game is over by less than a minute, and everyone is cheering. It only takes a second for Beau to look at the stands, aflame with red-and-gold banners, that Gryffindor had won, their Seeker swooping in at the last moment to take the Snitch from Beau. Her first reaction is to throw something. Then she looks up.

Professor Shakäste is standing above her, waving his wand and mumbling a spell she doesn’t recognize. Beside him—Beau has to do a double take—stands Yasha herself, forehead crinkled with worry as she stares down at Beau. To the side, Headmaster Bryce themself is scolding the responsible players: a Chaser, who’d grabbed Beau’s broom, and the other Gryffindor Beater, who must have hit the Bludger at her.

Yasha realizes Beau is looking around. “You’re awake,” she says, stepping closer.

“Uh, yeah,” says Beau. As soon as she speaks, she realizes her mouth feels off—she presses her tongue up, and her eye twitches. “Am I missing a fucking tooth?”

“Three of them.” Yasha—face blank, like this isn’t horrifying news—glances at Shakäste, who’s still occupied with his spell. “You should probably stop talking if you want them to grow back normally.”

That sounds more ominous than Beau thinks it ought to—still, she takes the hint and shuts up, even if it’s more painful than the lack of three teeth. Yasha sticks around. When Shakäste pats Beau’s cheek and tells her she can talk now, she doesn’t for a long moment, too busy noticing how well Yasha’s Quidditch uniform fits her. It’s covered in mud and filth, but Beau might be into that. She doesn’t know.

“Why are you over here?” says Beau, harsher than she means.

Yasha doesn’t seem offended, though. “I wanted to apologize for my team’s attitude,” she says, folding her arms. “It was unsportsmanlike and cheap—if not for what they pulled, your team would have won. I respect you as a fellow player, Beauregard, so—”

All of the blood in Beau’s body is rushing to her face. “Um, thank you,” she says, looking at her shoes. “I, uh, appreciate it, and all. You’re—you’re a great captain, and you have a really good face.”

“…Thanks?” Yasha blinks. “I would tell you the same thing, but you aren’t a captain and you have blood all over your face.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but you should go to the infirmary, Miss Lionett,” cuts in Shakäste. “Just to get a full check-up from someone more trained for this than me. Miss Nydoorin, will you—”

Without so much as another blink, Yasha leans down beside Beau and gathers her up in her arms, bridal carry style, which—yeah, okay, Beau is into this. All of this. Grime included. She makes an embarrassing squeaking sound and hurries to hook her arm around Yasha’s neck. Yasha doesn’t appear to be struggling with her weight; if anything, it seems like Beau weighs little more than a feather. Holy shit is Beau a lesbian.

Yasha smirks down at her. “I’m really fucking strong.”

“Yeah,” says Beau, dazed, her internal monologue taken over by a blue screen. She doesn’t know how to deal with this at all.

Good thing Jester has an endless stash of chocolate she can—and does, as soon as she gets the all-clear—drown her feelings with.

+

Here is the aftermath of Beau’s epiphany:

Every time she turns a corner, Beau hopes for a glimpse of Yasha among the crowd. If Beau doesn’t see Yasha, she’s disappointed for a few solid hours until she spots her at dinner. If she does see Yasha, she’s elated for the rest of the day. She even brushes off Fjord’s comments about how unsettling her grin is.

Her infatuation quickly grows out of hand, to the point where Caleb notices. That’s just unacceptable. He takes to nudging Beau and Yasha into conversations over anything and everything. Beau would appreciate it, but he’s as awful at greasing the wheels as she is, so most Caleb-initiated chats go up in smoke. She’ll watch Yasha from a non-creepy distance for as long as she wants, thanks, and she brings up Molly as retaliation until Caleb takes the hint.

Over the summer, Yasha sends Beau a handful of letters, which (along with all the other letters she gets, so as not to get herself excited too early) she refuses to read until the week before school starts. They sit together on the Hogwarts Express. Molly is there, too, but Beau decides to make this one sacrifice so she can hear about Yasha’s summer.

This year, there’s no Quidditch due to the Triwizard Tournament, much to Beau’s disappointment. At least she’ll always have the mental image of Yasha on a broomstick. Besides, the excitement of Caleb’s name being drawn from the Goblet of Fire and the amount of time Beau spends with Yasha between classes (not much, but enough) more than makes up for it.

In early November, Jester pins a piece of scrap paper to the wall in her and Beau’s room and announces, “I’m starting a Yule Ball countdown!”

As soon as Jester turns her back, chattering about the dress she’s already got planned out and ignoring Beau’s reminders that the Yule Ball isn’t for over a month, Beau feels the inklings of a plan bull-in-a-china-shopping around in her brain. It’s an awful plan, though, more like a plan of a plan… of a plan.

It’s still there, though. She hums along to whatever Jester’s asking her and rubs her chin in thought.

Her first mistake is deciding to ask her friends for advice.

 

i.

Beau goes to Fjord first. Though he’s been friends with Jester, gossip queen of the world, since they were all ickle firsties, he’s good at keeping secrets—including his own—and decent at giving advice. He’s also a better person than Beau in general. Whatever. Plus, he’s somehow more experienced in the romance department, with that good old Gryffindor charm. (Okay, so maybe Beau, even if she’s not attracted to men and especially not Fjord, understands the fuss now.)

He also seems the most likely to be able to help Beau, so it comes as a harsh surprise when he tells her he can’t.

“I can always break the ice, I suppose,” he tells her in the Gryffindor common room, which she’s suggested they study in (at least in part for the chance of catching a glimpse of Yasha descending the girls’ dorm staircase). “But this has to be up to you. You know that, right?”

With a groan, Beau jabs her pen into her parchment with more force than necessary. She should’ve started on this essay weeks ago, since it’s due tomorrow, but History of Magic is just so damn boring. “Yeah, yeah. But, like, you’re friends with her, right? Can you at least get me some sort of in?”

Fjord looks, deadpan, at her. “You really can’t think of anything you two have in common?” he says dryly. “Like, I don’t know, a certain sport you both play? During which you realized you—”

Beau kicks him under the table. “Hey, shut up. Also, I’m seriously offended Jester told you about my—uh—whatever that was. Epiphany.” She’d told Jester in a moment of weakness and hyped up on magic anesthesia, anyway. She stabs her parchment again, which is a mistake—it rips, and a trail of ink rolls down to meet the end of the table. “Oh, shit. Um, a little help?”

“With which part? The essay, or, uh—”

“Uh. Both.”

“Here’s a new piece of paper,” he says, handing over just that. Beau doesn’t bother asking if it was a coincidence he’d brought extra down or if he’d had a backup supply for her—she doesn’t want to know the answer. “I can’t really help you out with the actual essay, ‘cause Professor Zeenoth will absolutely know I did—best not risk it, huh? If you need me to read it over, though, I’m your guy.”

Beau snorts. She’s already on Zeenoth’s shitlist, so she doesn’t think anything will improve their relationship. Instead of commenting on this, though, she says, “Yeah, that’s the only time you’ll ‘be my guy.’”

“Goes without saying.”

A couple comfortable moments of work pass, during which Beau copies down what she’d already written and tries not to snap at the crackling fire or the third-year girls giggling on the couch. Fjord taps his quill against his chin. When Beau’s caught up to her previous draft (and likely introduced a host of new spelling errors), she sets her quill aside and clears her throat.

“So,” she says, then pauses to glance over her shoulder to make sure Yasha hasn’t made her grand entrance yet. “Will you help me out with the other shit now?”

Fjord winces. “I think your first problem is that you’re calling it shit. Pretty sure girls aren’t a fan of that.”

“Some girls might be,” says Beau, putting her feet up onto the table. Her soles narrowly miss her still-drying paper. “Tell me if Yasha is.”

Fjord hesitates, reaching up to scratch at a corner of his mouth. His tusks have been growing back out recently, but now he’s picking at one that’s creeping up over his lip. Beau swings her legs back down so she can kick him in the shin, a pretty clear hey, knock that shit off. Fjord freezes and settles his hand back in his lap.

“Ah, thanks, sorry,” he says, and then his voice drops an octave. “Beau, I’m sure many, many people have told you how intimidating you can be.”

“Thanks,” she says.

“Wasn’t a compliment,” says Fjord. “In fact, you might wanna lean away from that image, to be perfectly candid. Yasha is all tough and shit, but—” He leans closer. “She also collects flowers and things like that. That’s the kind of person she is.”

Beau is at least eighty percent sure she shouldn’t be more attracted by this revelation, but she is. She braces her elbows on the table. “I’m still game.”

“You aren’t gonna drop it, are you,” says Fjord, a statement rather than a question. Beau just raises her eyebrows. “Yeah, okay, fine. How about—let’s start with smiling. You wanna look like you’re actually enjoying asking her out. Can you smile real quick?”

Beau bares her teeth. It feels more like a grimace than a smile, but what does she know?

Fjord winces. “Yeah, uh, okay, that’s—that’s good, but could you do something a little softer? Sweeter?”

“I don’t do either of those,” says Beau, cheeks beginning to hurt. She prods the corners of her mouth back into her trademark scowl—she’s pretty sure smiling isn’t supposed to hurt.

“Of course not.” Fjord clears his throat and claps his hands. “Okay… compliments. See, I know you compliment people sometimes, but compliments from you can come out sounding like—well, not like compliments.”

Beau narrows her eyes. “What does that mean?”

“It means you’re godawful at making your tone match your words and your compliments come out sounding like insults,” says Fjord. He gives Beau a flat, vicious stare that makes her shrink in her seat. She’s feeling very attacked right now. “And the compliments themselves, uh, ain’t great. Didn’t you tell Yasha she had a ‘nice face’?”

“Fuck you, Jester,” says Beau to the room at large, barely keeping herself from flinging her quill.

A few first-years give her scandalized looks. She brushes them off; not the first time she’s been looked at like that by an eleven-year-old after swearing in their presence. Probably not the last time, either.

“I was losing a lot of blood at the time, okay?” she says, turning back to Fjord. “I lost three teeth. Three whole teeth, Fjord! I wasn’t thinking straight. Well,” she adds, unable to resist, “I never do, but—eh, you know what I mean.”

Fjord sighs. “Seriously, though, work on your compliments. Think of some things you like about her and tell her what you like about those things. Make some comparisons about her eyes or something.” Beau must be making some kind of bad face, because he says, “Look, I’m not saying you’ve gotta recite Shakespeare to her or anything. Just talk to her.”

Beau stares at Fjord for a long moment. Then she says, “Man, you know Shakespeare is the easier choice there,” gathers up her things, and turns tail before Fjord can spew some unnecessary and incoherent wisdom about how boring the easy road is.

She doesn’t ask him for advice again. He doesn’t offer it.

Both of them are happy with this arrangement.

 

ii.

It takes almost another week for Beau to swallow her pride (what little of it she has with regards to this whole situation in the first place) and talk to her incorrigible roommate/best friend.

Sure, she knows Jester’s mom is probably one of the highest-class courtesans in the entire world, so Jester knows about romance or at least infatuation, and Jester’s ability to make people blush in under ten words is admirable. Except, if she talked to her, Jester would know just how disastrous Beau’s crush has become (if she didn’t suspect that anyway). It’s an annoying downside, but it’s not the end of the world. And Beau’s sure the upside of having yet another head on this issue would be more than enough to make up for it.

Asking Jester for advice it is, Beau decides during Herbology, and Caduceus startles at how hard she shudders.

As they’re settling down for bed one night, Jester humming to herself as she pulls on the fuzzy socks her mom got her for her birthday this summer, Beau forces Fjord’s advice out of her head and clears her throat. Jester looks up from the Muggle tabloid she hasn’t yet cracked open and blinks. Yeesh, Beau’s forgotten how it feels to be on the end of that owlish look.

She clears her throat again, mainly for her own behalf. “So I’ve been thinking about asking Yasha to the Yule Ball,” she says, casual, and then she sticks her fingers in her ears.

The insulation does nothing to drown out the gasp and subsequent squeal—were Jester determined to do so, Beau thinks, she could shatter the sound barrier. She wonders belatedly if she should have cast a silencing charm. No one else seems to have been alarmed, though, so she forces herself to relax.

“Oh, Beau,” coos Jester. She grins and leans forward, clasping her clawed hands together. “I am so, so glad you asked! I have lots and lots of experience with this.”

“That’s what I was afraid you’d say,” says Beau, rubbing her eyes. She doesn’t point out the fact that Jester herself doesn’t yet have a date, which she knows because Jester would be even bouncier than she is normally if she did. “Look, Jes, I—”

“Can’t stop me now, I’m having all sorts of ideas!” Jester sets her magazine down. Beau averts her eyes from the shirtless man splashed across its pages. “There’s a bunch of quizzes in here! About, you know, love and hrm-hrm-hrm. Maybe we should take one for you. We could—” she picks it back up, thank God, and flips through for a moment “—find out what season you and Yasha should get married in!”

Beau groans. “Hey, Jester? No offense, but I’d rather die. No, wait—I’d rather spend an entire day with my family, silent four-hour dinner and all.” She pauses. “Also, maybe slow the fuck down, ‘cause it’s just a ball.” Though now that she thinks about her and Yasha in matching tuxes, linking hands and waltzing ironically—or maybe even not—to Celestina Warbeck…

Nope. No. Shut up, brain. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

“Suit yourself.” Jester shrugs, then consults her magazine again. “How about you, hm—how about you compliment her, and then shower her in all the presents you can buy? I know all the best shops in Hogsmeade.” Before Beau can reply, Jester gasps. “Ooh, what if you do something cool with magic? Like, you use a spell to write, Will you go to the Yule Ball with me? in the air, or—”

“I—don’t really wanna do that one,” says Beau, folding her hands in her lap. She’s remembering why she didn’t want to bring this up with Jester. “I don’t think I want it to be, like, a big thing, y’know?”

Jester pouts—it’s a true Jester pout in that her entire body droops with it. “That’s no fun,” she says, still flipping through the pages of her gossip rag as if something inside is going to make Beau change her mind.

“Does it have to be fun?”

Jester’s tail twitches, then her entire body jerks upright. Beau’s still reeling from the obvious mood shift when Jester says, “The whole point is that it’s fun! Come on, Beau, you should do something fancy. Something Yasha will like.” Her forehead scrunches. “Let’s see. She likes flowers—”

“That’s just something everybody knows, huh?”

“—she likes Quidditch, she likes stormy weather for some reason, she likes to eat rats—oh, hey, you both have gross food habits!”

“My pocket bacon is not gross!” says Beau hotly. She sneaks a hand into the pocket of her robe, which is draped over the end of her bed because she’d been too lazy to hang it up, and bites into a piece in defiance.

Jester wrinkles her nose. “Whatever you say,” she huffs. “Anyway, I think you should accidentally bump into her in a corridor or something and give her some chocolates, or maybe flowers. Ones she can press, you know? Oh, or instead of a corridor, you could invite her to that one coffee shop that’s basically made for couples—if you aren’t dating when you walk in, you will totally be by the time you walk back out.”

“Those… aren’t bad ideas. Except the coffee shop one, that sounds like a nightmare.” Beau gives an exaggerated shudder. When Jester doesn’t add anything, she reaches for the switch on her nightstand lamp. Then, hesitating, she says in a low tone, “I dunno, though. I’m still deciding whether or not I actually want to ask her. Infatuation can pass, and all.”

“Since when have you been worried about that?” says Jester, and Beau winces. Low blow (but true). “Whatever, though—when you decide you want help, just ask me! I have lots of free time.” She winks. “Also, don’t turn your light off, I’m still reading.” She brandishes her tabloid, in which another picture of a naked man is displayed.

Beau rolls her eyes and flips over. It only occurs to her that Jester doesn’t need the light when she’s already drifting off, and by then it’s a moot point.

Still weird, though, but that’s just Jester.

(When she wakes, there’s a stack of magazines on her nightstand, and Jester’s bed is already made. Given, it’s well into Saturday morning, so it’s normal for Jester to be down at breakfast or even out and about by now. Beau is snapped out of her thoughts by a chirp from the window. She lets Professor Thaddeus in and ignores the letter—from her father, no doubt, but at least it’s not a Howler—clutched in his beak.

If, hypothetically, to make herself feel better about the letter’s contents, she reads the mags and takes the quizzes within, that’s nobody’s business but hers. But she doesn’t do that.

It’s also no one’s business if she reviews the filled-in answers to the quiz about what season she and Yasha should get in—which are pretty spot-on, to be honest, and she’s a bit startled by how well Jester knows her—and sees the answer is spring. Not her favorite, but she’s flexible.

But, of course, none of that happens.)

 

iii.

It is well-known that Beau and Molly hated each other at first sight and have upheld this ever since. This doesn’t change the fact that they share a friend group and are, in general, more chummy than two people who sling insults at each other on the reg should be.

(Their exchanges tend to go like this:

“Can I borrow your Charms notes from this week?” says Beau on an ordinary afternoon in Hogsmeade, pulling Molly aside in Zonko’s.

The class varies, and she never outright says that she hadn’t been listening to whichever professor it had been’s lecture, but it’s always implied. They also don’t share class time with several classes, Charms included, so she rolls the dice with the lesson contents. It depends on how desperate she is.

Molly, already reaching into his bag, says snidely, “I thought Ravenclaws were supposed to be smart.”

“Yeah, and I thought Hufflepuffs weren’t supposed to be total pains in the ass.” She ends up snatching the parchment out of his hands and balking at the handwriting but deciding she’ll make do. Molly mutters something about his nails. Ignoring him, Beau says, “Fuck you, Molly,” in place of thanks.

“Fuck you too, Beau,” he says, smiling, and they move on with their lives.)

Their casual dislike for each other also doesn’t change the fact that he’s got more game than her, even if he hasn’t actually dated anyone in over a year because of his elephant-sized crush. Plus, he’s Yasha’s best friend. These two compelling pieces of evidence lead Beau to steel herself for a painful conversation.

One afternoon, they’re sitting at the same table in the library—out of necessity more than anything else—and pretending to be poring over thick Potions books. Beau, for one, hasn’t picked up a single sentence except for the title. To be fair, she has other things on her mind.

She nudges Molly’s foot with her own. “Hey, asshole,” she says, low enough that they don’t draw unwanted attention but loud enough to draw his attention.

Molly lifts his gaze from his book, slow, like he’d been reading it in the first place. “Yes, unpleasant one?”

Beau already has so many regrets. She stares at the page before her—fittingly, it’s a love potion. “I wanted to ask you about something.”

“Oh?” Molly gives up the pretense and slams his book shut, producing a cloud of dust that sends Beau into a half-faked coughing fit. She sees a flash of movement and glares at Molly’s tail, which is curved around the back of her chair. “By chance, is this about your underdeveloped and frankly terrible plan to ask my best friend to the Yule Ball?”

“…How the fuck do you know about that?”

Shh,” hisses someone across the room.

Beau flips them off. Or she flips something in their direction off, since she’s not going to be the first to break her impromptu staring contest, unsettling as Molly’s solid red eyes may be.

“I’m always listening, Beau. Always,” says Molly. “Also, Jester told me.”

Beau wrinkles her nose, unsure if it’s at Molly or Jester or both.

Molly’s smirk is widening, so she decides to mostly direct her sour expression at him. “I’m so glad you came to me for advice, Beau,” he says, wrapping an arm around the back of her chair. She scoots to the side. “I know Yasha’s likes and dislikes and all of her feelings down to the letter. I can make or break this operation, really—”

“Oh, shut up,” interrupts Beau. “Are you even qualified to give advice? Do you have a date to the Yule Ball, by any chance?”

“Yep! Caleb,” says Molly, not missing a beat.

Huh. Beau’s smug face falters. She glances across the library, where the redheaded Slytherin in question is bent over a stack of books (presumably studying for exams or the second task or—knowing him—both at once), Nott beside him and focused on her own work. Perhaps feeling her gaze, Caleb flicks his gaze up and nods before returning to his reading.

Beau swivels her head around. A shit-eating grin, one Fjord and/or Jester might describe as creepy, crosses her face. “Does he know that?”

Molly’s face drops into a frown. “Hm. Actually—”

As Beau leans back and crosses her arms, Molly digs up a blank sheet of parchment and scribbles something on it. His handwriting is loose and terrible by most definitions under normal circumstances—now, with how fast he’s writing, Beau would be surprised if whatever he’s written is legible. (Though it’s not as if she has a ton of room to speak here.)

In a few quick movements, Molly folds his sheet of parchment into an airplane shape. Beau won’t say she’s impressed, but she’s the next closest thing. Molly glances around—when no authority figure appears out of thin air to tell him off, he slips his wand out of his pocket.

Wingardium Leviosa,” he murmurs with a flourish.

His pronunciation is off, and his wrist movement is a little sloppy, but the paper airplane lifts into the air and shoots off toward the table where Caleb and Nott are seated, doing several fancy loops along the way. It attracts attention from a number of the other students in the library. Hard to blame them, really. Beau rolls her eyes. As Molly begins sweating, the airplane meets its destination and lands in the middle of the hefty book Caleb is reading.

Caleb frowns and unfolds it. His eyes flit across whatever the message inside is—then, at once, his face goes a violent shade of red. It’s simultaneously amusing and painful to watch.

Nott leans over too; Caleb tries to fold the airplane back up and hold her back, but there’s no stopping Nott when she’s determined to do something. (Beau knows this from experience. If she’s feeling dramatic, she’ll claim that she still has a scar on her elbow from Nott’s razor-sharp goblin teeth.) While Caleb fixes his granny glasses, Nott’s jaw drops.

Beside Beau, Molly’s leg bounces so hard the table shakes. She elbows him, but his attention is focused on Caleb and Nott, who are now engaged in a quiet but seemingly heated discussion. Caleb’s face goes from red to almost as purple as Molly when Nott jabs her hand in Beau and Molly’s direction.

“Hey, Beau,” says Molly. Beau hums, glancing down to see his tail winding around his chair leg. “By any chance, can you read lips?”

“Not even a little.”

When she looks back across the room, Nott has turned back to her books but is still muttering something. Caleb doesn’t react aside from the maybe-permanent blushing. He shoots a furtive glance toward Beau and Molly (more toward the latter, she suspects), then flips over the piece of parchment and scrawls something on the side opposite Molly’s message.

In contrast to Molly’s impulsive, quick writing, Caleb takes his time writing his response, quill carefully flicking this way and that. Beau glances back at Molly every few seconds to make sure he hasn’t melted from overheating. It’s a real concern.

What seems like eons—but, looking back, will be less than a minute—later, Caleb folds the paper. He’s much more precise about this as well. He folds it once hot dog style, then hamburger, and (Beau assumes, because she feigns looking back at her book) then sneaks his wand out.

Before long, the parchment comes flying back in rectangle form. Beau inclines her head toward Molly as he unfolds it—she wants to read Caleb’s response, but she’s not, like, desperate about it. Molly makes a quiet noise, then covers his sharp-toothed grin with a hand. His tail thumps a couple times against the side of Beau’s chair, but at least it’s not against her.

She guesses the only reason he’s not being as dramatic and ostentatious as he could about this is because he doesn’t want too much attention on Caleb, who has most recently taken every possible precaution to avoid the spotlight even as a champion in the Triwizard Tournament. Beau thinks this is sickening, but—if mildly tortured to say so—a little sweet.

Since Beau won’t be getting any verbal hints from Molly soon (though she thinks she understands the gist of the reply), she leans over to read the unfolded piece of parchment. Ja, I would be happy to go to the Yule Ball with you, is written in Caleb’s tidy handwriting. It’s signed with a small doodle of a cat face.

Beau groans. “Did you do that thing where your signature is a badly-drawn peacock? And did he try and copy that?” God, she guesses some people really are made for each other.

Molly rolls his eyes and swats her leg with his tail. “That, my not-quite-friend,” he says, smugness overtaking him despite the overall nervousness still wafting off him, “is how it’s done. Were you taking notes?”

Beau suppresses the urge to strangle him. Who needs dubiously legal spells when you’ve got the best weapons of all: bare fists? She settles for a scathing, “Fuck you, Molly.”

“Fuck you too,” says Molly sweetly, leaning back in his seat. He pauses. “I do wish you the best with Yasha, though. Even if she deserves better.”

“I could kill you, you know.”

“Oh, I have no doubt.”

 

iv.

Beau hasn’t spoken to Keg much since they had their whirlwind romance (if one could call it that) and then parted in melodramatic rom-com fashion, but it still seems like a foregone conclusion to breach the topic with her. She’d asked Molly for advice, after all.

So on the next weekend trip, she walks the familiar path to Keg’s “secret” smoking spot. As expected, Keg is there—Beau can tell the instant she steps into the alleyway. Dwarven stature and five o’clock shadow aside, the smoke blowing up from her mouth (which hangs over most of her face) is unmistakable; not to mention the green-and-silver tie flowing slightly with the breeze. Beau covers her mouth with her oversized scarf as she approaches. Keg doesn’t acknowledge her quiet approach.

Beau comes to lean on the wall beside her. “‘Sup.”

Keg fumbles her cigarette and swears under her breath. “Hey,” she says, pretending like that hadn’t happened and cocking her hip with a grin. “It’s been a while.”

“Sure has.” Beau crosses her ankles. “I, uh, wanted to ask for your advice on something.”

What,” says Keg, almost dropping her cig again.

Beau’s attention drifts to that, and she loses her train of thought for a moment. “Hold up, how the hell do you get those in here, anyway?” she asks, realizing she’d never thought to ask when they were dating and Keg was all vulnerable and stuff.

Well, she thinks, eyeing Keg’s biceps, maybe vulnerable is an exaggeration, but she remembers that sappy letter Keg had left her one morning. Also, surprising no one, it seems she has a thing for muscles.

Keg blows out a halo of smoke. “I have my ways.” A beat. “So what do you want my advice on, and, uh, why?”

“Love in the time of the Triwizard Tournament,” says Beau, somehow lacking any hint of its intended irony. Christ, she really is far gone.

“…Right. That kinda doesn’t explain anything.”

Beau coughs and shoots Keg and her cigarette smoke a glare. It had been hot once; now, Beau just has the urge to find Nott and steal the inhaler she keeps on her in case Caleb’s asthma strikes up again. (He hasn’t had an attack since he was thirteen. It’d be fine.) She shrugs it off and says, “Fine, I’m thinking about asking Yasha Nydoorin to the Yule Ball. Emphasis on thinking about, so don’t make it fuckin’ weird,” she adds as Keg’s eyes widen.

“Hey, I didn’t say anything.” Keg takes another quick drag while Beau scoffs. “Yasha is super out of your league. Nice choice.”

“Ugh, God, I know.” Beau rubs her eyelids so hard that colored spots dance through her vision when she opens her eyes again, and she squints at Keg through the swarm of multicolored orbs. “You got any advice for getting her to ignore that fact?”

Frowning around her cig, which is now hanging limply out of her mouth, Keg mimics Beau by leaning against the wall. “Compliment her eyes,” she suggests.

“That worked on me,” Beau points out. “Probably won’t on her.”

“That works on everyone! It’s, like, compliments 101 or something.”

Beau is almost certain this isn’t true, but she folds her arms and scowls. “Okay, fine, I’ll humor this idea. I could compare her eyes to something, I guess—Fjord told me to do that,” she says, because Keg looks skeptical. Keg nods sagely, which is kind of offensive, but whatever. “But they’re different colors, so—” The gears in her brain turn and turn and turn. C’mon, Rowena, she thinks, closing her eyes as if in prayer, give me a little stroke of genius. “Uh, okay, how about this. One of her eyes is like the ocean, and the other is—” Rowena Ravenclaw must hate her, because Beau’s whirring brain shorts out now. “Fuck. Goddammit. What are some pretty purple things?”

Keg opens and then shuts her mouth, settling for only shaking her head and half-shrugging.

“Okay. Okay.” Beau taps her forehead, trying to get her train of thought back on the tracks, and clears her throat. She extends one hand toward an imaginary Yasha. “Yasha,” she drawls, all suave and cool, “one of your eyes is like the ocean, and the other is—is like—it’s like the swamp.”

Silence. Beau considers lying down in the patchy snow and accepting her fate.

Keg drops her cig on the ground and crushes it under her heel. With a pitying look, she tilts her head and says, belated, “That sucked ass.”

“Yeah, no shit. You got any better ideas?”

“Hey, you know me,” says Keg, shrugging. “I’m a coward and kind of an asshole. Remember Wohn?”

“Vividly.” It had been a one-hour romance in fifth year that ended in Keg sulking in, for some reason, Beau and Jester’s room, complaining that she’d never ask out another person again. “You know what, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t have asked you.”

“No shit,” echoes Keg, rolling her eyes. She heads toward the exit of the alleyway, and Beau follows her before she even realizes what she’s doing—they come back into the bright sunlit area of Hogsmeade, where a crowd is milling about. Keg stops and turns to Beau. “I’ve gotta go, but, uh… good luck with Yasha, Beau.”

Then, with a smile that’s really more of a smirk, she walks off, hands in her pockets. Beau watches her disappear into the crowd. For a moment, standing there, Beau misses the days when she was infatuated with and—dare she say—aroused by Keg; the days when they skipped classes to loiter in empty corridors; the days when they weren’t quite dating but, well, something that wasn’t only friends. It’d been nice while it lasted.

Then she spots Yasha across the street, and the nostalgia leaves her. She’s never been one to dwell on the past and what-ifs, and she’s not about to be. A grin breaking out across her face, she shouts, “Hey, Yasha!”

Yasha lifts her head. As soon as she meets Beau’s eyes, she smiles, and Beau trudges toward her (and Molly, whose horns are covered in an inhumane amount of jewelry).

“Hey,” says Beau, again. “I was just, uh—around, so—”

“You smell like an ashtray,” cuts in Molly, and Yasha elbows him.

“Fuck off, Molly.” Beau shoots him a glare, which he shrugs off, and then focuses her attention back on a now neutral-faced Yasha. “So, what’re you two doing? Preparing for the Yule Ball?”

“I was helping Molly get fitted, so yes,” says Yasha, rubbing the side of her neck. Beau glances down to see a vinyl bag clasped in Molly’s hands—inside it is a mass of sparkly purple fabric that’s a few shades darker than Molly’s skin and the same as his current nail polish. She gives a low whistle. Yasha hesitates, then adds, “To tell you the truth, I am not sure if I’ll be attending yet.”

Beau’s eyes widen. “Oh? Nobody’s asked you?” she says, trying to keep the grin out of her voice but failing miserably. “I would think everybody would be all over you, Miss Head Girl and Quidditch Captain—”

Yasha’s face reddens—it’s one of the prettiest things Beau has ever seen. “Well, plenty of people have asked me, but I haven’t said yes to any of them. Maybe I’m just waiting for someone special.”

There’s a beat of sustained silence, in which Beau swallows back all the words she isn’t quite ready to say yet. Molly gives Beau a capital-L look, the invitation clear, but she doesn’t move to say anything. She could use the opportunity to ask Yasha out—there aren’t enough people around that it’d be totally humiliating if she were rejected, and Molly seems to be giving the equivalent of his blessing, but…

Beau doesn’t want it to be an impulse decision, nor this public. Yasha deserves something more special than that.

Fuck, Beau’s thoughts sound like Jester now. She’d told Jester she wasn’t interested in doing something fancy, but here she is, chickening out because it isn’t fancy.

“Well,” says Molly, “we should get going. Yasha, dear, where to next?”

Yasha shakes herself as if waking from a dream. “Oh, um—the coffee shop, perhaps? I’d like to warm up before we go anywhere else,” she says, rubbing her arms. She’s wearing a fur cloak over her uniform, but it must be thinner than it looks.

“Fine by me.” Molly takes Yasha’s arm again and twists them around—despite the size difference and the fact that Yasha could probably deadlift Molly’s weight, she lets him guide her along. Over his shoulder, Molly raises an eyebrow.

All Beau can do is shrug.

(Then she heads off in the direction of the nearest florist’s. She’s got some ideas.)

 

v.

Beau likes Shakäste—really, she does, but sometimes, she wishes N.E.W.T.-level Charms wasn’t so complicated.

She sits in his classroom now, a mishmash of students across all four Houses melting under the mid-afternoon sun, at a table near the front. Caleb and Nott, varying degrees of focused, sit on either side of her. (Thank God Shakäste lets them pick their own seats, which is a bad teaching decision but fucking excellent for the students. It’s to promote inter-House unity or something cheesy like that, Beau guesses.

…Okay, so maybe she hadn’t been paying the most attention the first day of class, but the first time she’d been in his class had been, like, six years ago, so it’s okay.)

Her disinterest in this lecture isn’t shared by golden child Caleb, who’s (as always) bent over his notes and writing at a speed that makes Beau’s hand hurt. One would think he’d have lightened up by gaining a Yule Ball date and possibly boyfriend. Beau, for one, would be over the moon.

Beau rolls her eyes, glad Caleb is too focused to notice, and glances to the side. Nott has a quill between her jagged teeth and is gnawing on it.

“You getting any of this?” Beau whispers to her.

Caleb lifts his eyes for a nanosecond-long glare that somehow still makes Beau suppress a shiver (if looks could kill, Caleb would have a confirmed body count), then turns right back to his notes. Beau gives Nott a pleading look.

Nott spits out the quill and shakes her head. Little bit, she mouths.

Help me, Beau mouths back.

Caleb’s grip on his quill tightens. Nott nudges her foot with his, which Beau only knows because she kicks Beau’s shin on the way there.

“He’s very stressed,” says Nott, in a low enough tone that it doesn’t attract attention. “And nervous.”

“When isn’t he?” says Beau, stretching out far enough that she accidentally-on-purpose kicks Caleb’s calf. He shoots her an unimpressed look. Ah. “Ooh, you nervous about the Yule Ball?”

A small stutter in Caleb’s writing, long enough for Beau to smirk. “Okay, so, Beauregard,” he says, not looking up, “some people think about things other than the Yule Ball. Like life in general. And, oh ja, the very dangerous tournament I am currently participating in.”

“Really? I didn’t notice you were doing that.” Beau leans back in her seat to stretch the other way. Shakäste catches her gaze, so she flashes him an I’m totally listening smile and scribbles some nonsense on the sheet of parchment before her—she’ll regret not taking real notes later, she thinks, but that’s a problem for later.

…Wait. Shakäste is blind.

Beau coughs and drops the act. “Seriously,” she mutters to Caleb, “don’t worry about it. At least you’ve got a date. Other people aren’t so lucky.”

Caleb sighs so heavily it draws a dirty look or two from the next table over. “It is not my fault you haven’t asked Yasha out yet, Beauregard.”

“Hey, don’t fuckin’ throw stones in glass houses,” says Beau, making his eyebrows pinch together. This particular adage must not have ever crossed his stream of awareness. “You got asked out, not the other way around, and that might have not even happened if I hadn’t pointed out the fact that Molly hadn’t actually asked you out. I’m the real hero of this story.”

“She’s got a point,” says Nott, though it makes a muscle in her face twitch.

Caleb ignores them both in favor of holding his hand up. Beau becomes immediately aware that Shakäste has stopped talking. “Professor,” he calls, “I have a, um, a question about this spell, if you would not mind—”

Shakäste strolls over, his seeing-eye hummingbird (Beau still doesn’t understand this) hovering right beside him. “Oh?”

“Ja, um, so the incantation—”

Behind their backs, Beau makes exaggerated gagging faces at Nott, who stifles snickers and looks very guilty about it. Caleb zones them. After Shakäste walks away to repeat his answers for the whole class, because he thinks if almighty Caleb didn’t understand then neither will anyone else or something like that (okay, maybe Beau’s projecting), Caleb seems to remember there are two other people at his table. Beau sits up straight.

Caleb’s scowl deepens, but he manages to continue scrawling down an exact replica of Shakäste’s lecture. Nott picks up her saliva-covered quill. Beau realizes she doesn’t have much else to say, so she follows suit and turns back to her sheet of parchment, which has a single incoherent scribble on it and nothing else. Fuck. She’s totally going to fail the next pop quiz.

After a few minutes of this semi-uncomfortable quiet, a knock—it must be a formality more than anything, because Shakäste always has his classroom door open—draws everyone’s attention. Beau snaps her head up to see a lanky elf with a concerning amount of piercings leaning against the door frame. She’s much happier looking at this random punk rocker than her halfhearted sheet of notes.

Once Shakäste stops speaking, the elf tilts their head and says, “They want you in the library, Mr. Widogast. Something about pictures and interviews for the Prophet.”

Everyone else groans as Caleb grabs his bag and stands, the expression on his face suggesting he’s walking to the gallows instead of a goddamn photoshoot. What Beau would give to skip class in favor of being adored.

As Caleb follows the elf out, Shakäste continues on with his lesson, but Beau notices Nott pressing a balled fist to her mouth. Beau leans over the second she sets it down.

“What’d you tell him?” she whispers, because, after years of being reluctant friends with them, she’d be an idiot to not notice the whole telepathy shit they’ve got going on.

Nott’s ears twitch. “Just good luck and that if anyone in the room was mean to him, I could make something bad happen to them.”

“Holy shit, that’s morbid.”

“He told me to please not do anything of that sort,” continues Nott, ignoring her. She looks incredibly displeased about the fact that she doesn’t get Caleb’s blessing to kill anyone, which Beau is a little worried about. “But he also said that I should wish you good luck with asking Yasha out.”

“…Huh. Well, uh, tell him thank you for me or whatever.”

Nott opens her mouth, but as quick as she’d done so, her jaw snaps shut and her face loses most of its color. A familiar shadow falls over Beau. She refuses to look up.

“Miss Lionett,” says Shakäste, who’s now standing before Beau and Nott’s table. Beau shuts her eyes as whispering and snickering from the other students washes over her, but snaps them back open when Shakäste says, “Would you care to demonstrate the Water-Making Spell for the class in a few minutes?”

“Uh. If I say no,” says Beau warily, eyeing her considerable lack of notes and then the chalkboard, too far away for her to read, “will it get me detention?”

Shakäste chuckles, which is never a good sign. “No, but it will mean you have to take remedial lessons until you can demonstrate it for the class. Participation grades are very important, Miss Lionett.”

“Fuck.”

 

vi.

Beau is pretty sure she’s skipping an Astronomy class right now, but she’s too stoned to care.

She and Caduceus, who is weird but cool even though he’s Molly’s roommate, have been sitting out by the greenhouses for the last fifty-odd minutes, maybe. (Beau had lost track after the thirty-seven minutes it took for the edibles to kick in.) Between them are an emptied platter that was filled with Caduceus’ homemade macaron edibles and another platter with a kettle of Caduceus’ dead people tea. The tea thing still weirds Beau out, but it tastes fucking excellent.

As Caduceus blinks upward, Beau settles into the frothy buzz washing over her and drains her tea. If only her father could see her now, acting like a proper lady: posture straight, no slurping, pinky out and all—still, she suspects he’d be able to spot and rip to shreds several things wrong with this picture. Her current intoxication being the least of them.

Beau tips her head back and sighs. She tries not to think about her father when she’s high—ever, if she can help it, but especially when she’s high. It’s supposed to be her happy, chill time (minus the bad trips, of which she has only had two). The disappointed face always lurking at the back of her mind will not infringe upon that, goddammit!

Fuck, now I’m thinking about him by trying not to think about him. Beau hates this philosophical game her thoughts have turned into, so she focuses instead on quenching her sudden thirst. Her teacup sits empty in her hand after another few sips. For a couple seconds, she stares into it.

She shakes herself. “You wanna read my tea leaves?” she says, holding out her cup. She can’t help herself from snorting derisively—Divination has never been among her interests or even beliefs. (Eat your tarot cards’ hearts out, Molly.)

Caduceus blinks with clear interest, and Beau rolls her eyes—if he notices, he doesn’t say anything about it. He glances down. After a long several moments of consideration, during which Beau takes to leaning back and then forth because she can’t decide whether to lay down or not, Caduceus hums. “Looks like a cross. That means trials and tribulations, suffering…”

“Oh, for fuck’s—I don’t need you to tell me that, Deuce.” Beau groans and sets her teacup down on the grass. Before Caduceus can do much more than raise an eyebrow, she glances up again—at once, she’s blinded by the shine of his bright, bright hair. Fighting off a fit of giggles, she uses her hand as a makeshift visor. “Has your hair always been that goddamn bright?”

“I think so,” he says, licking his lips. “Has your hair ribbon always been that bright?”

Beau frowns and reaches up to tug on said ribbon, pulling it into her line of sight. She doesn’t bother fighting the giggles this time. “Oh my God, it’s so fucking blue.”

Caduceus laughs, a deep rumbling sound that she’s always been fond of. “I know!”

Beau’s stomach growling distracts her from whatever she’d been about to say next, and she drops her ribbon to smack Caduceus’ arm. “Shit, dude, I’m starving,” she bemoans. Then her eyes widen. “We should sneak into the kitchens. I’ve never forgotten about that time you told me about the—” she can’t help a snicker “—pear tickling. Ooh, I could accidentally bump into Yasha in the halls on the way there, too…”

Caduceus tilts his head. “Yasha? Are you two friends?”

“Ouch,” says Beau, and Caduceus blinks, mild. “Yeah, uh, we are. I’m pretty sure we are. We—huh.” Waves of paranoia wash over her, and she finds herself blinking at the bright grass, which is no longer hilariously green but something of a neon eyesore. “Fuck, actually, I don’t know. We never, like, defined our relationship, so maybe we’re just rival Quidditch players who kinda flirt sometimes, and she’s never really liked me even as a friend—”

“Well, I doubt that’s—”

“Oh my God, Caduceus, she hates me,” says Beau, head buried in her hands. “How am I gonna ask her to the Yule Ball now?”

Caduceus opens his mouth, then chooses to slurp his tea instead, his eyebrows working while Beau rubs her eyes. “Why don’t you just go for it?” he says after a moment. “If she doesn’t like you, as you say, then she doesn’t like you. Simple as that. You can’t force things.”

“I—what?” Beau drops her hands so Caduceus can see how hard she’s wrinkling her nose. She kicks him in the leg to drive the point home, and he doesn’t so much as blink. “I like a bit of risk, man, but that’s—it’s a bad plan and you should feel bad.”

“Maybe.” Caduceus takes another sip, this one quieter and producing less of a sound that would make Beau’s father scowl hard enough to bring out all of the wrinkles in his ugly face. Shit, now here she is again on this train of thought. “Why don’t you want to do that?”

It’s a question that shouldn’t shake Beau as much as it does. If she weren’t high on macaron edibles, it probably wouldn’t have at all. But here and now, her thoughts come to a screeching halt. She lowers her gaze to the ground and shift so her elbows are resting on her knees and her cheeks in her palms. Caduceus sips his tea (she doesn’t bother wondering if he’d refilled his cup; he always seems to have a bottomless supply) while she mulls it over.

“Because I like her,” she says.

And how, she realizes in a way she hasn’t been able to pin down until this very second. She’d known she had an out-of-control crush, of course, but it had just been a crush. Not a big deal. This is—

This is more than that. Maybe not love, but not anything as small as infatuation, either. Beau likes Yasha in a way she’s never quite felt before, and one she can’t even come close to being able to express. She likes Yasha so much she doesn’t know what to do with herself; so much that it scares her, a little, if she thinks too hard about it (like she’s doing now).

Beau opens and then shuts her mouth. She can’t think of anything to say, and even if she could, she’s not sure she could verbalize it—her throat is tight and her mouth very dry. She wipes her wrist across her mouth in hopes of getting rid of the taste of brewed dead people leaves. It doesn’t work.

She takes another breath. “I really, really like her,” she says, barely above a whisper, and, in her, there’s still the undercurrent of the inexplicable urge to laugh. She swallows it down. “Oh, shit, I like her more than I’ve ever liked any girl before. I don’t wanna make a move and make things weird between us, y’know?” Her stomach flutters. She clasps both her hands over her mouth and giggles, no humor in it. “Fuck, this is a fucking disaster.”

Caduceus doesn’t say anything for a long moment. Beau stares glumly at a patch of grass, stomach pleading her to think in further detail about that sneak into the kitchens idea. It’d be a nice distraction if nothing else.

“Miss Beau,” says Caduceus, and she lifts her remorseful gaze to meet his.

He holds out his empty cup. Beau can’t make out what’s inside, so she squints and leans closer. If she tilts her head a certain way, the arrangement of the leaves sprawls in a floral pattern—a rose, if she squints hard enough. She’s not sure what it means, given it’s his tea and not hers, but she doubts it matters. She groans and scoots back.

“I think you know what you have to do,” Caduceus tells her. Beau sighs and, for a long, quiet moment, considers this, then opens her mouth to reply—

And the closest greenhouse door opens.

Both Beau and Caduceus freeze, exchanging startled looks (dear God, Caduceus’ eyes are so fucking red, so Beau can only imagine how hers look) as a humming Professor Nila emerges with a flower pot in her hands. Beau knows it the second she sees them. Surprise flickers across her features, but she flashes them a one moment smile and sets the flower pot down at her feet.

Beau prays to whatever higher power happens to be feeling generous that she doesn’t notice the empty macaron platter. It’s too late to throw it, right?

“Hello there, Mr. Clay, Miss Lionett,” says Nila, dusting herself off. “Were you two looking for me?”

Beau coughs, attempting to hide her bloodshot eyes and wobbly legs as she stands. She sways to one side. Off to a great start, says a voice at the back of her head that sounds suspiciously like Molly’s. Nila keeps smiling, pleasant and waiting. God, she’s so nice. Beau maybe feels a tiny bit bad about this.

She clears her throat and folds her hands at her waist. “Professor,” she says in an even tone that for sure doesn’t put on blast how stoned she is, “it is so nice to see you. Mr. Clay and I were just, erm—we—” She might not have thought this through.

“Wait, hold on.” Nila tilts her head. Beau, squeezing her eyes shut, tightens her fingers and prays. “Don’t you two have classes now? Mr. Clay, I thought you had Ancient Runes this hour… maybe not, though?”

Abort fucking mission.

Choking down the inadvisable laughter that still somehow wants to bubble back out, Beau tries to fling her teacup halfway across the grounds. With all the might and air in her lungs, she shouts, “SCATTER!”

It doesn’t work. She tries to run but ends up losing her balance and tipping to the side, tumbling back on her ass while Nila stares and Caduceus hides a giggle in his refilled tea. The teacup lands several feet away, smack dab in the middle of the pumpkin patch.

Nila looks between them and sighs in an I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed way. Beau hates that sigh.

“We are so dead,” she whispers to Caduceus.

He takes a long sip of tea.

(They get off without death or even detention, somehow. It takes some doing.)

(Once she recalls Caduceus’ advice that night, Beau decides to take it to heart—a poor decision, genuinely considering the words of a stoned person, but they make sense. Caduceus is wiser high off his ass than she is sober. She goes to bed intent on the words.

I think you know what you have to do.

She does.)

 

+

When Beau wakes up the next Saturday, it’s with a boiling sense of determination and strong self-esteem. She’s not sure what it is, but she feels ready—and she knows what for.

She rubs the crust away from her eyes and ignores both Professor Thaddeus thumping his beak against the window and Jester’s sleepy mumbling from the other bed. Beau takes a deep breath and sits up.

Okay. Calm time. She can do this. She knows what she’s going to do, she just has to—

Professor Thaddeus hoots, loud enough to make Beau full-body flinch, and knocks his head into the window again.

I’m trying to fucking chill out, Thad!” yells Beau, and Jester jerks awake with a yelp.

“Ugh, Beau, I was having such a good dream—”

“Sorry,” says Beau, grimacing, and she is. “My bird is just an asshole.”

Jester yawns, eyes still closed, and rolls onto her back (somehow, even with the horns, she always sleeps on her side. Beau doesn’t understand). Beau pats Jester’s cheek when she passes by to let Professor Thaddeus in. There’s no letter on his leg, which is unexpected but well-appreciated. Beau doesn’t think she could handle one of her father’s letters today—even the thought makes her shudder.

Dammit. She’s not letting the old man get to her today.

As Professor Thaddeus hops around on the ground, pleased, and Jester stretches, Beau runs over her plans in her head. Okay, so she doubts she can do the calm thing, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do this. She can totally do it. She takes a deep breath.

“I’m going to ask Yasha to the Yule Ball,” she says, mostly to herself, but she can tell Jester overhears from how she jolts upright.

“Ohmigosh, Beau,” she says, eyes big and sparkling and hands clasped together under her chin and tail swishing around as she bounces with joy. “Really? Today? Oh, Beau, I’m so proud of you!”

“I—uh, yeah, today.” Beau runs a hand through her undercut, which is starting to grow out again—she’ll have to ask Fjord to touch it up sometime soon. Then she stuffs a finger in her ear just in time for Jester’s squeal. “Fucking finally, right?”

“Um, yeah! You’ve been into her for, like, such a long time, and you’ve ignored all of my really, really good suggestions.” Jester’s indignant frown fades as soon as it appears. “Oh, can I—”

“Jes, I love you, but the answer to whatever you say is absolutely going to be no.” Beau opens her drawer, grabs her best tie—which is to say, the one she’s never touched before—and dusts it off.

“Okaaay,” says Jester, in a tone that means she’s trying very, very hard not to pout. Beau commends her valiant effort. “Well, you’ve got this, Beau! Knock her dead.” She punctuates this with a wink that Beau turns around in time to see.

Despite herself, Beau laughs, genuinely touched. “Thanks, Jester,” she says, then she pauses. Jester’s optimism is contagious, but still—“Promise you’ll commiserate with me if she says no?”

Jester pulls a face. “I really don’t think that’ll happen, but I promise.” She sticks out her pinky finger, and Beau shakes it with the kind of grim seriousness she doesn’t even approach tests with. They exchange grins. “Are you coming down to breakfast with me?”

Beau does, and she pretends the only reason she agreed wasn’t to stare at Yasha’s back over at the Gryffindor table. Fjord catches her looking and frowns. Beau drops her gaze, shaking some more Cheeri Owls into her bowl—milk-less, because fuck milk, even if being force-fed it as a child is a probable reason she has the bone strength she does now—while Jester gorges herself on bear claws.

“I don’t know how you get them to serve those for breakfast,” says Beau, shaking her head at the amount of sugar on Jester’s plate.

Jester licks some crumbs off her finger. “I’m best friends with the house elves.”

Beau opens her mouth, then closes it and goes on with enjoying her breakfast and sneaking glances at Yasha when Fjord isn’t paying attention. It’s harder than it seems.

Once, by chance, she glances at Molly and Caleb instead. They’re sitting together at the very end of the Hufflepuff table, Nott across from Caleb and keeping a watchful eye.

An idea comes to Beau.

While Jester watches but wisely doesn’t say anything, Beau digs around in her bag until she finds a piece of parchment and a quill. She tears a piece off the parchment and writes a few words. (It’s not like she was going to submit the original version of the essay she’d ripped it from, which was a rough draft at best, so it’s fine.)

Beau meets Fjord’s eyes, presses a finger to her lips, and waits for him to nod in understanding and turn back to his meal before she gets up. She slips the folded note into Yasha’s robe pocket and hopes it won’t fall out.

Caduceus catches her gaze as she’s leaving the Great Hall. He must see something in her face, though Beau has no clue what that is, because he gives her a wide smile and a thumbs-up.

Beau returns it, then slips to a corridor on the fourth floor and sits down against the wall to wait. She grabs a quill and a new piece of parchment out of her bag. Not ideal writing conditions, but it’s better than her own common room. Paintings are much easier to zone out than over a dozen kids—maybe Beau will have to make this her new study spot.

Within thirty minutes, though, she’s abandoned any notion of working on schoolwork while she waits, too keyed up to do much more than tap her knees, and then her upper arms, and then the floor, and then the floor, but with her foot.

“Impatient, much?” says one of the paintings—a knight, Beau thinks, but who can tell?

“I didn’t fuckin’ ask for your opinion,” she says, throwing her quill in his general direction. It falls short, but he shuts up, so it’s a partial—if not total—success in her eyes.

Fifteen or so minutes later, Yasha appears. Beau snaps her head up the second the blur of dark robes and ombré hair and pale skin comes into her field of vision. Yasha glances up and down the hall until her gaze lands on Beau, who’s taking up very little space for once in her life, legs tucked into her chest and feet together.

“You were the one who gave this to me,” says Yasha, quiet but unsurprised, as she lifts up the jagged piece of paper.

Beau clambers to her feet and dusts herself off. “Yeah, I did.” Surreptitiously, she squints to see if she can make out whatever she’d written (the events of a little over a half hour ago are beyond blurry), then decides she doesn’t need to know. She still steps closer. “I, uh, totally thought that thing through before I handed it to you, so—uh, I’m glad you met me up here, and—” She rubs her eyes. “Hey. Should’ve started with that.”

Yasha’s lips quirk. “Hi, Beau. What was it you wanted to ask me, as you specified, in person?”

“Um. So.” Beau moves to prop herself against the nearest wall—the problem is, she’d been standing in the middle of a hall, which means she has to shuffle all the way over to the wall while Yasha stares. Once she’s by the wall, though, Beau leans seductively against it and ignores the grumbling of the painting nearest her. “I was wondering if you, uh—if you wanted to, well…”

“Yes?”

Is it Beau’s imagination, or does Yasha sound hopeful and a little impatient? She decides it’s her imagination and ignores it. She leans back down to grab something out of her bag.

“Well, first,” she says, “I’ve got something to give you. I’ve heard through the grapevine that you like flowers, so I got this the other day—”

Yasha’s eyes widen as she takes the crumpled bouquet from Beau’s outstretched hands. It’s a subdued mishmash of colors and shapes—the majority of the flowers are blue and purple, but a few odd ones make the arrangement pop. Beau doesn’t know if Yasha notices the significance. She doesn’t ask. She watches as Yasha runs her fingers over the silk ribbon tying the whole thing together, then over the petals of a few flowers within, then as she looks back up at Beau.

She doesn’t say anything, but the tilt of her head is enough of a question. Beau takes a deep breath and smiles. She’s not sure what it looks like, but it feels soft on her face, so it’ll have to do.

“Yasha,” she says, “will you go to the Yule Ball with me?”

After a single beat, Beau realizes she absolutely can’t uphold eye contact with Yasha while she’s waiting for an answer, so she looks instead at her shoes. She tightens her hands into fists and untightens them. Silence creeps over them—Beau breathes in and out and doesn’t look up no matter how tempting it is.

“I was wondering when you were going to ask that.”

Beau snaps her head back up—Yasha doesn’t seem upset, to her relief. In fact, Yasha looks about the happiest Beau’s ever seen her, smiling and flushing and cradling the bouquet with a kind of care Beau’s never possessed in her entire life.

“I had been thinking of asking you myself, but…” She shakes her head, like she hasn’t made Beau’s heart skip a beat or three. Then her smile widens. “I have something to ask you too.”

“Oh?”

Yasha ducks her head. “Yes, I would like to go to the Ball with you, Beau,” she says, and those words might as well be the incantation to the Levitation Charm, because Beau’s pretty sure she’s floating now. “But I would also like this to be more than a one-time arrangement. I have grown quite fond of you, and if you’d like, I want—” She pauses. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Beau might stop breathing for several seconds, but once she regains that ability, she says, words rushing together with her excitement, “Yeah! Yeah, that’s—I’d really like that, Yash. I’m, uh, quite fond of you too. Um.” She grins, cheek-to-cheek, and runs her hands over her face, well aware of how obvious she’s being but not caring anymore.

Yasha likes her. Yasha is going to the Yule Ball with her. Yasha asked if she wanted to be her girlfriend. Beau pinches her inner arm, and it stings.

“Can I,” she says, and then she stops. She takes another deep breath, then says, in her more suave tone (though it’s moot now), “Can I kiss you?”

Yasha, cautious, sets the bouquet on a window ledge and spreads her arms. Beau’s face lights up as she takes the hint and flings herself right into Yasha’s waiting arms.

Yasha catches her without a hitch, large hands coming up to steady Beau as Beau’s legs wrap around her waist. Beau sets one hand on Yasha’s shoulder and flings the other arm around her neck, running her fingers through her hair. She startles at how soft it is to the touch. It’s even softer than she’d expected, which is saying something, and she finds herself creating a slow rhythm of her fingertips through Yasha’s hair. Yasha relaxes into the touch.

Beau leans in close enough that her nose bumps Yasha’s. “You have beautiful eyes.”

Yasha rolls her eyes and tilts her head closer. Beau feels her shoulder shake—a tiny bit, something she wouldn’t have noticed if her hand weren’t on her shoulder. Beau leans forward too. Yasha’s eyes flutter shut. A single heartbeat passes before Beau thinks, fuck it, and closes the distance between their mouths.

The ensuing kiss is quite probably the best one Beau’s ever had in her entire life, which sets an exciting standard for any future ones she might share with Yasha. Their noses brush as Beau presses impossibly closer. Beau has to remind herself to breathe through her nose after a few brief seconds. She feels Yasha smile against her lips, a simple but tender thing that makes her pulse pick up speed. Beau’s hand slides up to Yasha’s cheek, her other continuing to run through Yasha’s hair and cup the back of her head. Feeling bolder, Beau opens her mouth and parts Yasha’s with her tongue. Yasha gasps, quiet, and her pliancy makes Beau fight a grin. And, as Beau leans closer still—

Someone clears their throat behind them, pointed. Beau and Yasha separate with a frankly gross smack—Yasha almost drops Beau with her shock, and Beau tightens her grip around Yasha’s neck (and waist). Yasha’s arms adjust around her. Expression apologetic, she bumps their foreheads together.

“Very sorry to interrupt,” says Molly, sounding somewhat gleeful, and Beau peeks over Yasha’s shoulder to see him standing several feet behind them. Of course. “But Yasha, dear, Professor Kitor wanted to talk to you about Care of Magical Creatures.”

Yasha sighs and sets Beau gently on the ground. She’s sure Yasha feels as disappointed to do so as Beau does; the irritation in her brow, an expression she near never has when she’s talking to Molly, is enough of a sign. Beau fights a grin.

“Tell him I’ll be there in a moment,” says Yasha. “I need to finish speaking with Beau.”

“You got it.” Molly tilts his head at Beau, mouths Congrats at her, then heads off. She takes it in stride.

…Oh, God, this might mean she has to get along with Molly now. Well, she’ll think about that when it comes up, and it’d be half on him, anyway—for the most part, Beau just reacts to things he says and does. Equal and opposite reactions, and all. (As soon as she thinks of this phrase in this context, somewhere, Caleb is pinching the bridge of his nose and doesn’t know why.)

She brings herself back to the present. “We could go looking for an outfit for you either today or tomorrow, if you’d like,” Yasha is saying. “Or—I mean, if you don’t have one already. I don’t, so, um, I need to head out anyway. It… I don’t mind if you don’t want to match, but it might be nice, you know?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, cool. We can go tomorrow, maybe?” Beau stuffs her hands in her pockets and leans slightly back. She’s sure she’s wearing a stupid grin right now. She doesn’t care. “I kinda, uh, set my old dress robes on fire. Don’t ask.”

Yasha frowns, but doesn’t, and then she looks down toward the nearest window ledge and seems to remember the bouquet she’d put there. “Oh! Thank you for the flowers, Beau,” she says, bringing the bouquet up to her nose and inhaling. Beau hadn’t smell-checked them in the first place, and she’s not sure if the smell’s worn off since she bought it a couple weeks ago (or if it’s been affected from being in the mess that is her bag), but Yasha doesn’t seem to mind whatever its scent is. “They’re very nice.”

Beau rubs her neck. “Glad you like ‘em. They were kinda an impulse buy, so, uh, yeah.”

Yasha chuckles, then glances over her shoulder. She pauses—after a moment of hesitation, she leans back over to peck Beau’s cheek, which makes her entire face warm up. Yasha’s cheeks also go pink, so they’re equal now, Beau supposes.

“I’ll see you later,” says Yasha, her smile almost shy.

“Cool,” says Beau, choked. “Totally cool, yup, see you later.” She salutes (and then regrets it) as Yasha, still smiling, turns and follows Molly down the hallway, leaving Beau alone save for the paintings. She blinks.

Had that just happened?

Though Beau had already pinched herself, there’s no harm in doing it again, so she does. As per the norm, she underestimates her own strength and squeezes hard enough that she’s pretty sure there’ll be a little bruise tomorrow. At least she knows she’s very, very awake. The past several minutes she’d spent trying and failing and then, somehow, miraculously, succeeding to ask Yasha out had been reality, even though Beau still feels like she’s floating.

She’d asked Yasha out. She’d done it—she’d torn off the bandage covering the thing she’d been thinking about for months now. She’d asked Yasha to the Yule Ball, and not only had Yasha said yes, but she’d also asked Beau to be her girlfriend.

Beau covers her mouth with both hands and rocks back and forth on her heels. She scrubs her hands over her face, giddy and wired and riding this adrenaline high for all it’s worth even as her heartbeat slows to a semi-regular rate.

She’s Yasha’s girlfriend. Yasha is her girlfriend.

Beau hasn’t been on a broom since the end of last year, but the memory of that feeling—of flying, of floating, of being dozens of feet off the air but still feeling secure, maybe even more so than she feels on the ground—slams into her.

She doesn’t think she’ll mind the lack of Quidditch this year after all.

“Hey, don’t you have something to do other than standing here all lovesick?” snarks one of the nearby paintings, drawing laughter from the others.

Beau doesn’t even flip them off.

+

(On the night of the Yule Ball, which Beau has been thinking of as The Night, Yasha stops and says, “Hold on,” when they’re in the stairway leading down to the Great Hall.

Beau glances around. There are other pairs (and one group of four) in the general vicinity, heading downstairs in their finery, so she doubts they’ll be more than fashionably late. Indirect conversations drift up toward them from below. Beau holds up one finger and edges close enough that she can actually eavesdrop, then stops.

“What’s up?”

Yasha’s ghost-like face hovers above Beau’s as she leans down. Beau’s brain shorts out. When Yasha straightens back up and steps back, Beau realizes her hands are by her neck—she’s tied the tie that Beau had decided to leave undone when she’d been getting ready. Dammit. It would’ve made her look so cool and detached if her date hadn’t ruined things by fixing them.

“I was fixing your tie,” Yasha tells her, an amused smile crossing her face. “It looks better now, yes?”

Dejected, Beau scuffs her shoe on the ground. “I guess.”

Yasha sizes her up for another moment, then rests her hands on either side of Beau’s neck and leans down to kiss her forehead. Beau’s skin burns when she pulls away. “Don’t worry,” she soothes, rubbing Beau’s jaw with her thumb, “you can undo it again later. Maybe after the first or second dance.” Beau remembers that this is a ball, with dancing, and breaks into a cold sweat. “Shall we go?”

Beau puts aside her thoughts about dancing—she’ll burn that bridge when she gets to it—and, grin returned, links her arm through her girlfriend’s. “We shall.”)