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like a house on fire

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It starts like this:

Two months after the professor starts teaching their class, Dorothea and Petra transfer in. Petra says it’s because she “feels the professor could be making her stronger”. Dorothea says it’s because she’s positive she can’t go one more day without slapping Ferdinand into next year.

Hilda calls bullshit, but she doesn’t say anything. She watches instead - the way the two of them lean in close when they’re reviewing notes, the casual brush of Dorothea’s hand across Petra’s lower back when they leave class together. Petra had clearly transferred to get out from under the Empire’s thumb.

Dorothea had transferred because she was a raging bisexual, duh.

So when the professor puts them on stable duty for the month, Hilda is probably the only person not surprised they start dating three weeks in. Would she have preferred to not accidentally catch them making out behind Dorte’s stall with Marianne, if only for Marianne’s sake? Yes.

But, like, whatever. She’s happy for them. They’re hot and Dorothea can sass like the best of them. Cool.

Then Bernadetta transfers in and ends up weeding with Raphael for a few weeks and suddenly they’re eating lunches together and Bernadetta, who literally probably hasn’t seen the sun in eighteen years, starts watching him train. Like, outside at the training grounds. Where there are people. Who she talks to.

“What the fuck,” Hilda says, out loud, to no one in particular, when at dinner that night Bernadetta beams up at Raphael as he compliments her cooking. Her homemade cooking. The homemade cooking she gave him. Hilda’s brain absolutely cannot right now.

“Language,” Marianne says softly, hands curled in her lap, her thigh solid and warm against Hilda’s. Her gaze is on the slow curve of Bernadetta’s lips as Raphael leans over and kisses the side of her head what is actually happening.

“I’m gonna have to second Hilda on this one,” Claude mutters at her other side, eyebrows up near his hairline. “What the fuck, indeed.”

. . .

It gets weirder.

Ingrid transfers in and teaches Ignatz how to fly a wyvern. Next thing they know she’s sitting pretty for him in the dimming light of the cathedral’s stained glass windows while he sketches her. Then Lysithea teaches Cyril how to read and suddenly he’s everywhere with her. Hilda wants to throw up it’s all so disgustingly domestic.

It gets to the point that even Lorenz starts to notice.

“If I may be so bold,” he starts, then stops, while they all sit at the back waiting for the professor, observing all the couples ahead of them. Hilda scoffs on principle - she can’t help it, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to his voice. Marianne frowns gently at her, because everything Marianne does is gentle and soft and pretty and—

Right. Lorenz. Words. Ugh.

Lorenz clears his throat and tries again when Hilda comes out of her glassy-eyed state. “Does it not seem a bit, ah, odd that everyone in our class, and our class only, seems to have found love?”

“Don’t say love, that’s Claude’s trigger word,” Hilda hisses as Claude, who’s between them and a complete diva, shivers. “See?”

Lorenz fixes her with the blandest stare he’s ever given anyone in his life. He’s clearly been learning from the professor. Hilda feels something like pride bubbling up in her chest. Ew. “My apologies, I sometimes forget he has the emotional maturity of a toddler.”

Hilda has to muffle a snort against Marianne’s clothed shoulder as the professor appears. They all settle in for a long, long lecture consisting of tactical scenarios, Dorothea playing with Petra’s braids absently and Lysithea giggling, actually giggling, whenever Cyril scribbles something onto the side of her notes.

This, Hilda thinks miserably, as Claude tries to interrupt yet again to get the professor to spare him a glance like the attention whore he is, must be hell.

. . .

It only clicks when Sylvain waltzes in one afternoon, sits down next to her, asks her when she wants to meet up for chores, and then three hours later she finds herself shoved up against a shelf in the library, skirt hitched dangerously high up her thighs, while they make out like the world is ending.

“Wait!” She pulls her hands out of his hair and shoves him back harder than she means to. He almost flips over a table as he stumbles. “Oh, crap, sorry.”

“It’s fine.” He looks as confused as she feels, shirt gaping open and his belt undone. “Wait, what the fuck?”

Right!?” She pats her hair down and starts buttoning up her shirt. “What just happened!?”

“I, uhm.” Seeing Sylvain at a loss for words is almost satisfying enough to justify what it took to get him there. Almost. “I have absolutely no idea, weren’t we dusting shelves?”

And then, just like that, she gets it.

“Holy shit,” she mutters, “the goddess forsaken chores.”

“Language,” Sylvain says absently, but he’s rubbing at his neck where she’d sucked a particularly brutal hickey into his skin and paling slightly. “Wait, everyone else—”

Hilda is deep breathing through her nose at this point so she doesn’t do something irrational like start screaming bloody murder or destroy library furniture. “The chores. It’s the chores. Our professor is an evil, matchmaking genius.”

Because of course her and Sylvain would end up going at it - they were both top five for hottest people at Garreg Mach, they could see right through each other, they were both strong as hell but loathed to show it…

Sylvain stares at her, blinking dumbly. Swallows. Mutters, “do not tell Felix about this.”

Hilda looks at him like he is truly stupid. She's definitely developing an eye twitch. “I’m sorry, when did I ever give you the impression that I had a death wish?”

The flush that works its way across Sylvain’s cheeks is, one hundred percent, worth what it took to get there.

They’re never talking about this again, though.

. . .

They have to talk about it again because Claude puts two and two together when he catches her and Sylvain shuffling out of the library like someone died. She’s missing at least one button on her blouse and Sylvain’s artfully styled hair is a complete mess. 

“Have fun, kiddos?” Claude’s waggling his eyebrows at her obnoxiously. Hilda thinks she could kill him right where he stands and feel nothing. “Did you at least clean up after?”

“Dude,” Sylvain sounds pained, which, yup, she’s right there with him, “please shut up.” 


And because Hilda is not an idiot and because Claude deserves to be a mess too, she says, “everyone the professor pairs up with for chores ends up dating. Everyone.”

“Except us,” Sylvain says quickly, taking two steps away from her, while she watches the wheels turn in Claude’s head. She isn’t even offended - she doesn’t want Sylvain within a hundred feet of her for the rest of forever if she can help it.

“Everyone, huh?” Claude’s eyes do that twinkly thing they do when he has a particularly terrible plan that he is inevitably going to try and rope Hilda into.

“No,” she says, without preamble, and shoves past him, “I’ve got my own things to deal with. You’re on your own.”

“Fair enough,” he says, falling into step beside her, “but what do you think the odds are I can convince Teach to pulls weed with me?”

“She’d literally just have to give them her thousand yard stare and they’d pull themselves,” Sylvain grumbles behind them. Claude glances over his shoulder and smirks, which is hilarious considering Sylvain’s just confirmed what Hilda had already thought: everyone and their parents know Claude’s into the Professor.

“Oh, hey Felix.”

Hilda and Sylvain both blanch and do full one-eighties - Sylvain’s already starting to spit out a half-baked explanation and Hilda unknowingly reaches for the axe she doesn’t have. 

There’s no one there, but Claude is almost on the ground he’s laughing so hard.

Hilda throws him into a bush and drags Sylvain to her room so she can show him the joys of concealer.

. . .

See now that Hilda knows what the professor’s play is, she can use it to her advantage. And so she does. Aggressively.

“Professor,” she singsongs, after class, when the new chore assignments go up. She’s supposed to tend to the horses with Lorenz, which fills her with a terror so great that she almost passes out looking at the board. Claude, the bastard, had started wheezing so hard he had to be escorted out by an extremely exasperated Leonie. “About the groups for this month—”

“No, Hilda,” the professor says, not looking up from the papers she’s grading, “you cannot get out of stable duty.”

Hilda can’t be upset because, usually, that would be exactly what she’d be trying to do, but she’s onto her professor now. She’s not about to be manipulated again, that was her schtick dammit.

“Actually, I was wondering if I could work with Marianne instead?”

Professor Byleth’s hand stops marking and she looks up very slowly, blinking only once. Hilda can see Claude’s mass of chicken scratch writing under her pen, as well as a doodle of what looks like Professor Byleth kicking Seteth’s ass. She doesn’t miss the edges of a smile on the professor’s lips. 

Huh. Interesting.

“While I do believe you could help Marianne greatly with her interpersonal issues,” the professor says carefully, “I hesitate to pair you together in fear you’ll pawn everything off on her.”

“Professor,” Hilda says, actually a little hurt this time, “it’s Marianne. I’m lazy, not a monster.”

The professor coughs to conceal a laugh, and Hilda knows she’s almost got her, so she adds, “plus, Marianne’s actually really good with horses and I think this would be a great boost to her self esteem!”

And just like that, her and Marianne are in charge of the horses for the foreseeable future.

Hilda absolutely does not start cackling until she gets to her room, no matter what Caspar says.

. . .

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen issues, as the Professor puts it, her and Marianne have to alternate stable duty with Felix and Sylvain. Hilda thinks it’s punishment for one of their stupid fights they always get in, but then Sylvain stops her in courtyard one Sunday before class with a hand on her elbow and says, “hey, sorry for cockblocking you.”

They haven’t spoken much since The Incident as she likes to call it, mostly out of fear if they so much as blink at each other a certain way Felix will just know. Why Sylvain hasn’t figured out the levels of rage Felix reaches when he sees Sylvain with a girl aren’t normal for ‘just friends’, Hilda will never understand.

She stares at him for three seconds blankly, then squints. Sylvain swallows hard, clearly terrified. 

Good, she thinks far too gleefully, he’s learning.

But, he’s also clearly on the same wavelength as her when it comes to Making Things Happen and Claude has been extra insufferable since discovering the Professor’s matchmaking scheme, so Hilda’s going to cut him a break - she needs a new best friend, anyway.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you the most,” she says brightly, after he’s been sufficiently intimidated. “You’re much more clever than people think.”

Sylvain relaxes. Hilda smirks at him.

“Don’t worry, I’ve only been pining for a few months. You’ve got years on me. I can stand to be a bit more patient.”

“Hilda,” he exhales, nearly reverent, “I would literally marry you in a heartbeat if the situation were anything other than what it currently is.”

“I know,” she says sweetly. And then, of course, because this is Garreg Mach and the goddess is a vindictive, evil woman probably, Felix chooses that exact moment to melt out of the shadows and sneer at them both.

“I thought you were above this, Goneril,” he says nastily, glaring pointedly at where Sylvain’s hand is still barely touching her elbow so, like, wow, calm down, “guess I shouldn’t be surprised though.”

“Felix—” Sylvain starts, but Hilda beats him to the punch because she’s entirely over the two of them taking up all her Marianne stable time and she’s been dying to put Felix in his place for months.

“Don’t lash out at me just because you’ve got jealousy issues, Felix,” she spits. “Maybe if you got your head out of your ass, Sylvain wouldn’t feel the need to search for validation elsewhere.”

Then, because apparently she’s insane, she goes up on her tiptoes, kisses Sylvain on the cheek, and whispers, “good luck.”

“I’ll pray for you,” he deadpans back, voice garbled. She takes off skipping while Felix makes a series of incoherent noises behind her.

(Lindhardt later complains he went to his favourite napping place in the rose bushes and had to bear witness to Felix getting to a very enthusiastic third base with Sylvain. Hilda shoots Sylvain a thumbs up from across the room when she sees him. He returns it, albeit shakily.

She absolutely does not ask why he’s limping.)

. . .

For two glorious weeks it’s just Hilda, Marianne, and piles of horse manure. Sure, Hilda complains loudly about the smell and the work and the heat, but watching Marianne’s open, kind expression as she speaks to the horses is worth every horrid moment. Sometimes Marianne sings under her breath, when she thinks Hilda can’t hear her, her slim fingers brushing through Dorte’s mane, and Hilda just— wants. Hilda wants. Badly.

It gets so bad she’s beginning to debate bribing Ignatz into spying on them so he can paint her a picture of Marianne and her soft eyes and delicate hands. So Hilda can keep the memory close.

And then, because her life is just hilarious, Claude happens.

“I’ll be taking over from here ladies,” he says brightly, an easy charming smile that doesn’t reach his eyes on his face. Hilda wants to throttle him the moment she sees Marianne’s expression dim, ever so slightly.

“O-oh,” she murmurs, “a-alright the—”

“No, Marianne, it is not alright,” Hilda seethes. “He doesn’t get to try and tag in on all our hard work just because he wants to get laid.”

Claude’s jaw clenches, slightly, and maybe she’s being cruel for no reason, maybe she’s just tired and angry and so unbelievably annoyed with all these happy couples around her while she’s only just gotten Marianne comfortable with hugs at this point. Then again, maybe she’d like to have some goddess forsaken alone time with her favourite human at this damn monastery without someone showing up to make a mess of things.

But then: “That’s hilarious, all things considered,” Claude starts to stay and Hilda’s brief moment of guilt erases itself in a flash of red.

“Finish that sentence,” she snarls, “I dare you.”

And it’s a testament to how little Hilda actually gets angry, to how much of herself she’s managed to hide behind careful giggles and the lazy tilt of her head, that the surprise on Claude’s face is genuine. It’s satisfying for about a second, and then suddenly the Professor’s hand is on her shoulder and Hilda realizes she’d been winding up to punch the future leader of the Alliance in the throat.

“Hilda,” the professor says evenly, thumb digging into the knot of muscle at the base of Hilda’s shoulder blade, “why don’t you and Marianne take today off?”

Hilda turns a winning smile on the professor, the kind she reserves for besotting nobles and her brother. “Professor. What are you doing out here?

“Teaching Claude a lesson in self-restraint,” she deadpans, and just like that Hilda absolutely does not want to know ew.

“Yeah, we’re gonna go now,” she says hurriedly, watching Claude turn several shades of red beneath his collar. At least he’s suffering, too. “If you traumatize Dorte, we will find out and I will kill one of you. Most likely Claude.”

The Professor, bless her, blinks at them rapidly. “What?”

Oh good, Hilda thinks, grabbing Marianne by the crook of her arm and hauling her through the rose bushes at speeds not even Felix could match, she isn’t actually trying to defile a student in the stables. I should’ve known she was better than that.

Except she one hundred percent isn’t because Claude shows up in the middle of her and Marianne’s tea party two hours later with bruises on his throat and a swollen mouth.

“Holy shit,” he says, and slumps into the empty chair between them. Hilda thinks she might hear the fine china in her hand begin to crack. Marianne’s foot withdraws from where it had been resting comfortably on the inside of Hilda’s. She’s literally going to commit murder out of sexual frustration at this point. “Holy shit.”

“Use your words, Claude, you’re usually so good at it,” Hilda growls, and takes a rather violent sip of Almyran Pine Needle. Marianne makes concerned puppy eyes at her from across the table and touches one pale finger to the inside of Hilda’s wrist. “Did she rock your world?”

“I’ve ascended,” he says, completely serious, and tips back in the chair far enough she can see a smattering of marks along his jugular. Oh, goddess, smite her now please. “There is a goddess and her name is Teach.”

“I’m pressing charges,” Hilda says miserably. Marianne hums in agreement, her fingers cool on Hilda’s jumping pulse. It’s the only good thing about the whole day.

. . .

Turns out, Claude did not have wild sex with their professor near Dorte. Marianne gets the full story and tells Hilda what really happened the next evening.

Hilda’s crying she’s laughing so hard by the end of it, but it doesn’t change the fact that Claude had, in actuality, kissed their professor after struggling with a stable door for half an hour. Dorte had not, in Marianne’s words, been very impressed with his technique. 

“He’s an idiot! We’ve got three months left, he couldn’t have waited a little longer?”

“Ah, well, uhm,” Marianne looks down at her lap, and Hilda takes advantage of the movement to stare at the graceful curve of her neck. “Perhaps… perhaps he felt like he was running out of time?”

Hilda scrunches her nose. “Why would he think that? Because we’ll be graduating? If anything, graduation would have given him a better chance.”

Marianne’s biting the corners of her lips, still staring at her twisting fingers. It takes her a long beat before she finally murmurs, “maybe he was afraid… if he didn’t tell her now, he’d never have the courage. A - and then we’d all go separate ways a - and-”

Marianne’s voice hitches. Hilda’s up in a flash, eyes blazing, ready to clobber whoever or whatever made her cry, nearly knocking Marianne’s desk chair over in the process. “What’s wrong?”

“Ah, I-” Marianne’s cheeks go pink. Hilda stares dumbly at her as the flush reaches her collar and she starts to smooth out her skirt aggressively. “It’s nothing! Please, ignore me.”

“Oh, not this again,” Hilda grumbles. She crouches down in front of Marianne’s tiny bed, her bare knees pressed against Marianne’s clothed ones, heart racing in her throat the way it always does, these days. “Marianne, talk to me. What’s wrong?”

Marianne’s eyes are wide and glassy and a little wet, her lower lip swollen where she’s been chewing on it. Hilda can count every eyelash this close. “I… I…”

And then, something happens. A spell or a curse or some kind of weird time break because then all of sudden Marianne’s hands are cupping the back of Hilda’s head and Marianne’s mouth is lowering to hers and Hilda’s brain ceases all higher function when their lips touch. Once, twice, then Marianne tries to pull away and Hilda jerks back to life long enough to drag her in for a deeper, sloppier third kiss that makes both of them shake.

“I have been waiting,” she’s panting, even though they barely moved, even though it was the slightest brush against one another, even though she’s halfway to climbing into Marianne’s lap and never letting go, “months for that.”

Marianne is, adorably, bright red and slightly rumpled looking from Hilda’s frantic hands. “I, uhm. That is. Ah.”

“Just, feed my ego here Marianne and say ‘me too’.”

“Me too,” she says lightly, with the hint of a laugh, and then shrieks when Hilda hauls herself off the floor and her wobbly legs to topple them both onto the bed.

. . .

“Claude,” Caspar screams, across the dining hall, like an asshole, when he sees them walk in holding hands, “you owe me twenty gold!”

Hilda, happier than she’s been in months, and well aware of the Professor’s amused eyes on her from three tables away, throws him and Claude into the fishing pond.