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in an eagle there is wisdom

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“Where does magic come from?” she asks her father one day.

“Hundreds of years ago,” her father begins, and Rowena settles into his side because this is his story voice, “there was a united world. The only magic that existed lived within the earth and the animals. This was back when no one had magic, but anyone could ride Dragons. 

“One day, a Dragon Rider was helping his Dragon shed its scales, and he accidentally tickled it while it was sleeping. It sneezed on him, and it got him sick; his muscles ached, and his body temperature rose, and his skin developed a terrible, itchy rash. He turned green, and the rash disfigured his body, and he spread it to his friends and family when they came to wish him well. He died soon after. 

“Many Dragon Riders began to develop this disease, and it became known as Dragon Pox. It was disfiguring and contagious and often deadly. But some people didn’t get it; they were naturally immune, and they lived their lives as normal, mourning their dead and slowly limiting their contact with Dragons for fear of the Dragon Pox.

“Others suffered the disease and were inexplicably cured. These people developed magic, and at first they struggled to control it. The naturally immune - the Muggles - began to fear us because they understood even less than we did where our magic came from.”

“So magic comes from Dragons?” Rowena asks.

“Exactly,” her father replies. “The Dragons got us sick, and that sickness triggered something that allowed us to survive it. Everyone who wasn’t naturally immune either developed magic or died.”

“Of course,” Rowena’s père adds from where he stands in the doorway, and Rowena looks up in startlement, not having noticed him, “magic is not a perfect cure. Many Wixen still contract the Dragon Pox, and sometimes their magic is simply not enough to keep them from dying.

“Héctor!” her father says in surprise. “When did you get home?”

“Not so long ago, Topher,” Père replies, a soft smile crawling across his face. “I have only been here long enough to hear about sneezing Dragons. Remember, Rowena, that this is why one should never tickle a sleeping Dragon.”

Rowena giggles. “Yes, Père. I will remember.”

“Good girl,” he says, leaning over her father to brush a kiss across her forehead. “I love you.”

“Love you too, Père.”

“Good night, baby girl,” her father says.

“Good night, Father.”

“Grandfather,” Rowena says, “tell me a story.”

“And what story should I tell you, little bird?” Grandfather Atlas asks.

“Tell me a story about a king who changed the world.”

Grandfather Atlas smiles at her, the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth crisp and clean as they stretch to contain his expression. “Once upon a time,” he begins, “there was a prince named Arthur Pendragon. Arthur was the son of Uther, the previous king, who hated magic. But Uther’s daughter, Morgana, was a witch. 

“Arthur found out that Morgana was a witch after Uther’s death, and he found tutors for her. He attempted to outlaw discrimination against magic, and even suggested founding a school to teach Wixen magic. No one took him seriously, thinking that the son of Uther Pendragon could never be so accepting of magic.

“This was all before King Arthur fought side by side with Emrys Wledig against the Saxons. Never before had a magical warlord and a non-magical king fought together. As thanks for his help, Emrys led Arthur to the place where a sword was set in stone. This sword was famed, for it was said that whoever could release it from the stone’s grasp would be the rightful king, and the champion of magic. Many men before King Arthur had tried and failed to free the sword. 

“When King Arthur tried, the sword came out smoothly, as though it had only been surrounded by air. Arthur was proclaimed the rightful king, and - true to the legends of the sword - he went on to champion magic.

“This time, when he attempted to outlaw discrimination against magic-users, he was met with success. When he suggested opening a school for magic, he was met with approval. 

“Arthur named the school The Emrys Wledig School for Magic. ‘All Wixen deserve the chance to have their magic nurtured so that they may reach their full potential as Emrys Wledig did,’ Arthur told his subjects on the day the school opened. ‘This is our opportunity to engender understanding between Wixen and non-magicals. This is our chance to correct the damage done to us by the bigotry my father promoted.’

“With Excalibur in his hand, King Arthur was unstoppable. Only fools stood in his way, and then not for long. Arthur welcomed Wixen from all around the world into the school he had thought up. Morgana taught there for many years, ensuring that her brother’s goals for magical control were met. For many years, Wixen came and went from the school, and they always left with a greater understanding of their magic.

“Then Arthur died and the Kingdom of Camelot, which had grown strong under him, crumbled as well. The Emrys Wledig School for Magic fell into oblivion, the once renowned institution descending into disrepair, never to be home to students of magic again.” Grandfather Atlas pauses, as though weighing his next words.

“Even the continuation of the Pendragon family was not enough to save the school, and ever since Arthur’s death, the Wixen of the world have returned to their old habits, hiding their magic from the world at large and learning individually instead of in a school. That is why you will see people keeping their magic to themselves, rarely using it in public unless they are in one of the Wixen-only communities. Typically, you will find one per country; Scandinavia is home to one, and there is one in Chernobyl. I believe both Britannia and Cambria have magical sectors, but they are less populated than other countries’.”

“So why hasn’t anyone built another school?” Rowena asks. “Surely they must be feeling the loss of such a wonderful place of learning keenly.”

“Ah, I have left out an important detail,” Grandfather Atlas says, and Rowena cannot help but eye him with disbelief.

“You never leave details out without meaning to,” she tells him suspiciously. 

Grandfather Atlas blinks innocently at her. “Don’t go exposing my secrets to the whole world, now, little bird.”

Rowena smiles slyly at him. “We’ll see. What detail did you leave out?”

“Morgana was a Seer or an Oracle, though no one can ever agree which. When Arthur died, she set something of a deterrent for anyone who would think of following in Arthur’s footsteps. She said, ‘Only when the stars meet the Earth/ And Healing meets permanence/ Can a school of magic rise/ From the drowned flames of magic.’ No one has managed to interpret her words, and the few Wixen who have tried to ignore them have failed in their endeavors.”

“Prophecies only come true if you believe in them.” Rowena says stoutly. “That’s what Père always says. So I’m going to build a school, and it will be better than King Arthur’s. My school will stay standing long after my death, and will welcome students into it for millennia.”

“Big aspirations for such a little bird,” Grandfather Atlas says fondly, “but if anyone can do it, it’ll be you.”

She is fifteen when she and Father and Père stand at the edge of a cliff and toss Grandfather Atlas’ ashes out over the ocean. There is still a little magic left in him, for the gray of it clusters together in the shape of a hand and strokes against the curve of her cheek, leaving behind dusty residue, before it scatters in the warm summer breeze, dancing wildly through the blue sky before it is dragged to the sparkling blue waves that crest and break against the ragged rocks below them.

Rowena watches as the remains of her beloved grandfather fly through the air, and she cannot bring herself to grieve for him. “I wish I could fly,” she tells her fathers. “It must be so freeing to leave the world behind."

Père’s hand lands on her shoulder and squeezes gently. “Even birds must come to rest on the earth every now and then, Rowena.”

“I do not wish to completely abandon the world, Père. I only wish that I could be closer to the stars and the sun.”

“Someday,” her father tells her, “you will have wings of your own. Only be careful what they are made of, and remember the fate that greets those who fly too close to the sun. There are some places that we do not belong, even with magic running through our veins.”

“I am not so stupid as to fashion myself wings from wax as Icarus did,” she tells her father. “I learn from the mistakes of others as well as my own. And I do not mean to touch the sun, only admire it. Just as there are some places we are not meant to go, there are some things we are not meant to touch. The sun is one of these.”

“You are wise beyond your years, little bird,” Father tells her, his eyes soft.

“I have to be,” Rowena replies, turning away from the sharp drop into the sea; some day, she will leap from the cliff’s edge and plummet down until her feet skim across wild blue and the wind streams out in whistling plumes behind her. “After all,” she adds, “I’m going to found a magic school one day.”

Père grins. “Most people would settle for opening a Potions Shop or a bookstore, and here you are thinking of starting an entire school.”

“I am not most people,” Rowena informs him matter-of-factly. “I will accomplish a feat worthy of a king, and I will be remembered for it.”

“Be careful, little bird. Do not let your pride be your downfall. Wings of wax are not the only things that would fail you.” Père cautions her. “Do not let false pride weigh you down.”

“It is only false pride if it is undeserved,” Rowena tells him, “but do not worry. I will let nothing stop me, even my pride.”

“If anyone can do it,” Father says, unknowingly echoing Grandfather Atlas’ words from years ago, “it is you, little bird. You always did like to dive headfirst into storms.”

Later that night, Rowena lies beneath the velvety night sky, studded with glittering stars. She draws on the power they give her until she feels as though she has been filled to bursting with burning silver light. She breathes in deep, lets the power rush through her veins, hot and heady and absolutely overwhelming, like flying high and falling far all at once.

She exhales against the sweet summer air, feeling lighter and more powerful than she has ever been. She stretches her arms and feels the breeze of the night air caress her feathers. Her eyes open, her vision sharp and introducing her to the world with a new sort of clarity.

Rowena beats her powerful wings, catches the currents of the wind and lets them carry her back to the cliff. The dive down is exactly as she imagined it to be, and the exhilaration that floods her new body is almost as good as the flying and falling itself. The air billows around her, cooling as she soars higher and higher, her golden-bronze feathers ruffling.

She uses the stars to draw on the moon, calls the waves to grow around her and whip wildly against the wind. Thunderclouds of her own making roll overhead, crashing loudly in answer to the light that scars the night sky. It begins to rain, the water droplets lit up and glittering nearly as brightly as the stars against the lighting being introduced with rolling drums. The wind picks up, the waves growing in size and fervor, clashing against each other to send great sprays of water arcing through the air to become just as glisteningly lit as the rain. The storm around her is beautiful and dangerous, and Rowena flies into it, the stars shining brightly overhead all the while.

She flies until the rain stops and the waves calm and the beginnings of red light creep into the inky sky, smooth and syrupy slow, almost like the sun is wary of the starlit darkness. The wind around her swirls again, and she beats her wings once, twice, pushing into it and letting it take her where it wills. Rowena screams, and the sound echoes against the rocks around her, falling flat when the utter joy of it touches the lightening gray of the waves.

All too soon, the sun rises, washing the red from the sky and instead staining it pink and orange and burning gold. This too fades away into a deep blue, unmarked by clouds and only the lingering form of the moon left to remind her of the night. She lets the warm currents carry her back down to the ground.

Somehow, the change back - the unfolding of her human form out of the body of an eagle - leaves her feeling heavier and emptier and colder than before, even with the warmth of the sun beating down on her back. Somehow, even with the shift from small to large in comparison, she feels less. She wonders if this is what they meant when they warned her against flying too close to the sun. But no, it cannot be, not when she had only been exactly herself, had only set herself free to fly into the storms of her own making.

“Never before has a pet name been so accurate,” Rowena tells her fathers over breakfast. They smile fondly at her and stroke her feathers when she shows them, shoving herself into the air to circle above them. She thinks that even with an entire life on the ground, she will always feel more at home when she has lifted off and been embraced by the loving arms of the sky.

“Have you ever wondered,” Rowena asks thoughtfully, staring up into the sunset, “how this world came into being?”

Enoch looks down at her from the branch of the tree he is perched upon. “I have never really considered it. I have always believed that before there was magic, there were gods who walked the earth and gave it life.”

Rowena hums. “It would have been amazing to see the beginning of the world. Think of how young the stars would have felt back then.”

“Do they feel old now?” Enoch asks her, waiting patiently as she thinks about her answer.

“Ancient,” she finally decides. “They feel millions of years older than they look, and even more powerful than that.”

He tilts his head, his eyes glitter in curiosity as he leans toward her, the branch he is sitting on moving closer to the ground as he does so. “Tell me about the stars.”

“What do you want to know?” she asks, because there is so much she could say about the luminaries that are splattered across the night sky in various shapes which chronicle the history of a time long forgotten.

“What do they feel like?”

“They feel alive. The stars are indescribably old, and they feel emotionless and cold, for all that they are hot and burning, some of them even more blistering than the heat of the sun. They make a powerful ally and a fierce enemy, with more power in them than in the entire earth, air and fire and water alike.”

“And you are able to harness their power,” he says in awe, and she can only smile in reply, for he speaks the truth.

Rowena watches as the last vestiges of the sun’s creeping fingers slip beneath the horizon, darkness swallowing the sky to make way for the celestial bodies that look down on the earth. “I wish,” she says aloud when her only company is lightyears away, “that I could have felt the stars when the world came into being.”

She closes her eyes against the sudden wash of silver light, closes her eyes and breathes deep and holds it as scorching heat floods through her body and lights her up. The constellations pour themselves into her at her request, making her too big and hot and powerful for her body, making her one of them - a star, a supernova - so that all she can do is breathe through it, inhale, exhale, swallow the dead air and the lightless space and the stars around her, all of them giants dwarfing her, consuming her as she opens her mouth to devour them.

She tears at the seams, shatters, disintegrates, implodes. The voices of the stars mock her, echoing through her mind, and they pick up the pieces of the destroyed husk of her and stitch her back together with glowing thread, a patchwork quilt of her hopes and dreams, of her losses and mistakes and flaws and strengths, a reminder that humans are not meant to… touch the stars.

“You foolish girl,” a star tells her, its voice like a thousand susurrating murmurs coterminous with each other, echoing, and it is both soft and loud, gentle and hard, proud and disappointed, full of love and hate, an overwhelming contradiction of itself, and she cannot help but listen. “What did you expect would happen when you called upon the power of the universe to do your bidding?”

She cannot form a reply, cannot move her mouth from its gaping, devouring position to form the words. She had thought to control the parts of the universe which gave her power, had thought to see things that no one living had seen.

“You seek to control things you do not understand,” the star tells her condescendingly. “See and remember what it is you are drawing from. Watch what the power of the stars is capable of doing.”

She opens her eyes. She cannot help it when it feels as though they have been pried and held open against her will. All she can see is bright white light surrounding her, and even as she swallows it with a mouth she is unable to close, more of it comes from nowhere, sometimes brighter or duller than that which precedes it until images and shadows and movements are visible within the light.

The deeds displayed within the shadowed light are impressive. Rowena watches as pyramids she has only heard of are built on the backs of slaves, watches as a man ascends the steps that form the sides to stand at the top beneath the stars.

Even from here, where she is not part of the happenings she watches, she can feel the power of the constellations, which are different here; they are brighter and bigger and more powerful. They are more alive than the stars she has grown up with. They are different enough - in placement and in their more vivid presentations of the reds and golds and blues of them - that she wonders for a moment if they are even the same empyrean spheres she has spent her nights watching and learning and telling stories about.

But they must be the same, for she can see Orion glittering brightly as the man - and she cannot think of what his name might be - raises his arms high above his head. She watches as lightning wraps around his limbs and arcs into the clear sky above him, reaching desperately for the dappled black of the night.

The people below him stare up in awe, watching as the lightning engulfs him before leaping up, white-hot fingers reaching higher and higher. “I will build a kingdom amongst the stars!” he proclaims. “And it will be the most magnificent thing the world has ever seen and will ever see again.”

The people below lift up their voices in a joyous cry, and - almost as though it is infused with the approval of the people - the lighting reaches ever higher. Thunder roars an accompaniment in response, louder than Rowena has ever heard.

“I will be as a God!” the man shouts, his voice wild and exultant. “I will live amongst the stars, and I will harness their power so that not only do the Earth and Elements obey me, but the Heavens as well! This is my right as Pharaoh, as a king chosen by Ra himself!”

The thunder tumults angrily at his words, and the lightning falters for a bare second. Then, it leaps tempestuously, soaring up as though looking to touch the constellations embedded in the sky, and Rowena can only watch as they burn brighter in response to the fury of the thunderclap.

The light of the stars reaches out, grasping fingers reaching desperately for the lightning just out of reach. The light extends, stretching until the two meet, one brighter and more powerful by far than the other. The stars attack, hot with rage and unforgiving in it.

Oh, Rowena thinks as she watches the stars burn the man with their power. She knows this man, remembers this story that had been told to her in broad brush-strokes and with no detail. She wonders why the stars have seen fit to show her the demise of Tutankhamun when the truth of it was lost to human minds centuries ago.

The scene fades, and another takes its place. A man in an extravagant chariot rides across a metal bridge. A sound not unlike Tutankhamun’s thunderbolts rolls in the wake of his approach and fire leaps into the sky. “Worship me as Zeus!” he calls out, and the people - hearing his thunder and seeing his fire - bow down to him. “Soon enough,” he tells his cowering subjects, “I will take my place amongst the stars, where gods like me belong!”

True lightning strikes the metal bridge behind him at his declaration, and it leaps, crackling forward to consume him. Rowena watches as the stars reach out once again, intent on punishing Salmoneus in the same manner as the Pharaoh who had ruled Egypt years before.

“Why have you shown me this?” Rowena asks the stars when she is finally able to stop swallowing the light rushing toward her.

“What you have done, child,” says the whispering, overlapping, echoing voices of the star, “is not dissimilar to what these men attempted. They, like you, tried to harness the power of us for their own ends. The only differences between you and them are that you were born to draw power from us, while they were not, and that your goal was not to become one of us.

“Part of learning is understanding when and what you are not meant to touch. You are not the one meant to disturb the sands of time, and for all that you have the power of the cosmos at your disposal, stardust is not meant for your hands.

“You told your fathers once that you understood that some places and things are not meant to be visited or touched. You failed to consider that some people are meant to be restricted and limited, while others are not.

“There is only one path for you. Find it, follow it, and do not deviate from it in an attempt to see things which are not meant for your eyes. Learn where it is that you belong, and accept that for all your brilliance, there are some things you are not meant to discover or understand. Only then will you be worthy of true wisdom.”

“There are some things I am not meant to see,” Rowena says aloud into a starless sky when she opens her eyes again to look upon the world she was born into.

“Exactly,” the power she cannot see whispers back, and so she breathes in deep, sets her shoulders, and walks through her life without breaking down the barriers which contain her.

She never forgets her limitations or her goals, but she learns - when she has tried and failed and the stars speak to her to remind her once again - that she is not always meant for greatness.

The people around her call her wise every time she attempts something and gives it up before it is too late. “Wise,” they say, when she saves a child from burning with an impassioned speech and no magic.

They call her choice the same when she agrees to accept Enoch’s hand, when she trades out being a Peverell to become a Ravenclaw, for such a match is surely beneficial to both parties: the joining of two powerful, wealthy families can never be an unwise decision.

When people learn of her eagle form, they are unsurprised, all agreeing amongst each other that there is no other animal she could possibly be. Soon enough, good judgement is expected of her, and people follow in her footsteps on the streets, as though the path she chooses is the best way to get where she intends.

Father and Père and Enoch all watch her sympathetically as she is swarmed by people requesting her infallible advice often enough that she wants to scream.

For the first time in her life, Rowena does something monumentally stupid; she packs a bag and steps into a starlit portal leading to the unknown. She does not say goodbye to her parents or her husband, and she waits for the rumors of her unwise decision to reach her ears.

I am sorry, she writes in a letter to Enoch, and the unwavering support she receives in his reply a few days later leaves her aching.

Sometimes, he writes back, wisdom - and I know you hate the use of the word in reference to you - is knowing when to leave the world behind before it devours you. She traces the smooth lines of his words at night, and holds the stem of bleeding hearts he had sent in her hand as she runs a finger over his final words. I love you, they read, and she can feel him in the pink and white-tipped blooms.

Rowena wanders the country-side, wondering what path she is meant to take when there are so many open to her. At night, she uses the stars to guide her East, tracing their shapes and stories into the sky as she continues onward. She wonders if there would have been any difference in the stories if it had been Cassiopeia rather than Medusa who had birthed Pegasus, wonders how they would have differed had it been Orion instead of Heracles performing the twelve labors.

As she travels, Rowena hears tales of a Necromantic army being utilized by the Reaper Guild. She wonders why a group of people with an anti-Muggle agenda would employ the use of an undead army, and begins to wonder just who these undead are. If they are scorned, burned magic-users, she is sure that the desire for revenge might translate into their actions against the non-magicals. Perhaps, though, this Necromancer - the leader of the Guild and known only as Slytherin - has raised any dead for his cause, uncaring of what might remain of their feelings on the matter.

Rowena follows the stars, wondering if the path chosen for her will bring her in contact with the Reaper Guild and Slytherin. She doesn’t wonder for long, for only a month later, she arrives in a village as night falls. It is under attack, the members of the Guild dressed in dark robes, their wands raised to cast Wards preventing escape. Rowena watches as the figure in front - a tall man with golden hair - raises his hands. The ground cracks, a deep cavern forming as brittle hands scrabble desperately at the edges. Emaciated bodies crawl out and shuffle toward the houses in the village at the man’s command. Slytherin stands back, directing the undead, as his followers lunge forward, protected by the ensuing chaos left in his army’s footsteps. Spells flash through the air in bright streaks of color, and buildings burn, and voices rise in pained screams.

Rowena leaps forward, unwilling to allow the Reaper Guild to destroy people’s lives. She calls upon the power of the stars, wills the heat of them to set the bodies of the dead alight. The living are not so easily dealt with, and she is unable to tell many of the villagers apart from the Reapers, so she focuses on consuming the corpses that Slytherin continues to summon from the earth.

“Radomir!” a deep, smooth voice calls from behind her, and Rowena’s concentration falters for a split second. Slytherin uses her distraction to draw out countless more cadavers, and she growls; these ones are more bone than skin, are less flammable, and she curses herself for her distraction. “Radomir!” the voice calls again, louder this time, and Slytherin jerks in recognition. “Don’t do this,” the voice encourages, but Slytherin - Radomir - ignores it and redoubles his efforts. “Brother,” the voice says, softer, and Radomir stills. “Do not make me fight you,” it continues, quiet and threatening and deadly. Radomir Slytherin turns, his undead army crumbling to the ground helplessly, unable to stand and fight without his assistance.

“You could never fight me, Sal,” Radomir says, and Rowena is struck by how beautiful his voice is; somehow, she had not thought that someone committing such atrocious acts as he did could have a pleasing voice. “You’re too afraid of losing the people you love.”

“I am,” the man admits, unashamed. “Or I was. Now I am more afraid of you than I am of losing you, brother.”

“I am not your brother, Salazar,” Radomir snarls. “You are born of mud. You are weak , unable to let go of the past. I cannot claim one so stuck on permanence as a brother.”

Rowena can feel Salazar move past her, into her line of sight, the warmth of him slipping out from behind her and moving ever closer toward his cold-hearted brother. “The past has made me who I am, Radomir. I cannot help that it has made me wary of death.” He stops in front of Rowena, blocking her from the Necromancer’s view with his dark hair and broad shoulders and tall stature. “Do you remember,” he says abruptly, “when I told you that Hades was stronger than Zeus because he never lost anyone when they died?”

“I do,” Radomir allows with the shadow of a sneer.

“You told me that Hades’ inability to let people go when they died was a weakness. You were right. But brother, it is not I who lives amongst the dead and keeps their counsel. It is not I who seeks revenge for the deaths of our parents.”

“That does not mean you will fight me because I am, though,” Radomir counters confidently. “Your refusal to seek revenge does not mean you do not agree with what I am doing. I know you, Sal. I know that you would do anything to keep your loved ones alive.”

“Yes, I would. But our mother and father are dead, and it is pointless to avenge their deaths by attacking all non-magicals when only one is responsible for their deaths. You are wrong, though. I will fight you, if need be, because I have learned that living in the past does not create permanence. If I fight you, it will be to save you from yourself.”

Radomir bares his teeth at Sal, but the skeletons of the dead turn to ash, and he disappears with a crack. His departure does not hinder the continuing chaos within the village; his followers continue to set fire to homes and shops, and Rowena rushes down to stop them. Salazar follows behind her, and she watches as he turns one of the Reapers into a pillar of salt. She calls down the power of the stars to deage another until she is no older than a year, and he looks at her with narrowed eyes.

“You are a Cosmic practitioner?” he asks urgently.

“I am,” she confirms. “Why?”

“You can channel the stars through me; as an Alchemist, I can turn them all to salt if I have enough power,” he demands, and she stares at him. “Well?” he snaps impatiently. “Will you do it? People are going to die if we don’t end this quickly.”

Rowena concentrates, pouring overwhelming power into herself and letting it well up. “Ready?” she asks as energy begins to flow out of her orifices in waves.

Sal inhales, raises his hands and lets his own magic flow to the surface. “Yes,” he says firmly, his voice steady and without doubt.

She opens herself up, lets the devastating pool of magic leap out of her and into him. She burns from the inside out as she continues to pull from the Heavens and push the resulting power into him. His hands glow white, and the Reapers turn from warm, tanned flesh into glistening pillars of salt.

Rowena releases her grip on the stars, staggering at the sudden loss of power. Salazar leans heavily against her, and they sink to the ground together, where they take gasping breaths as they try to recover.

“That… was a lot,” he rasps. “Wasn’t expecting quite that much magic to be at my disposal.”

Rowena smiles weakly at him, and tilts her head back to stare up at the incandescent stars. “I didn’t know I could draw that much at once,” she admits once she’s gotten enough air back into her lungs to do so. “I have used the stars to do incredible things before, but nothing quite like that.”

Salazar levers to his feet, holding out a hand to help her up. He keeps hold of it for a moment. “Salazar Slytherin,” he says, meeting her gaze with intelligent green eyes. “An Alchemist,” he says, reiterating his specialization, “who is learning that it is better to love and lose than for the memories of the past to be permanent,” he finishes.

She quirks her lips at him. “Rowena Ravenclaw. A Cosmic practitioner who wants to build a magic school some day.”

Sal lets go of her hand, and she wonders if she should have said something else, wonders if it was wise to expose herself so soon. “Can I help?” he asks instead of scorning her.

She grins at him, joy filling her. “Of course.”

She feels like flying, and so she leaps into the air and spreads her wings wide; she has already shared one secret with him today.

He brushes the back of a finger across her beak, caresses the bronze feathers on her wings. “An eagle,” he says. “How fitting.”

For once, she does not bristle with resentment.