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lucky dutch

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When Nicole is seven she gets a cop kit. Her mother sighs heavily, casting faintly accusing, strongly recriminatory looks at her father, who shrugs. It’s one of the cheap ones, with the weak metal handcuffs even a child can break out of using brute strength, but she pins the plastic gold badge to her pajama top and arrests her sister for sneaking a cookie before dinner.

On her ninth birthday she buys a cap gun with the allowance she’s saved up for years and all the spare change she can find: the sidewalk, the couch cushions, the gutters. She prowls the neighborhood, taking cover behind the trees and the patio furniture, leaping out to shoot the imaginary criminals. She’s in her front yard when Johnny Wilson from next door jumps out, startling her into a scream. He laughs and pulls her ponytail, hard enough to make her yelp, tears springing in her eyes. She brings the gun up and fires at him, even know she knows it’ll only make a sharp popping noise and smell like burnt out firecrackers. They’re both surprised when it fires a pellet into his leg. He topples over, then wails, stumbling away and calling for his parents. His mother storms their house ten minutes later.

“It was a cap gun,” Nicole protests when her parents sit her down for a lecture, but she’s grounded for a week and her father throws her gun away. She cries for two days, heartbroken, and on the third day her mother tells her to try smiling at Johnny at school, that he was trying to play with her and pulled her hair because he liked her. She clenches her hands into tiny fists, stops crying and starts being angry.

She’s grounded on her tenth birthday because she gets in a fight with two boys on the playground. One of them now has green hair, which the administration hasn’t figured out how to blame her for. “They were being mean,” she mutters in the principal's office, pinned by disapproving glares.

“That was not ladylike,” her mother scolds while her father drives them home. Nicole thinks about Lisa Jaffy, who cried when the boys pushed her down in the mud and laughed.

“Sorry,” she mumbles, and accepts going straight to bed without dinner, clomping into her room. She lies on her back in bed and rubs her scraped knuckles. She thinks about how Lisa had smiled when she’d thrown a punch and how soft her hand felt in Nicole’s when she pulled her to her feet, how blue her eyes were. She rolls over to hide her flushed face in her pillow and giggles.

On her eleventh birthday an owl swoops her Aunt Meredith, who’s telling her boys don’t like girls who talk too much, and drops a letter in her lap.

//

Nicole’s mother holds her hand too tight in Diagon Alley, breathing too fast as they wander through the orientation, the bank, the shops. Nicole gets a wand, robes, equipment she’s never heard of, a cat because her mother frets she’ll be too homesick. Then they go to the bookstore and Nicole leaves her mother ticking down the school list to edge up to the counter, wait until the man with the wild white hair notices her. She clears her throat, nervous because she knows the church dress her mother made her wear makes her stick out. “Excuse me? Are there wizard cops?”

The man peers down at her. “Cops?”

“Police,” Nicole clarifies, and he squints at her for a few long seconds.

“Here.” He’s holding a book, green and red and yellow, with silvery lettering. When she reaches for it snaps at her and she jumps back. Then she takes a deep breath and pinches it between two palms.

“Stop that,” she tells it firmly, and it goes docile in her hands.

The man’s face softens. “No extra charge.” Nicole walks back to her mother, tracing the title with the edges of her nails.

“Auror,” she says, testing the word on her tongue. She likes it.

//

Nicole sits on the train with her cat purring in her carrier against her legs, listening to the wheels rattle along on the tracks, alone in her own compartment. The door slams open and another girl stumbles in, older.

“Shit,” she says. She shoves the door shut behind her. “Yeah, listen, can I chill here for a minute?” She fumbles with the door. “Why don’t these lock?” Footsteps thunder past, raised voices. The girl winces. “Maybe two minutes?”

Nicole eyeballs her. “Who’re you?”

“Wynonna Earp.” The girl sticks a hand out, and before Nicole can decide what to do the door bursts open again.

“Here she is,” another girl hisses, “you bitch!”

“Do you mind?” Wynonna asks, turning, “my friend and I are having a private conversation.”

The girl rakes her eyes over to Nicole, her nose turned up. Nicole doesn’t really have a dog in this fight, and she had promised her parents to stop fighting, but Wynonna’d offered to shake her hand and this girl is curling her lip in a sneer, so Nicole stands up. “Yeah, do you mind?”

The girl snorts, dismissive. She turns to Wynonna. “Hiding behind Mudbloods now?” Nicole’s never heard that word in her life but she’s eleven, not a moron, and she springs to her feet, drawing her wand from where she keeps it up her sleeve. Wynonna beats her to action, slamming the girl against the wall with her hands twisted in the collar of her robes, her face white with fury.

“Ms. Earp.” An adult has appeared, his voice calm but iron. “Ms. Tirten. Perhaps it’s best you two remain several cars apart.” He separates them, sends the girl on her way. “Watch yourself,” he warns Wynonna, “do you really want to be set back another year?” Wynonna shuts the door in his face. She looks at Nicole.

“You a second year or a third?”

“First.” Wynonna looks surprised.

“Really? You’re tall for a firstie.”

“I know.”

Wynonna looks at Nicole’s wand, still outstretched. “If you’re a first year, what were you planning to do with that?”

“I don’t know,” Nicole admits. She slips it back up her sleeve.

“Right. Well, nice to meet you, uh…”

“Nicole. You don’t have to go.”

“You seem nice.” Wynonna knocks the door open with a shove of her hand. “But you really don’t want to be friends with me.” She points down the aisle. “She’s a bitch, but I may have deserved the beating she was looking to give.”

“May have?”

“I may have--” Wynonna wiggles her eyebrows “--made out with her boyfriend.”

“Oh,” Nicole says.

“And her brother.” Wynonna steps out of the compartment. “See you around, Nancy.” She leaves.

“Nicole,” Nicole says, to no one.

//

Nicole is still in awe of the lake, the squid, the floating candles, the galaxy moving on the ceiling, when they call her name and thump the (talking. singing.) hat over her face.

“Not scared?” it asks her. “You’re taking this pretty in stride for a Muggle born.”

“I’m not scared,” Nicole whispers, fierce. She slides a hand up her robe sleeve to feel her wand, reassuring and warm in her palm.

“Hm.” When the hat screams RAVENCLAW Nicole pushes it off her face and staggers to the table that’s roaring a welcome, nibbles on bread to calm her stomach.

//

Nicole joins the dueling club. She carves out an hour every day, including weekends, to practice: quickdrawing, the little shields and wards and jinxes she learns during clubtime. She finds she’s good at charms, but terribly weak at Transfigurations, and she thinks Potions is a cruel and unnecessary punishment. She’s surprised to see Wynonna in a few of her blocks; Wynonna’s two years older than her but counted only as a second year, and apparently is in a few first year classes.

During Transfigurations Nicole’s partner accidentally transfigures the needle into a really big needle instead of a thimble and the failure seems to anger it; it stabs Nicole through the palm before the Professor waves it back into an inanimate object. Nicole trots down to the infirmary, handkerchief wrapped around her wound, and Wynonna is already there, talking to her wand.

“I know you don’t like me,” she’s whispering, “but we’re stuck with each other, so if you could calm down the burning and the not working I’d take it as a personal favor.”

“Hi,” Nicole says from the doorway. Wynonna jerks, her wand disappearing up her sleeve. Her left hand is blistered, shining with ointment and inflamed, swollen. Nicole holds up her own hand. “Transfiguration.”

“Angry needle?”

Nicole nods and Wynonna shifts over on the bed so Nicole can hop up next to her. Their legs swing off the ground, brushing occasionally. Madame Pomfrey bustles over, clicking her tongue, and slaps something greasy and foul smelling over the puncture in her palm.

“Wait ten minutes.” She turns to Wynonna. “And ar you still insisting on using someone else’s wand?” Wynonna’s face freezes, hardens.

“It’s mine.” Madame Pomfrey tuts and leaves, her attention drawn to a sheepish Hufflepuff staggering in with backwards knees. Wynonna’s face is completely closed off, her breathing harsh and furious, and Nicole wants to break the silence but can’t think of anything. After ten minutes the burning itch in her hand fades, the skin healed over pink and new. When she leaves she casts a last look back, sees Wynonna looking down her sleeve.

“Please,” she whispers.

//

Nicole goes home at Christmas and practices wand movements with a stick from the lemon tree in the backyard, pours over her books. She eats dinner with her parents and they ask generic questions: has she made friends? Does she like the food? They don’t talk about magic and they change the subject when Nicole tries to tell them about how the squid likes boiled peanuts, how she saw a wood sprite twirling under the moonlight. Her sister is busy with her friends and Nicole is bored. Her father drags her into the living room and teaches her how to fight dirty, gouging eyeballs and sucker punches, how to use her body to beat bigger and stronger opponents.

“I don’t know what world you live in now,” he says, a little sad, a little angry. “But you’ll never be free of it. You have to be smarter, better, than… those people.” There’s a pause before he says people, and he says it like the girl had said Mudblood on the train.

//

They move Nicole up to second year Defense Against the Dark Arts for the second term, even though she’s still a first year, and she decides to spend two hours a day practicing rather than just one, thinking about her own dreams and her father’s warning. Her suitemates get tired of her throwing jinxes at the wooden target in their shared room and she moves her practice to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where it’s quiet and isolated but not yet dangerous or off limits. She’s taking a water break when she hears branches cracking. She tenses, drawing her wand and dropping her bottle, but it’s only Wynonna, staggering out.

“Hey,” she says when she sees Nicole.

“Hey,” Nicole answers. She frowns. “You’re not supposed to be in there.”

“What’re you gonna do, rat me out?”

“No.”

Wynonna looks surprised. “Really?” Nicole sighs.

“Does everyone actually hate you, or are you just delusional?”

“Both, if you ask the professionals.” Wynonna flops to sit against a tree trunk, picking up Nicole’s fallen water bottle and chugging. “What’s your excuse for being out here?”

Nicole lifts her chin. “I’m going to be an Auror.”

Wynonna laughs. “Sure, kid.”

Nicole grits her teeth, blood rushing in her ears. “You’re drunk,” she accuses. She knows the look.

“Yeah,” Wynonna says, like it should be obvious. “And you’re a muggle goody two shoe newbie witch who couldn’t transfigure her way out of a paper bag.” Her eyes narrow. “What are you really doing out here? Did someone send you to spy on me?”

“You were right,” Nicole fumes, grabbing her bag off the ground. “I don’t want to be your friend.”

//

There’s some kind of tradition Ravenclaw has two weeks before finals where they all camp out in the library. “Why can’t other Houses come,” Nicole wonders, brow furrowed, and is told to have a little house pride. She thinks it’ll cut into her practice time, and her roommates are still a little tetchy about the time she underestimated the range of a gravity flip hex, so she bows out of the bonding study experience, reveling in having the room to herself.

She’s asleep when she hears the floorboards creak, and she’s awake and flinging Petrificus Totalus in the same second. There’s a heavy thump as someone hits the ground.

“What the fuck,” Wynonna says, muffled, facedown. Nicole flips her over with a grunt and peers at her.

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing, dueling like that as a firstie?” Nicole feels a rush of pride.

“Not bad for a muggle goody two shoe newbie witch?” It takes her two tries to undo the curse, and Wynonna groans when she’s free, rubbing her arms.

“I guess,” she mutters, which is not an apology.

“How’d you get in here? Aren’t there charms and stuff?”

Wynonna snorts. “Please. I may be the biggest fuck up to ever hit the incestous Pureblood family web, but I know how to sneak around.” Nicole stares at her, and she relents. “I could… use a place to crash. I thought you’d all be at the nerd gathering in the library.”

Nicole climbs back into bed. She flaps a hand at the rest of the room. “Those are free, I guess.” She points at one of the beds. “Shravya’s the cleanest.”

Wynonna stands up and hesitates. “You’re not going to call for a prefect? Or kick me out yourself?”

Nicole smashes her face into her pillow. “No.” There’s a short period of silence.

“Are you hungry?”

Nicole opens her eyes with a sigh. “It’s the middle of the night.”

“So? I could murder a stack of pancakes.” Nicole drums her finger against her mattress.

“Yeah, okay.” She dresses while Wynonna pokes through the trunks of her roommates, then leads her through the castle, winding to avoid the patrol routes she somehow knows about. She also seems to know all the paintings, even they look at her disapprovingly, and in short order she’s poking at a portrait to swing it open. Nicole steps into the kitchen, where Wynonna greets the house elves by name and soon they’re eating perfectly golden pancakes smothered with butter and maple syrup, thick fluffy french toast with cut fruit and powdered sugar. They walk back to the dorms yawning and leaning on each other.

Wynonna stays the week, spitting sunflower seeds on her roommates’ beds. She’s asleep when Nicole leaves and lounging when she returns. “Do you even go to class?”

“For exams. Sometimes.”

Nicole sinks into studying, stressed, and Wynonna tugs her away from her books every so often for food a house elf actually delivers, and what’s she’s dubbed ‘cute firstie Auror practice’. “You’re actually pretty not terrible,” she says. Nicole learns Wynonna isn’t bad herself, brash and instinctive but with a wicked arsenal of curses and creative, ingenious use of the environment. They spar between dinner and Nicole’s daily miserable grind through her Transfiguration textbook, and Nicole has to scramble so Wynonna doesn’t wipe the floor with her. After one particularly grueling match that shatters glass and has the paintings fleeing the room they flop on their backs on Nicole’s bed, panting. Wynonna shoves tissue up her nose to staunch the bleed she’ll have for the next four hours and Nicole’ll have jelly legs until breakfast but she feels jubilant, exhilarated. It makes her brave.

“Why’re you older but in some first year classes?”

“I was in the hospital,” Wynonna says after a moment, tense and quiet.

“Oh.” Nicole heaves herself up to her elbows, and then sitting. She sighs. “Transfiguration.” Wynonna doesn’t get up, her breathing going even and soft. By the time Nicole snaps her book shut she’s too tired to shake Wynonna awake. She crawls into bed beside her, tugging a blanket over them both, and passes out.

//

When she wakes up Wynonna’s still against her side, snoring lightly, and two of her suitemates are peering down at her.

“Seriously?” Shravya asks. “You’re… with Earp?”

“Don’t be a moron.” Wynonna’s voice is cutting, and she doesn’t bother to open her eyes. “You’re all very sexually minded for twelve year olds.” Shravya’s unimpressed.

“You’re only two years older than us.”

“So I’m friends with your roommate. Get over it.”

“How’d you even get in here?”

“I let her in,” Nicole pipes up. “Like she said. Friends.”

“Listen,” Shravya says, “you’re weirdly focused, and you’re muggle-born, so it’s not your fault for not knowing, but Wynonna Earp is bad news. She’s crazy. You know she killed her dad, right?” Nicole had no idea about any of that, but Wynonna flinches, actually flinches, the girl who hadn’t blinked when hit with four curses in a row, which she let Nicole do to see what they’d act like chained together.

Nicole punches Shravya in the face.

Things deteriorate from there.

//

They’re dragged in front of a panel. Head of Houses, Head Boy and Girl, Headmistress. Wynonna is flippant and irreverent and Nicole tries to be stoic, her stomach rolling, her palms sweating. They try to get Wynonna to admit how she got through the charms and Nicole again, claims to have let her in. They get four weeks scrubbing cauldrons at the beginning of fall term, after summer break. When they leave the headmistress’ office there’s a boy leaning against the stone wall.

“Making trouble, Earp?”

“Oh never, future Prefect Dolls,” Wynonna drawls.

“I’ll figure out how you do it one day,” he says. Wynonna salutes him, mocking.

//

Nicole stumbles out of her last final of the day in a haze and Wynonna is waiting for her. “I figure it might be awkward in your dorm for a few days. Wanna put it off and duel in the forest?”

“Yeah.” They walk out of the castle, feeling the summer breeze on their faces. “Does this mean I’m not a goody two shoe anymore?”

Wynonna slings a companionable arm around her shoulders. “I think that ship has sailed. Next year I’ll teach you how to fly.”

//

Nicole takes up jogging over summer holiday. It centers her, and helps when her fingers itch for her wand. She feels cut off, trapped in her house that doesn’t feel like her home anymore, not allowed to use the magic that hums in her skin. She considers writing Wynonna but realizes she has neither an address nor an owl. Her mother is hesitant around her, both fumbling with the loss of familiarity and the awkwardness left in its place. Her father teaches her how to shoot his old rifle, and she thinks it might be because it doesn't require conversation. Her sister is away at camp, and Nicole plays basketball in the park on the weekends, bored.

//

She looks for Wynonna at the station but can’t find her. She walks the train twice before she discovers her slumped in a solitary compartment. “Hey.” Wynonna looks surprised to see her, and Nicole slides into the seat across from her. “Why didn’t you wait for me?”

Wynonna looks as hesitant as Nicole’s ever seen her. “I wasn’t sure if you’d changed your mind.” She rolls a shoulder. “No hard feelings if you want to bounce.”

Nicole shrugs. “I guess I’ll keep you around. Until I can fly better than you.”

“You know I’m on the team, right?” Nicole tries to hide her surprise and can’t. “I know… not big on spirit, me.” She crooks her fingers into angry quotation marks. “It’s supposed to help me with my ‘rage problem’.” Nicole makes a noncommittal noise. Wynonna socks her shoulder. “Hey!”

“Are you going to try to and say you don’t have an anger problem?”

“No,” Wynonna mutters. “But as a friend, you should agree with me. However ridiculous.”

“Fine.” Nicole sighs, put upon, but she can’t hide her smile. Friends.

//

In her fifth year, Nicole meets a Girl. Kylie is short and she’s got half her head shaved, the other half grown long and braided and fierce, and she wears fangs in the upper cartilage of her ears. She swoops Nicole in the early mornings, when she’s trying to practice shooting on the field (Wynonna doesn’t fly in the morning. Wynonna doesn’t do anything in the morning), and smirks when Gryffindor wins the first scrimmage of the season, doing a fancy spin during the post game handshakes. “Better luck next time,” she sing songs, and Nicole flushes, part rage part something else.

“I’ll get you next time,” she says at the after party, and Kylie laughs, kissing her against the damp grass, the music and laughter fading away with the skim of her fingers up Nicole’s top.

Nicole goes dreamy at mealtimes, sneaking glances at the Gryffindor table, and Wynonna gets a weird, pinched look on her face when Nicole talks about her. “Just be careful,” Wynonna mutters.

“She’s a Gryffindor,” Nicole teases, “don’t you have support for your own House?”

“Yeah,” Wynonna says, “not really even a little bit.”

Nicole takes her to the Astronomy tower the night before the big game, where they’ll have to try and beat each other into the ground. She winds around the castle using the route Wynonna taught her and likes the impressed look Kylie gets when they dodge the patrols easily. The stars are bright and the wind is cold enough Nicole tugs Kylie against her to share one cloak, smiling when she bites at Nicole’s neck. They drink the fizzy liquor from Wynonna’s borrowed flask and make out, messy and too wet, sloppy and giggling.

“C’mere,” Kylie says, smirking eyes, and Nicole loses her virginity in the moonlight, gasping and shuddering, Kylie panting and murmuring into her chest.

She wakes up hungover, alone, and late to the game, sprinting through the castle, flinging accios as she tears down to the field, dressing on the way. She makes it thirty seconds before the starting whistle and her Captain delays the game by lighting into her, furious, and Nicole brings her hands up too slow, blinking at her reflexes until Madame Hooch pulls them apart and shoves Nicole on her broom. She rises to her starting position and Wynonna’s waiting for her, out of formation. “What the hell happened to you?”

Nicole blinks rapidly, the headache thumping in her temples. She didn’t think she’d drunk that much. “Overslept,” she says, her words slow and fumbly. Wynonna opens her mouth, frowning, but the whistle cuts through the air and the snitch flits away and they separate.

Nicole scores two goals before she has to swoop down to the grass and vomit. She groans, dragging herself back to her broom and not at all enjoying the loud commentary booming around the stadium on what she appeared to have for dinner the night before. She rises, shaky, and nods when a fellow chaser hisses to get her shit together. Kylie falls into a flight path right beside her. “You’re tougher than I thought.”

Nicole groans again. “How are you not feeling this?”

“Probably because I didn’t drink any after I slipped the flu shot in.”

Nicole halts so fast she almost catapults herself off her broom. “What?”

Kylie turns and floats back over to her. “It has some fancy name, but we’re both muggle-born, right? Flu shot. Get it, like a shot?” She laughs. “Oh don’t give me that look. You’re cute and it’s not personal.” She shrugs. “I want the cup, babe.” She zips away and Nicole is frozen, long enough that a bludger knocks her off her broom.

//

She wakes up in the infirmary, her ribs twanging. Waverly is sitting beside her. “Hey,” she says, “you’re awake!”

“Ugh,” Nicole says. “What happened?”

“You fell,” Waverly says, and her face is tight for a second. “You looked… really sick.”

Nicole remembers with a rush. She covers her face with one hand. “I’m so stupid.” Waverly pats her other hand, gentle.

“Wynonna found out what happened. The school’s trying to decide if there should be any action taken.”

Nicole snorts. There’s an absolute zero percent chance the school will take any action. “Who won?”

Waverly hesitates too long. “Madame Pomfrey says your ribs only need another hour--”

“I want to be alone,” Nicole interrupts, and rolls over to face away, even though the position makes her body scream. She curls her face into the mattress and tries not to cry. After a minute the mattress shifts, Waverly clambering on. “What’re you doing?”

“You’ll feel better after a cuddle,” Waverly says firmly. She wiggles down and drags Nicole against her.

“I’ve never cuddled in my life,” Nicole says, resisting.

“Then you don’t know it won’t work.” Waverly pokes Nicole in her injured ribs, and when she goes boneless from the pain she tucks herself around Nicole, determined. Nicole grumbles. “Be quiet. This isn’t entirely altruistic, you know. I’ve always wanted to be the big spoon.”

“Champ wouldn’t let you?” Cautiously, Nicole relaxes into the curve of Waverly’s body. Waverly tucks her chin against Nicole’s neck.

“I think it threatened his masculinity.”

“Champ’s a moron,” Nicole mutters.

“And Kylie’s a bitch,” Waverly says, fiercely angry on Nicole’s behalf, and it’s enough that Nicole lets herself doze, her ribs knitting back up to protect her heart. “Maybe they should date each other,” Waverly muses, and they snicker.

//

Waverly wakes Nicole up when she’s allowed to leave and makes Nicole wear her cloak, even though it’s ludicrously too short. They’re shuffling out when Nicole sees Kylie on another bed. She freezes, surprised, and Kylie glares at her. Waverly grabs Nicole’s hand, head held high, and drags her away. “What happened to her?”

“Um,” Waverly says.

Nicole narrows her eyes. “Where’s Wynonna?”

“Jeez, you really will be a good Auror.” Waverly chirps the password to the Fat Lady and drags Nicole up to her room. She shares a complicated series of looks with Chrissy Nedley and then they’re alone. She tries to put Nicole to bed, clucking about rest, and Nicole flips them to pin Waverly against the mattress.

“Spill.” Waverly presses her lips together, mulish, and Nicole digs her fingers into Waverly’s sides.

“No,” Waverly squeaks around helpless giggles. “Stop it! This is angry laughter!” Nicole continues, relentless, and finally Waverly groans. “Fine, fine.” Nicole sits back on Waverly’s hips and Waverly pushes up onto her elbows. “After you fell, everyone was distracted with getting you off the field.”

“Right,” Nicole says, because she’d figured that much.

“And Wynonna hit a bludger at… that girl’s face.” Waverly looks angry just thinking about Kylie, and it makes Nicole feel flushed and heady, warmed. Then she processes what Waverly’s said and gapes.

“No.” It’s not a breach of rules so much as it is a serious breach of player etiquette--when someone’s injured you stop, floating patiently, until they’re off the pitch. Beaters have even been known to shield opposing players during the temporary ceasefire.

“Yeah. And then uh, she kept hitting it at Kylie’s face. Like, it would rebound off and she’d just--” Waverly mimes swinging the bat. “Until Kylie admitted what happened. Then I guess she lost her temper--”

Then she lost her temper?”

“Don’t interrupt me, I’m not finished. Yeah, so then she got angry so she jumped off her broom and tackled Kylie, and then Madame Hooch got there.”

Nicole gapes. “Is… she okay?”

“Yeah, Kylie’s just bruised, broken nose. Wynonna’s… you know. In Wynonna trouble.”

Nicole frowns at the bedspread. “It’s my fault. I was stupid.”

Waverly sits up all the way, their faces very close together. “You’re not stupid.”

Waverly’s face is screwed up, anger and indignation and hurt, all on Nicole’s behalf, and her skin is faintly flushed from laughter, her hair mussed. She’s beautiful, Nicole thinks, not for the first time.

//

They nap for awhile, and then go to the kitchens to pick up some food. Waverly tickles the pear and Nicole blinks. “Wait, you just have to poke the painting?”

“Yeah, why? How’d Wynonna figure it out?” A threatening jab and a promise of sectumsempra, but Nicole just shrugs. They wrap pastries in napkins and go wait for Wynonna outside the Dungeons, where she’s finishing up one of many, many detentions to come.

“Ooh,” she says, shoveling a bearclaw in her mouth. “You’re the best.”

“I know,” Waverly preens.

“Not really,” Nicole mumbles, guilty. Wynonna rolls her eyes.

“It’s not like I did it for you,” she says. “I was just doing my job. Beaters are supposed to hit bludgers.”

“Yeah,” Nicole says, “at the other team.” Wynonna shrugs.

“I don’t know, I was drunk when they explained the rules.”

They walk down the halls, and they still get looks from other students and Nicole is still pretty much radio-silent with her roommates and she still hears whispers about Wynonna being crazy, being a killer, and sometimes Waverly’s stupid ex-boyfriend Champ tries to hex her under the table during Charms, and at some point she’s going to have to go talk to Kylie and then grovel to her team, but right now she’s got a friend on either side and she loves them.

“Guys,” she says when they’re outside by the lake, Wynonna eating donuts with glee and Waverly three inches into a Potions essay. “About Kylie. I uh, I mean. I like…” she trails off, helpless and nervous, her fingers twisting against each other.

“Yeah,” Wynonna says, powdered sugar on her nose and up one side of her cheek. “We get it, you’re a very special unicorn.”

Waverly flicks her in the forehead. “Don’t be like that, this is an important moment for Nicole.”

Nicole flops on her back and watches the clouds roll around, the sun disappearing over the horizon. “No it’s not.” She grins at the sky. “It’s fine.”