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The Hufflepuff Girl’s Dormitory was divided into five rooms.

This particular morning, however, there was another room, at the end of the dormitory corridor. Jill had informed Sparrow that it would be there, and that she would be in it. Sparrow had taken some time to believe her friend, but then she remembered a night about two years ago where Catarina Quiddler had needed a place to sleep away from a rather abusive ex, something that could last longer than a shield spell, and until such time as the matter was sorted out there had been a sixth dorm room that would open for none but her.

And here it was again. Sparrow knocked on the door, and it opened silently, despite the fact that Jill, already in her school robes, was kneeling with her face pressed against the one tall window. The morning light cast a long shadow behind her. A wide bed stood against the left-hand wall, a wardrobe stood beside it, a chair sat against the opposite wall, a thickly-piled carpet lay between them. That was all the room held.

Sparrow shut the door. “Are you…feeling okay?”

“Hm?” Jill looked back at Sparrow.

“I mean you don’t look exactly happy.”

“Oh!” Jill giggled. “I wanted to be kneeling all dramatically in front of the window when you came in, but then I realized I could barely see out the damn thing. So, I was just trying to peer through it.”

The windowpane, as Sparrow now noticed, admitted all sunlight but offered very little clue as to the view outside. Sparrow was not certain if the shape outside the window was a dead tree or some manner of distant tower.

“Maybe it is best not to ask,” said Sparrow.

“That’s a strange thing to hear coming from you,” said Jill.

“Let us say…I am learning my limits.”

“Ah, yes.” Jill stood, but remained staring at the window. “About that.”

Sparrow remained at the door for a second, waiting for Jill to say something else, to no avail. She gave up and sat down on the end of the bed, then decided that it would be a far more fitting position if she sat in Jill’s shadow on the carpet.

Still Jill did not speak.

“You called me here for some reason,” said Sparrow. “Are you going to let me know what it is or will I be waiting here until breakfast? I know you’re feeling like this is an important meeting but – ” She fell silent when Jill turned around.

“I suppose you’re wondering,” said Jill, “Why I’ve called you here this – oh hang it all, you look like some kind of poor peasant praying to a god.” She sat with her back against the wall, neck at the level of the windowsill, so that her head remained silhouetted. “I can’t possibly talk to you in that position. And I bet I just looked like a towering glowering grump anyway. And I’m still silhouetted.” She moved to the side.

“Now you look like you’re a mysterious muttering specter hiding in the shadows, waiting to offer cynical cryptic clues to the idealistic hero.”

“You’re not far off the mark,” said Jill. “But you’re still in the center of the rug so the positioning is all weird. And you’re lit up in the sun like you’re a sweet little angel.”

Sparrow put on an innocent look. “Am I not?”

“Bit of a contrast to your usual aloofness with other students, yes.”

Sparrow moved closer to the bed and out of the sunlight. “Better?”

“No. Drama’s ruined. Sorry.”

“Here’s an idea,” said Sparrow. “You sit on the bed and I’ll – ”

Sit on the bed with me? Little too lovey-dovey for my tastes right now, thank you.”

Sparrow huffed. “I was going to say, you sit on the bed and I’ll sit here in the sunlight because I like it.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

Jill flopped down on the bed and rolled herself over to lay supine, dangling her arms over the end and hanging her head, while Sparrow moved back to the center of the rug.

“Are you feeling okay?”

“No.”

“Spill.”

“To you?” said Jill. “Now? Never mind. Forget it. I can’t even tell you now and I can’t tell Jocasta eith – Dammit.” She put her hands over her scalp. “The beans, they have been spilled.”

“So you wanted to talk about dating,” said Sparrow. “That’s what this is about.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re missing me?”

“I still have you,” said Jill. “I don’t have your kisses. But, that’s by my request.”

“Are you…disappointed I’m dating Jocasta?”

Jill said nothing.

“Why?”

Take a wild guess.”

“Guessing time,” said Sparrow. “Let me see. I think it’s because…it means I’m getting involved with your arch-rival, influenced by her, enough to start thinking I want to be an Animagus after all – ah, I remember what I wanted to ask you about! I never did get an indication of what you thought of that business.”

“I would find it highly amusing to accomplish,” said Jill. “I would consider it a mighty challenge. Highly tempting. But I think you’re stalling.”

“Oh, I don’t know what you – ”

“Think about the situation from my perspective.” Jill moved back on the bed and propped her head on her arms. “From the beginning of the school year. We get to school, run straight at each other through the Great Hall and hugs and kisses and oh it’s a grand day to see you again. And you even manage to hold yourself back from mentioning the Statute of Secrecy that day, just for me, like you used to do much better.”

The best day of the year is the day I get to see you again.”

“And I always feel the same.”

Sparrow beamed, enough to nearly add more sunlight to the room.

“So at that point, I’ve been working up the nerve for months to finally tell you about my feelings for you. But I wait. Just to make sure you’re settled in at Hogwarts before I hit you with something big.”

“You mean besides your arms?”

“You know what I mean. But then oh, Jocasta Carrow shows up and – ”

“And you’re reminded that you also want to date her.”

Jill blinked.

“It’s not entirely a wild guess,” said Sparrow. She stroked her chin. “I’m thinking, you know, if your style of love is to build up to intimacy out of long-established close personal connections, such as with moi…you’ve dueled with Jocasta since First Year, right? Talked to her after matches, seen her now and then, looked forward to seeing her, missed her when she was gone, maybe a little more than you expected…am I on the right track?”

“Pretty damn close.”

“And the fact that you totally ditched me from mid-September onwards, and then again later…I know you feel things deeply, deeper than I do. You take stuff seriously. Especially your promises. You never broke a promise that you made to me – ”

“Oh yes I did,” said Jill. “That one time in First year I said I’d get you a real ball point pen, and I never did. Hang on.” She fished around in her sleeve. “Here, have a ball point pen.” She tossed a cheap plastic clicker pen at Sparrow.

“That just illustrates my point,” said Sparrow. “You care a whole hell of a lot about stuff. Enough to remember an idle promise from years and years ago. So when you tell me you’ve been desperate to hold me safe in your arms, I know you’re telling me the truth. But then in September, you ditch me once when Jocasta was around – ”

“If we’re talking about the incident with the bag of flour, I figured you were fine as long as Cormac was there.”

“Yeah,” said Sparrow. “Now we’re getting to my point. You think as long as you’re not leaving me totally alone, you’re not breaking your vow. Yes?”

“I…hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Doesn’t have to be surface thoughts. Just a matter of reflex. Last year at the end of the school year you would barely let me out of your arms. So if you are able to ditch me, it has to be a situation where you automatically assume I’ll be okay. Right? So you ditch me once, Cormac’s there, you ditch me again at the dining table, Cormac’s there, but then – ooh, the third time is different. Third time is after you made your feelings clear. After you made a promise explicit. I take you to see Miranda up on the walkway, and oh no, Jocasta’s there, your sworn nemesis! You’d think that would be a perfect time to fight for my safety, but no, you still ditch me, because – here’s the point – there’s a part of you that trusts her enough to leave me in her company.”

A room with a closed window and a closed door had no opportunity to let wind fill the silence.

“Am I right?”

“Ahem,” said Jill. “I’d say you’re getting better at considering how other people think.”

“Why thank you – ”

“And it’s tempting to make fun of you for overblowing the whole ‘sworn enemy’ thing.”

Sparrow frowned. “She isn’t your sworn enemy?”

“I have always felt safe around her. She makes me feel safe.”

Sparrow tilted her head in puzzlement. “You? Feel – what could possibly imperil the mighty Jillian Patil, strong as a roaring ox, solid as a mountain?”

Jill looked away. “Let me clarify. She makes me feel like I can be a safe person.

“Um – ”

“Same as you do. Just…in a different way. How could I possibly explain – oh, I have an idea.” Jill rolled off the bed and went over to stand before the window. “Come here.”

For a moment, Sparrow did not move, nor dare to speak. For Jill’s silhouette filled the window frame, a silhouette of a height and size that would set the weak to whimpering, and have bold heroes loosening their swords in their sheathes. Sparrow stood, in the shadow of that awesome presence, and stepped forward.

“Ready your wand.”

“Excuse me?”

If I do explode in flame, I don’t want you to be caught off-guard.”

Sparrow took her wand from her pocket. She held it in both hands close at her solar plexus, pointed straight upright in the ready-rest position of dueling. She would not point it at Jill. Not even if Jill asked.

“And now,” said Jill, “just for a moment, I will give in.”

In the next moment, where Jill’s face had been a black blankness, Sparrow could see two glowing lines of red, highlighting the line of the girl’s closed eyelids.

And then they opened. And what shone there was not a human eye as anyone would know it, not an eye as anyone would know it, neither pupil nor iris nor sclera, nothing but bright glowing red, the glow of iron just before it melted. The glow of lava as it burst from the earth. The glow of a firestorm on the horizon. Of all colors on the earth, that was the color of fury.

And in the back of her mind, Sparrow heard something. Faint, remote, indistinct, as if down a long hallway. As if two people were on the other side of a door that was down a long hallway, so that one could hear no clear part of what they were saying -- but could hear the utter fury of their argument. Whatever that voice was, whatever it was saying, it was the voice of rage incarnate.   

Sparrow's eyes were fixed upon Jill's firey gaze. But something below that gaze caught her attention. A subtle twitch of movement. Sparrow glanced down. Jill's hand was trembling as she held her wand.

Sparrow readied herself to cast a shield around her friend, wondering if any shield she made could possibly hold against the fire that Jill would unleash. Her own hand trembled.

But in the next moment, the trembling ceased. Jill’s glowing eyes became glowing lines once more, and then the glow faded.

“Is that what it is?” said Sparrow. “Is my dear friend a demon?”

“There are times,” said Jill, “when I call myself such a thing. Moments when I am alone. When I forget to avoid it, when I take pleasure in tearing myself down. Not good times. The last semester was a spiral of mental injury I inflicted against myself. But, no, I would not say there are literal demons in my family tree.”

“Then where does the glow come from?”

“Bad memories. All I can give you is a hint. Tell me, are you terrified?”

Sparrow shook her head.

“Then step closer.”

Sparrow moved to stand directly before Jill, saying nothing, head filled with questions.

“Now,” said Jill. “Look into my eyes.”

All of Sparrow’s questions fled away as Jill bent down to put her face right up to Sparrow’s, locking eyes with her. “Look,” said Jill. “I mean look. What do you see?”

At first, Sparrow saw nothing, nothing but the depth of pupils. But then she noticed – faintly, possibly, she saw a curious flicker in the way those eyes shone – a flicker that felt oddly familiar.

Jill blinked. The flicker disappeared. But then in a second, it was there again. Sparrow looked into the depths of Jill’s eyes, and in that space, where she expected nothing – there she saw movement, dim and shapeless as if she saw it in a mirror in a darkened room. Movement like flame.

“Sparrow. Tell me what you see.”

“Something burns within you. My God, Jill. How long? How long has it been burning? How many years have you been desperately holding yourself together?”

"Enough to leave its mark on my eyes. What do you think happens if I let that fire out all at once?"

“Someone would get killed. No. Many people would be killed. Possibly before they even knew what was happening. Jesus fucking Christ, Jill. Have you never seen a counselor? In the Wizarding world? Or the Muggle one?"

"Didn't want to expose them to any danger." Jill straightened up, and went back to the bed, resuming her supine position. Sparrow remained standing before the window, wishing she could see anything out of it to lighten the mood. But as ever, there was nothing. She took her place back on the carpet and rested her chin in her hands.

After a few moments of silence, she said, “Does the dueling club serve as a safe outlet?”

“Could be,” said Jill. “But think of it this way. Do you remember Finny Wambsgans?

“The guy who you almost vaporized – oh. Yes. And then Jocasta jumped in and deflected the fireball like it was nothing.”

“And has she ever lost a duel to me since?”

“I imagine she’d be minus an arm if she did.”

Jill pursed her lips.

“Sorry. Inappropriate joke. So Jocasta’s never lost a duel to you. Go on.”

“What do you think I might be thinking about her all the time?”

“That you…want her around to make sure you don’t kill someone?”

Jill shook her head.

“You like having her around because you know you won’t kill her by accident. So you can relax around her the way you can relax around me. When you’re normally wound as tight as a spring.”

Jill nodded.

“And there’s nobody else in the school who you feel like a safe person around? Nobody else who can endure your flames?”

Jill shrugged. “Percival Bulstrode, maybe. He’s gotten real good at dueling. So has his brother Maledictus. I think Lily Birch is completely invulnerable to being burned after that one potions accident but that wouldn’t save her from other spells. And, you know, none of them were like that in First year. So, Jocasta was there first…and besides you I didn’t make other friends. Couldn’t. So for a while Jocasta was the only other person who I met on a regular basis, who I would stand to be around, who seemed like…like they weren’t scared of me.”

“You were real chummy with George Peasegood last year,” said Sparrow.

“Because he had skin made of stone from that botched Animagus attempt,” said Jill.

“Oh yeah, I wondered why he looked slightly grey. I thought he was ill.”

“He was. The situation caused him all kinds of medical complications. Maybe it was a little crass of me to take advantage of that? But all his acquaintances kind of abandoned him because of how often he was stuck in the hospital wing, so he had me, and…then his condition got better and he wasn’t safe around me again so – I mean I didn’t totally abandon him, we still write letters to each other – I’m not making myself look good here am I? The point is, you can see why I came to depend on having Jocasta around. Maybe too much. Way too much.”

“Did you tell her about any of this?”

“How exactly am I supposed to say that without sounding weird and obsessive, even leaving out the part where I might accidentally melt someone?”

“Very diplomatically. So you’re saying you never told her?”

“Not really – ”

Have you ever had a proper conversation with her?

“Nnnnnno.”

“Half a conversation?”

“We mostly talk dueling business when we meet.”

“So she might have some earthly idea what’s going on here, but it’s not very likely.”

Jill nodded.

“And you think she’s not scared of you. She doesn’t flinch away or anything? No sudden back-off glares, looks of cold disdain…nothing like that?”

“She kissed me once last year.”

“Oh my God, Jill.”

“What!”

“She snogs you and you think you have to hesitate about asking her out?”

“It was on the cheek! Once! I thought it was one of her dumb jokes! She’s always joking about that kind of thing! She’s always going on like ‘oh if I had to marry anyone it would be my mighty giant dueling wife’ and – son of a bitch. Maybe she wasn’t joking.”

“Or,” said Sparrow, “she was using jokes to deflect thoughts that she didn’t want to take seriously. I think she did that to me over the past semester. Finally worked up to taking it seriously. Ooh la la.”

“Well I had every reason to believe Miss Prankster wasn’t being serious. I might have asked her out sooner if I thought she took anything seriously, ever. There were many times I felt a great disdain for her conflicting with my attachment and I couldn’t muster the courage to get her to stop. So – never had a real conversation.”

“Alright.” Sparrow lay back on the sunlit carpet, staring at the ceiling. “Let’s think about this past September. You’ve never had a proper conversation with this girl, you’ve got incredibly strong feelings about her that you haven’t worked out yet, you’ve got signals from her you haven’t fully understood yet, you’re about ready to tell me your feelings for me and – and had you yet worked out that you wanted to date her by that point?”

“A couple days before the business with the flour. But yeah, I was working up the nerve to talk to her about the situation at the same time I was going to tell you.”

“And you were incredibly conflicted, I imagine.”

“Bingo.”

“So when Jocasta made that crack about you following me into Hufflepuff – ”

“She really hit a nerve.” Jill buried her face in her arms. “I thought there was no point in telling her my feelings if she was going to make fun of them after all.”

“I see,” said Sparrow. “It was a delicate moment, teetering like a house of cards, and Jocasta tipped it over.”

“No,” said Jill. “You did.”

Sparrow sat up. She pointed at herself as if to say, me?

“You made it clear you didn’t have a clue what I was feeling. I worried that you didn’t have feelings for me at all, not the way I had them for you. So, between one potential romantic partner making fun of me, and another failing to defend me, I…had to leave the table. And I didn’t want to speak to you that day. And then a day became a week…and a week became a month…and another month. By that point, I was too embarrassed to come back.”

“But you did,” said Sparrow.

“It was clearly worth the effort. Especially since you missed me.”

“Missed you enough to nearly get sick! Yes. That was a terrible semester all around. I had to wonder if you would ever come back, or if you’d had enough of me and my wild ideas after all.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“Better to communicate one’s feelings, eh?”

“Always.”

Jill raised her head. “So let’s talk about the current situation.”

Sparrow crossed her arms.

“And how you’re feeling.”

Sparrow un-crossed her arms.

“Because from my perspective – I’m feeling like a procrastinating dumbass. Here I go, waiting too long to tell either you or Jocasta about my feelings, and then through a tragedy of repeated errors on my part, suddenly two of the girls I thought about dating are dating each other. Whoopsy-doodle.”

“I don’t…see how this is a problem.”

Jill glowered at Sparrow. “What in the hell do you mean, you don’t see how this is a problem? You can’t possibly still be as oblivious as you were in September! I just explained the entire situation!”

“From your angle. I didn’t get a chance yet to tell you what I wanted to tell you.”

Jill huffed. “Do tell.”

“First of all…Jocasta and I aren’t dating.”

“Right, right. You’re just snogging here and there. That’s bound to stay platonic forever.” Jill rolled her eyes.

“Oh no, no.” Sparrow grinned. “Both of us have caught feelings for each other by now. We just…don’t want to let them get in the way of work. Or cause undue jealousy. Which would interfere in our work. Among other things it would do. And…” She put a hand on Jill’s arm. “I know she has feelings for you too. You know how she’s acted around you, I know what she’s told me. She wouldn’t ever say she was in love, not directly. But she told me she cares about you.”

“Oh, um. Okay. Go on.”

“At the Halloween Ball…what did she say now? Something like, ‘I could cut in between you and Jill, but that would be a terrible prank, I do not wish to hurt Jill.’ Something like that.”

Jill’s eyes widened. “She was being sweet?”

Sparrow shrugged. “Pretty much, yeah. Compared to her norm.”

“Jocasta Carrow, prankster queen of Hogwarts, mocker of all people high and low, was being sweet. For my sake.”

“For your sake. And then…she’s got to have been paying close attention to you for a while, because she told me you had embers in your heart that would catch fire again and then you’d come back to me. And here you are.”

“Oh dear,” said Jill. “Oh dear oh dear oh dear.” She buried her face in her arms again. “Now what do I do. Now I have to choose at some point. Or never pursue either option.”

How do you know that’s true?”

“Eh?” Jill raised her head.

“I raised the idea with Jocasta first, but…actually, I think she gave me the idea first at the Halloween Ball. ‘Boo hoo what a pity we have monogamy.’ Or something. Maybe she didn’t mean to give me the idea but I got it.”

“What exactly are you getting at?”

“If forcing a choice on you would do you harm, I won’t have that. You could have us both, you see? And we could be three, and have each other. Without having to think we were keeping any one of us from the other.”

“Seriously?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Sparrow, I’ve seen it happen at this school a few times.”

“Oh, well – ”

“I just didn’t consider it a possibility for me. But. Here I am. Thinking about it now. Thinking how I might like that after all. Now I’ve got a lot to think about. So thanks a bunch.”

“If it’s easier on you,” said Sparrow, “I could just back off and let you have your fun with Jocasta.”

“Don’t martyr yourself, girl.”

Sparrow rose, and moved to look out the window. Or try to. “We’ve been the best of friends for three years,” said Sparrow. “That’s what I care about most here. If I’m standing here at the window, it’s to hide my own mortification. In my obliviousness I almost destroyed something dear to me.”

Sparrow fell silent.

Then Jill was there, with a hand on her shoulder. “Come on,” she said. “I thought I made it clear that I was the real dumbass in that situation.”

“You were the real dumbass after that situation.”

“We’re both dumbasses.”

Sparrow giggled. “Might as well stick together, then. But, you know, what I’m talking about, all this polyamory business…it’s hypothetical right now anyway, right? Because of your worries about your wand.”

“Exactly” said Jill, “so – hang on.” She turned to face the bed. “Okay, Sparrow,” she said in a tone normally reserved for being upwind of a mother rhinoceros. “Don’t take out your wand – ”

But that was the wrong thing to say, because a readied wand was Sparrow’s immediate reflex at the first hint of danger. She whirled around, expecting to see some manner of many-tentacled beast.

There was nothing. Nothing but a wand on the bed.

“Jill, what exactly are you – hey!” The wand on the bed flew straight at her. Her own wand flew out of her hand. They met in the air with a resounding CLACK, and hung there, fixed in place.

Fixed in place for all eternity, it seemed. No matter how much Sparrow or Jill pushed and pulled, the two wands did not move, nor did they come apart.

“This bullshit,” said Jill. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s like our wands are in love, or something.”

Sparrow kept trying to pry the wands apart, to no avail. “I know what you mean. Imagine trying to kiss you and poking you with the wand every time.”

“It’s not just that!” Jill threw up her hands. “Oh, if it were only just that! It’s like the wands are trying to play matchmaker! It’s like they’re yet another thing trying to tell me I have some kind of Destiny! I don’t hold with that nonsense and I’m not going to start now! I am in control of my person and my future!”

Sparrow sat down beneath the wands, flustered but unwilling to move away from her own. “Yet another, eh? Do tell.”

“Nope.”

“Nope as in never?”

“Maybe later. Maybe on some moonlit night – ”

“Ooh,” said Sparrow. “I want to tell my horrifying story on a moonlit night too. And so does Cormac. And Blaise has a story. And I bet Jocasta does. This is all very convenient. We’ll do them all together.”

“And in the meantime,” said Jill, “I get to kiss Jocasta after all?”

“You have to ask her. Yourself.”

“Fine.” Jill sat down in front of Sparrow. “If you really want to make it a trio, you have to think about what that will take.”

“Open communication,” said Sparrow, “clear negotiation of boundaries and what gets shared, coordination of time schedules, and a decision on whether to make the relationship open or closed. Did I miss anything?”

Jill blinked. “I was thinking about everyone else’s reaction.”

“You said they didn’t mind.”

“I said I’ve seen it happen around here. But, Sparrow, think about it. What does everyone in this school say about love?”

“That it – uh – ”

“Saved…come on, your memory isn’t that bad.”

“The world. Love saved the world. Right?”

“Riiiiiiight. Everyone around here knows the legend of Harry Potter. There’s people who think he defeated Voldemort through Great Might but most of us know that love literally saved his life twice. So, think about it. They see me getting kissy with Jocasta, then they see you getting kissy with Jocasta, and they think two of us are a terrible awful no-good cheater, and in a righteous defense of Love they turn one of us into a toad. Remember what happened to Geoffrey Cranshaw when he cheated on his girlfriend?”

Someone turned him into a toad.”

“Exactly!”

And I just falsely accused Percival Bulstrode of cheating on his girlfriend.”

“You…oh right, you did. Maybe you want to tell people it was a lie? Before he gets turned into a toad as well? See, this is what you get for not paying attention to your fellow students.”

“Don’t remind me. Strike that. Keep reminding me. Getting to the matter at hand, you say our fellow students are righteous in the defense of Love. Would they interfere if three of us were openly a trio?”

“They might be surprised. It’s not a very common thing, except in the storybooks we pass between each other. We might find people interfering for the sake of upholding unrealistic idealism. These are the same students who willingly toss in a galleon to pay for the Cupids to come around. We’re all very Romantic.”

“Oh goodness, don’t remind me.”

“I think I will have to keep reminding you about that as well.”

“Ugh!”

“It’s for your own good, girl.”

Ugh!

Jill giggled. “Now you know what you sound like sometimes. Ah, but you’ve got a heart of gold. Always trying to do the right thing. I may need you for that someday. As I need Jocasta for – oh dear. I wonder if I need her for everything.”

“Sounds like you’re in love.

“Oh goodness,” said Jill, “is that what it is? I had no idea. Thank you so much for reminding me.”

“And I’m in love.”

“With Jocasta?”

With you, silly! I mean probably with her too but definitely with you. You of the burning passion, the will to meet all challenges, the strength to restrain your terrifying power. How could I not be? And yet – how could I claim to love you, if I kept you away from one you loved? Think about that.

“Sparrow, you don’t have to convince me any more about this. I’m on board if you are.”

“Excellent! Then you have your fun with her, and I’ll have my fun with her, and when you’re ready I can have my fun with you too. Does that work?”

“I’d say it does.” Jill looked up. “But until I figure out what’s going on with our wands…I can’t say when, if ever, I’d be ready for you.”

“We’ll figure it out,” said Sparrow.

“How do you know?”

“Hello? Teenage lust? Ought to be an excellent catalyst for research. Hell, I’ve got an idea already. If this wand thing doesn’t happen all the time but only when we’re feeling real passionate about each other, like at the dueling club, then maybe if we can let passion go…”

“Yeah, sure,” said Jill. “I’ll just meditate my way through my entire life.”

“Try it now.”

“How do I – ”

“Close your eyes. There you go. Get in a comfy position, breathe deeply in and out, and think about nothing.”

“How do I – ”

“Ah ah ah! No speech no thoughts.”

For a minute nothing happened. Then, as Sparrow watched, both wands uncoupled and fell out of the air.

Right onto her head. She glanced at both wands on her lap, snatched up one and stuffed it in her pocket before it could cause any more trouble. She handed the other to Jill.

“Marvelous,” said Jill. “Now how am I going to do that all the time?”

“I don’t know,” said Sparrow, as she stood. “Practice? And I’ll ask Cormac about what else we might do. Mister Wand Lore has to have some ideas. ”

“Or he knows where to look for them,” said Jill. “In the meantime, let’s avoid exciting our wands.”

Well, it’s not like I have one, anyway.”

“You don’t – Sparrow!” She giggled. “I mean, the only way we’re going to be able to be together right now is to remain chaste. Are you okay with that?”

Sparrow nodded.

“Then,” said Jill, “Let us not think of ourselves as lovers, right now, but as sword and shield. Someday you will know how to wield the sword and I the shield. Do you want to try to learn again?”

“Perhaps I do,” said Sparrow. “But my wand would not approve, I fear.”

Which wand?”

“Jill!”

Jill giggled. “Sorry. Bad start.”

“Well, let me know when you do want to try dueling again.”

Jill giggled.

“Not that kind of dueling!” Sparrow let out an angry huff. “Is there anything you want me to tell Jocasta?”

“Tell her…tell her that I am very cross with her for the rumors she has spread, and how she spoke to me on that September morning. Tell her that if we are to date, she shall not do such a thing again, to anyone. Tell her that I – I benefit immeasurably from her company, and hope that she benefits from mine, and that I wish for such a relationship to last for a very long time. In whatever form it may take.”

“You wish her to stop a very old habit,” said Sparrow. “Hm. That will be tricky. You could set it as a price for your affections, but…the old ‘if you love me’ ultimatum isn’t a good way to start a relationship.”

“I can’t see any other way. Even if it’s a bad way. I might fall into it without meaning to. I mean, I’m clearly nervous around her everywhere besides the field of battle, so I’d – why are you grinning?”

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