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Morning. Something bright through Sparrow’s closed eyes. Sunlight. And a palm brushing her cheek.

“Mneh?”

“Morning sleepyhead. Three cheers to my brave little barrier witch.”

Sparrow leaned her head into Jill’s palm.

“My clever little conflict-resolver.”

“G’mornin.” Sparrow yawned. “M’valian’…knight of the…giant fireball’n stuff. Roarin’ dragon.” She slowly opened her eyes.

There sat Jill beside her. She had her legs over the side of the bed, as if she’d just sat down. She also had her school robes on.

And the rest of the room was empty.

If Jill had not been sitting on top of the covers in a way that pinned Sparrow under them, she might have jumped out of them high enough to strike her head on the top of the four-poster. “How many classes have I missed?” said Sparrow. “What time is it? I was supposed to hand in that essay to Slughorn today. Boy am I in trouble. Why didn’t you – ”

“Relax,” said Jill. “Sleep as much as you need. I told the Headmistress you might need quite a bit more than usual. Remember when you tried to hold up all those rocks at once and then you were out cold until next afternoon?”

“Forgot that part.”

“So McGonagall said she’d give you until noon.”

“Hmmmmm.” Sparrow closed her eyes and nestled up closer to Jill. “But what if you stay here next to me all day and I sleep allll day and never want to wake up at all? Does she give me a detention?”

“She tells Madame Pomfrey to make sure you don’t have a serious medical condition after all.”

“Oh. Well, phoo.”

“It’s ten of the clock now,” said Jill. “I was granted as much time as it took to see you wake. But I must be going now.”

“Nooooooooo. Stay.”

“I should be going now. Oh, but it’s so tempting to sit here in the sunlight with my love.”

“Yeah.”

“Ah, but there are other people who love you, my dear. Who wish to see you alive again. One in particular.” Jill stood up from the bed and strode to the door.

“Well why didn’t she come in then?”

“She said she had limits to her transgressions after all. Something about honor. But I think she would be amused to know that I got you out of bed by telling you she’s in the common room.”

This time Sparrow did not leap out of her bed, so much as she threw herself out of it sideways, and had her school robes on before Jill had even finished closing the door. She had her hand on the knob before she halted, brushed herself off, composed her posture, and prepared to step out the door. Thank goodness there would be few students in the common room at this hour. She didn’t want anyone making a fuss over her own actions last night. Such a long speech! She might have stolen all the thunder from that duel if Jill hadn’t added three extra helpings of thunder. But she would have time to compose her thoughts this Friday, instead of dealing with everyone’s reaction.

She opened the door and remembered that Friday was yesterday.

What looked like every Hufflepuff student was there in the common room, standing on the main floor, standing in front of their doors, standing on the stairs. At Sparrow’s appearance the room erupted with cheers and hollers.

Sparrow’s face felt quite hot as she regained her composure. All this adulation! All for her! Really. What an awful fuss. She hadn’t even told the audience that she had come up with the concept for the match. She had been very careful to avoid revealing that fact, in case she made it sound like it was her evening. She had only wanted to be seen as the introductory speaker.

So, as she descended the stairs with formal poise, and strode to the center of the common room, she spent quite a bit more time getting there than she normally would. She shook many hands, and asked a fair few times why everyone was giving her all this celebration, when she wasn’t even part of the duel. And the answer, as she picked up in bits and pieces, was that everyone came to the match knowing it was Sparrow’s idea. More to the point, she was most certainly part of the duel, because she had been the one protecting everyone else, and, by the authoritative account from Violet Brown, she had effectively been fighting her own quiet battle against her own limits. And then she was out cold before anyone had been able to thank her for anything. So, here it was concentrated on this morning.

Fair enough. No sense dismissing sincere gratitude, especially not from her dear fellow students. Sparrow felt that her evening had been a battle because of her own poor planning, but the result was the same. Everyone lived. Everyone went home happy. Even the vanquished Jocasta Carrow.

She was the reason Sparrow was making a direct path to the center of the common room, for Sparrow had spotted her from the top of the staircase. She had to be there still, yes? Unless she had disappeared once more. But that would have been a mean prank.

It was a little hard to get through everyone who wanted to shake her hand, and Sparrow was anxious to find Jocasta. Jill was easy to find, there she was, ten feet away, but where was Jocasta? She asked a tall 6th-year girl by the name of Cleo Sasoon if she could spot the girl anywhere in the crowd. But Cleo only said Places everyone.

Suddenly there was a corridor in the crowd, two lines of students standing at attention, facing each other, wands raised in high salute to form an arch.

And there at the end, just before a sudden bubble of space, stood Jillian Patil, with a wry grin on her face. She bowed as she stepped aside and gestured to the center of the bubble, as if silently inviting Sparrow to proceed.

And there in the center stood Jocasta Carrow, posture upright, arms held at parade rest, eyes fixed on Sparrow, wearing no expression at all.

Sparrow did not let her own poker face fall, but strode towards Jocasta with deliberate grace, her back held straight, hands clasped in front of her, as if she were a princess at a royal occasion.

Upon reaching her, she took Jocasta’s offered hand, and kissed it. Then she kissed her wrist. Then above her wrist. Then at her elbow. Then above the elbow. And so worked her way upwards, while the students around her murmured in a tone that spoke of something besides dignified chastity. Which was fair enough. Especially when Sparrow stopped at Jocasta’s neck.

“Oh my,” said Jocasta. “My suitor is so dashing.”

Sparrow stood up straight. “Come now, my sweet. You were far more dashing last night.”

“Oh!” said Jocasta, putting the back of her hand to her forehead and closing her eyes. “Not dashing enough, I fear. My dear Sparrow, I was robbed! Some glowing red creature stole my wand!”

“Did she give it back?”

“After I wrestled with her a bit, yes.”

Sparrow turned to Jill, who was standing at the edge of the ring of students, looking innocent. “Jill, did you – ”

“I said a bit.” Jocasta rolled her eyes. “I’m not that precocious. Sheesh! You know me well enough.”

“Hm.” Sparrow turned herself around to stand by Jocasta’s side. “I daresay we will get to know each other much better as time goes on.” She beckoned Jill over to stand by Jocasta’s other side. As one, they bowed.

 

 

By evening the crowd had long since dispersed, which was as much as Sparrow wanted, for she had to deal with a substantial amount of hearty congratluations when she ventured out at lunch.

There by the fire, in his usual chair, with his old ukulele, sat Cormac.

Sparrow took a seat in front of the fire. “I didn’t see you in the crowd this morning.”

Cormac shrugged. “I figured you didn’t want me to add any more fuss to your day.”

“Boy, it’s like you read my mind or something.”

“I know you well enough.”

Sparrow was glad that Cormac couldn’t actually read her mind in that moment.