Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can't say I'd even notice it was absent
'Cause I could live by the light in your eyes
-Sara Bareilles, I Choose You
When she's eleven, the hat tells her she has a reasonable chance at excelling in any house, so. She tells the sorting hat to put her in Ravenclaw.
I just – I want to be taken seriously and left alone, she tells it silently. Please.
It figures that the first time anyone – anything? – has ever listened to her, it's a hat. Beca Mitchell is put in Ravenclaw, and she makes her way to the cheering table with a little sigh of relief.
She sits down next to an uptight-looking blonde who totally judges her, she can just feel it, but apart from the usual congratulations and smiles and attempts at handshaking (she shoots all of these down with a glare and a stony refusal to meet the offered hands halfway), no one says anything to her. It's exactly how Beca likes it, so that's good.
While the sorting continues, she lets her eyes roam over the hall, taking it all in. It's impressive, she'll definitely give it that, and she's especially amazed by how there doesn't really seem to be a roof, because she swears she's looking straight up at the stars, and it's some kind of liberating, really. After a while, she continues looking around – and yeah, of course her dad isn't even looking at her. She ignores everything else and lets her eyes drop to her empty plate instead.
When she's eleven, the sorting hat puts Beca Mitchell in Ravenclaw, and she's mostly left alone. Which is exactly the way she wants it.
In the summer following her second year, her dad walks out on them.
She tries to hate magic after that, she really does; magic is the reason her mom spends most of the summer crying when she thinks Beca is asleep, so she should hate it, but then she returns to school and she sees the sky through the ceiling of the Great Hall, and that sense of wonder returns anew.
So. She doesn't hate magic.
When Professor Mitchell announces his engagement to the Study of Ancient Runes professor barely a week into the term, however, she goes to Flitwick and drops that elective in favour of Muggle Studies. Between that and Care of Magical Creatures, she's sure she ended up with the lamest electives possible, but it was better than choosing Arithmancy.
Of course, Beca shouldn't have expected her dad to stay out of her business for her entire stint at Hogwarts, even if he'd made it clear when he walked out that he couldn't care less about their family.
"Your grades are terrible," he says, and she huffs because excuse him, they're not that bad. Sure, she only has two O's (she has good reflexes, which pays off in Defence, and she fell in love with Astronomy within her first year at school because there was just something about stars), but she has nothing below a P. And her only P is in Care of Magical Creatures, which, honestly, no one really needs, anyway. Beca had learnt quickly that handing in her work on time was crucial to not earning the attention of her schoolmates. No one can pay attention to you if no one has reason to call your name in classes. Speaking of classes, she even goes to most of them, because there aren't a lot of options for skipping at a boarding school.
"My grades are fine," she states flatly. They'd just started the first term of the school year three weeks ago, and Beca is already exhausted from the crowds and noise and tiny first years gasping in wonder at everything. She'd had to pull a kid out of the trick stair on her way over just so she could get past him, and she honestly just wants to get back to bed, at this point. But no, her dad called her into his office after her last class (History of Magic, which is his class) to discuss her grades. Of course.
"You're going to be taking your O.W.L.s next year, and you'll need a good set of grades to take your N.E.W.T. courses–"
"I'm not taking N.E.W.T. courses," Beca cuts in. "I'm going to finish O.W.L.S, and then I'm going to return to the normal world and finish normal high school and produce normal music. I don't need N.E.W.T.s to do that."
So she doesn't hate magic. But she doesn't love it, either, and her ambitions currently lie outside of it.
"Of course you're taking your N.E.W.T.s," her dad says slowly, looking down on her – her growth spurt never really came – as though talking to a child. "You can't not take your N.E.W.T.s. More importantly, school is an experience. You shouldn't miss out on that."
"I don't need the experience," Beca says firmly. It's all she can do to hold back from snapping. "The only reason I'm even in this school is because I needed to learn how to control my magic. Well, guess what, dad. By next year, I'll have learned how to control it. I won't accidentally blow something up just walking down the street anymore, so that's it. I'm taking my O.W.L.s, and then I'm leaving this school because you can't stop me. You know mom will pull me out if I ask her to."
Of course, she doesn't say that at the moment, her dreams of producing music are little more than that – dreams. It's her fourth year here, but she still hasn't figured out how to spell electronics to work within Hogwarts, so she hasn't been getting much done on the music front. It's another reason she can't wait to leave this castle.
Most days, Beca really wishes she had been born a squib. She'd have preferred to stay with her muggle mother in the muggle world.
"Now, Beca, getting a good magical education is important," her dad says, still in that infuriating tone he uses when he thinks she's clearly not thinking straight. "Hogwarts is great. You could create all sorts of memories here. I see it every day."
Beca only raises an eyebrow, unimpressed.
"Alright, if you're so sure you want to go back to the muggle world, then fine," he says. "If you get involved over the next two years, and at least try to make an effort, I'll let you go, and I'll even throw in the money you need to get your DJ equipment."
Both Beca's eyebrows shoot up at this. "Seriously?"
Professor Mitchell nods. "Seriously. But you've got to join something. Make a serious effort."
As much as she hates the man, she could use the money. Equipment isn't cheap, and when you go to a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to find a job to save up for it. "What would I join, anyway?"
"The Frog Choir is having auditions tomorrow," he informs her.
"No way am I singing in front of the whole school. That choir is the lamest thing I've ever heard." Beca shakes her head. "I'll go for Gobstones."
"What about Quidditch?" her dad suggests. "I hear Ravenclaw's tryouts are on Saturday."
"Yeah, because I'd pick the most attention grabbing activity in school. I'll go for Gobstones," Beca repeats.
Her dad sighs, and Beca knows Gobstones is one of the least intense clubs in school and it's probably not what her dad wanted, but whatever. She'd still be keeping to the deal. "I'll see you in class," she calls over her shoulder, already leaving the room.
Gobstones had not been a good idea. No one took Gobstones seriously, which was good, but Beca had not known who was in charge of the club, which was not so good.
Bumper Allen. She's not sure how a Slytherin came to be in charge of Gobstones, much less Bumper, because she'd been fairly sure they at least voted for a leader. Bumper Allen is the slimiest ass Beca's ever met, and she suddenly understands why there aren't any non-Slytherin girls in Gobstones this year, because Bumper harassed her from the beginning of the club session.
He stopped midway through only because she punched him in the face and quit.
And that's how Beca finds herself standing at the Quidditch pitch on Saturday morning, holding one of the school's brooms, which she really hopes won't break while she's in the air.
Ravenclaw is recruiting for four spots – a Keeper, two Chasers, and a Beater. Beca would have tried for Seeker because she's small and fairly quick, but that spot is already filled by a sixth year. She's thus resolved to just try for everything and see if they'll take her. Her dad can't say she didn't try if she tried for every spot, right? And if she just happens to not get on the team because the open spots are the ones made for bigger, stronger players, then that's just natural selection.
Natural selection, though, is clearly playing a joke on her, because when Beca goes to try for keeper, she finds herself legitimately getting nervous. Before she can even think about why she's nervous the chaser is coming at her. Shit he's moving where do I go oh shit can't he just fly straight and when he moves to go left, she doesn't think, she just instinctively turns so that the broom flicks to the right which somehow turns out to be the correct move because he was feinting. Her turn sends the Quaffle flying away from the hoop.
It's just a fluke. It's got to be. Except that the next four times the chaser comes at her, she blocks his shot just acting on gut instinct. He goes right, and she feints with him, swerving back to catch the Quaffle before it's even near the middle hoop. He comes at her from below, and she tracks his eye movements and notices the slight furrowing of his brow as he looks at the left hoop, and she knows that's the one he's going for even though he looks like he's heading towards the middle one. Without thinking, she just blocks. Beca only realizes her mistake when tryouts are over and she is declared Keeper on the spot.
Well, fuck is also the first thing that runs through her mind when she feels the weight of her school envelope for the first time the next summer.
The envelope has never weighed this much before. Her worst fears are confirmed when the Quidditch captain badge lands in her hand.
"Whose idea of a sick joke was this?" Beca yells to the empty house.
Her mother returns home later with Chinese takeout and she doesn't really understand the significance of it. She doesn't know that this badge means having to organize an only halfway-decent team (their previous captain had run them to the ground but they had still sucked because his plays were too predictable, but she was Beca and she wasn't supposed to care, damn it, so she hadn't), having to think of new tactics, and possibly even having to actually talk to others. But her mother's congratulations on the badge are sincere.
She and Jesse arrange to meet at the Leaky Cauldron the next week to get their things for school.
Beca met Jesse in their second year, when he was being picked on by a couple of Slytherin boys and she punched the largest of them in the face. He's a Hufflepuff, which, if you ask her, makes him the worst kind of person to be around, probably. Jesse is bubbly and excitable and it takes a lot of energy just to be around him. He's part of the Frog Choir, which, ew. Even worse, he loves movies. The only reason she's been saved from a movie marathon thus far is ironically the same reason she can't get any closer to the things she wants to do – electronics don't work in Hogwarts, and Jesse hasn't figured out how to get around that, either.
Of course, she hadn't expected Jesse to stick around her like a puppy, but he had. He's not a bad friend, really; he shares his Capri-Sun with her when his mom sends a box over, he doesn't prod too much when she's angry and sullen, which is often, and they sneak into the kitchen together sometimes. She figures there are worse friends to have.
He holds out a packet of Capri-Sun when she walks up to him in the back alley, and at this point she doesn't even question it, just rolls her eyes and takes it. They sip Capri-Sun on their way to Gringotts, where Jesse exchanges muggle cash and Beca withdraws some money from her vault, after which they split up to get whatever's on their lists. It's something of a routine by this year, how Beca gets the books, Jesse gets whatever strange potions ingredients they need, and they meet up outside Eeylops Owl Emporium after. Beca doesn't own an owl herself, but Jesse does, so Eeylops is usually their last stop of the day.
She gets to the shop first, and decides that rather than just waiting for Jesse, she might as well grab his owl nuts for him. She's been here with him enough times to know which brand of nuts to grab. It's when she turns from the table to go make payment that she bumps into someone. A glint of light catches her eye, and without thinking, she swoops down and catches the vial before it hits the ground.
"Sorry," she says, holding it out. "Here's your… uh…"
Beca trails off when she looks up and sees the most piercing pair of blue eyes she's ever laid eyes on, and in that moment forgets every word she's ever learned because holy shit, this girl is hot.
"Medicine," the girl helpfully supplies as she takes the vial, and Beca possibly forgets how to breathe when she feels the other girl's fingers scrape her palm. "My owl is sick. You have good reflexes. I don't think I've ever seen anyone catch something so fast."
Beca just shrugs. "Well, I hope it gets better soon," she says, thankfully finding her tongue. "I'm just going to… bye."
She feels the redhead's eyes on her the whole time as she brisk walks to the counter, and she doesn't look back on her way out, berating herself all the way. I hope it gets better soon? If her hands weren't full, she'd be slapping herself right now. Ugh, she must think I'm an idiot.
When Jesse walks up to her, she hands him the box of owl nuts and doesn't say a word.
That would have been it, if Beca hadn't wanted to stop at Quality Quidditch Supplies after. Her gloves are wearing out, and she needs more broom polish. Jesse follows her around the store as she snags the polish and hunts for a good pair of gloves.
"Dragon-hide? Or snakeskin?" Beca asks, holding both up to inspect them.
Jesse shrugs. "You'd know better than I do."
That's true. Beca nods, and puts the snakeskin gloves back on the rack. Snakeskin breaks in faster, but dragon-hide gives more traction, which is of more use to her as a Keeper. She heads to the counter, but has to pause because Jesse stops behind her to greet someone he knows.
"Chloe, hey," he says, and when Beca glances back, she has to remind herself to breathe again because oh, the redhead from Eeylops is called Chloe, okay.
"Hey Jesse," Chloe says, giving him a hug. Beca wonders if she can pay for her things and sneak off without being noticed, but no such luck, because Chloe then notices her behind Jesse. "Hey, it's you!"
"So it is." Beca raises her hand in greeting.
Thankfully, Jesse cuts in before she can make a bigger fool of herself. "Do you two know each other?"
"We ran into each other at Eeylops earlier. She saved one of my vials before it hit the ground," the redhead tells him before directing her attention to Beca. "I'm Chloe, Jesse and I are in the Frog Choir together."
"That's great," Beca says lamely. Inwardly, she grimaces. Keep this up and she'll have wrecked her own reputation by the end of the day.
Jesse laughs and ruffles her hair – well, he tries to, anyway. Beca swats his hand away before he even gets close. "This is Beca."
"I thought you looked familiar," Chloe says, nodding at the gloves. "Ravenclaw Keeper, right? You're really good."
Beca shrugs. "It's nothing much."
"Beca's being modest," Jesse says. "She's very good with her hands."
"Merlin, dude, shut up," Beca hisses, flicking him on the side of his head. "I'm going to pay." She turns back around, but stops when she realizes there's someone else behind her. "Aubrey."
"Beca," the blonde greets, nodding. They've never spoken much, but they'd been teammates for a year now. "I'm quitting the team this year."
Beca's eyebrows shoot up. It would have been Aubrey's fifth year as a Seeker this year. She hadn't expected her to quit. "Why." It should be a question, but Beca makes it sound like a demand.
"They made me Head Girl," Aubrey explains. "I'm not going to have time for both the Frog Choir and Quidditch."
"Can't you quit the Frog Choir, then?" Beca asks, unimpressed. "Why is anyone even in that choir, anyway?"
Aubrey rolls her eyes. "Wouldn't expect you to understand," she says. "Who's our captain this year, anyway? I need to tell them I'm quitting."
Beca just shakes her head. "Whatever. I'm going to pay."
She finds herself gnawing on her bottom lip as she stands in line. With Aubrey quitting, Beca would have to train a new Seeker. She'd have to find a new Seeker, on top of a new Beater and a Chaser.
Why was she even the captain, anyway? Beca huffs, frustrated. Nothing good was going to come out of this appointment. She could already tell.
On the first day of classes, she heads straight to Professor Flitwick's office after her last lesson.
"Ah, Miss Mitchell, I thought I'd be seeing you today," he says, waving her in. "Sit down, sit down."
Beca takes a seat and wastes no time getting into it. "Why am I the Quidditch captain? There are others on the team who have been playing for longer."
"You have leadership potential and good instincts," the professor answers simply. "And you see things in ways others don't. Would you like a cupcake?"
Shaking her head, Beca takes a deep breath before asking, "If Aubrey hadn't been busy taking over the whole school, would she have been captain instead of me?"
"Yes," the tiny professor answers. Beca nods, appreciating the honesty. "But you would have been first choice for captain after she left."
She leaves the room with a cupcake in her mouth and a little more confidence in her step, and the next day she puts her badge on for the first time.
She sets tryouts for the second Saturday after school starts.
Aubrey passes by as she's pinning up the notice in the common room, but apart from a nod and a "good luck", she doesn't say anything about her being captain, which is good.
At least sixty people show up for tryouts, which is also kind of good, Beca supposes, because it means she at least gets to pick.
But it's kind of not good because, a, she has to speak to them, and, b, she only has three spots to fill, really. Also, people actually watch tryouts, which makes her a little nervous. She makes the current team show her that they haven't gotten sloppy over the holidays, and threatens to replace their asses if they get upstaged completely by some newbie, but it's unlikely to happen when they've been training for the past year.
Taking in the crowd, she spots Aubrey in the stands, and tells herself that this need to prove her worth as a captain stems from making sure that Aubrey can't say a word about how she's running things. Nothing whatsoever to do with the redhead with the red and gold scarf next to her. Yup.
"If there are any first years, please leave the pitch now." Pausing, she gives a couple of kids a few seconds to scamper off. "Alright nerds, listen up!" she calls, watching with mild satisfaction as the crowd assembled before her scrambles to attention. "We're recruiting one Chaser, one Beater, and one Seeker today. You're going to start by giving me thirty laps of the pitch, let's go!"
Most people immediately mount their brooms and take off, but a few look like they weren't expecting the instruction, and fumble a bit before following. Beca notes the particularly slow ones and mentally strikes them off the list before looking up at the hopefuls flying in circles around the pitch. There are promising candidates among the crowd. Maybe four potential Seekers among the group – small builds, steady, fast – and maybe a couple who might make decent Chasers, from the way they lean low and dodge the rest of the crowd. She can't really tell who would make good beaters until they pick up the bats.
As people start returning from their laps, Beca checks the stopwatch in her hand. She splits those who returned before the ten minute mark from those who returned after. Ignoring the group that returned before for now, she addresses the group that returned after. "Is there anyone here trying for Beater?" Seven people put their hands up, which, thank Merlin, allows her to eliminate nearly half the people who showed up in one swoop. There's no sense in a Seeker or a Chaser who isn't fast enough. "The seven of you stay, the rest of you can leave."
The group leaves, though not without grumbling. She glares at the slow ones until they pick up the pace. She turns to the existing members of the team, who, up to this point, have just been standing to the side, watching. "Who wants to go first?"
The one good thing about being Quidditch captain? The Prefects' bathroom.
Tryouts had been exhausting, mainly because most of the hopefuls were, frankly speaking, hopeless. She'd had to send two kids to the Hospital Wing because they'd flown into each other and fallen fifteen feet. But, still – there was talent enough. Beca had gotten a headache trying to pick just three.
Yet she had, and so her first daunting task as captain was over. In the end, she'd picked a sixth year called Stacie for Chaser, a fifth year called Lilly for Beater (at least, she thought her name was Lilly. She couldn't really hear what she was saying), and a fourth year called Emily for Seeker. She had her team, now she just had to train them.
The bathroom is, thankfully, mostly empty when she gets there; she can hear one of the showers running. The main attraction is obviously the giant tub, but Beca isn't interested in that. She just wants privacy, so she heads to the shower stall all the way at the end of the bathroom – the one in use is the first one – and ducks inside, sliding the curtain shut behind her. It's quiet but for the sound of the running water. Much better than the showers in the locker room or in the dorms.
She finds her mind drifting to the music she'd been working on during the holidays. She still hadn't gotten her hands on much equipment, but she'd had a laptop, at least, which was enough for her to play around with the basics. The last mix she'd completed before returning to school had been one of Titanium and 500 Miles, which, you know, was one of the stranger ideas she'd had, but it had worked out great. Titanium has been stuck in her head since before tryouts, and so before she knows it she's started singing softly to herself, bopping her head a little as she gets into it.
"Dude!" Beca turns around to find Chloe the Frog Choir redhead behind her. Completely naked. And oh, shit, she really doesn't mean to look, but she does, and Chloe is really, really hot.
She reaches out and pulls the shower curtains shut, but Chloe just bursts through them again, this time getting even closer to Beca. "You're a fifth year Quidditch captain, you have great reflexes, and you sing. Is there anything you can't do? How high does your belt go?" Chloe presses.
"My what?" Beca stares (at Chloe's face. Just the face, she swears) with her mouth flopping open like a fish's before she collects herself. When she grabs the shower curtain this time, she draws it back to herself in an effort to retain some modesty. "Seriously? I am nude."
Chloe ignores her protests. "You were singing Titanium, right?"
Beca has a new protest on the tip of her tongue, but she stops and swallows it at Chloe's question. "You know David Guetta?"
"Have I been living under a rock? Of course I know David Guetta. I'm Muggle-born," Chloe explains, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. "That song is my jam. My lady jam."
This has to be some kind of record for the fastest anyone has ever ruined a song for her. "Gross."
"Will you sing it for me?" Chloe asks.
"Dude, no! Get out," Beca demands. Chloe's nice and all, and Beca doesn't think she'll do anything to her, really, but still. It's kind of getting hard not to look. Also, lady jam? Really?
"Not for that reason," Chloe says, as though that's the only protest Beca has about this whole situation. "I know I probably can't convince you to try out for the Frog Choir since it's your O.W.L. year and you're already Quidditch captain, but I think we'd sound great together. I'm not leaving here till you sing, so."
"Are you always this pushy?" Beca asks, rolling her eyes skywards. Skywards is good. Skywards is nowhere near Chloe's body. Chloe, though, just hums in acknowledgement, and she shifts her weight a little and starts examining her nails, and oh Merlin, she really isn't going to leave. So Beca swallows hard, finds her voice, and launches into the chorus.
"You shoot me down, but I won't fall…"
Chloe joins in on the next line, and Beca quite nearly stumbles, because she's right – they do sound good together. Her mind is racing with all sorts of possibilities for mixes she could do with Chloe's voice, which is ridiculous because she barely knows the girl and is probably not going to be telling her about her music anytime soon. As the song goes on, she starts relaxing, and by the time they finish the chorus, her shoulders are no longer tight with tension. Chloe grins at her, and maybe Beca starts to smile a little, too, before she kind of glances down and becomes aware of the situation again and her eyes shoot back upwards.
"Oh, yeah, I'm pretty confident," Chloe says, evidently having caught her looking, "about all this."
She gestures at herself, and Beca has to try really, really hard not to be a perv. "You should be," she manages to get out. "I, um. Still need to shower."
The redhead just grins before skipping out of her shower stall. Beca finally lets the shower curtain go, and immediately draws it closed.
"I think," Chloe calls, "we're going to be really fast friends. I can already tell."
Beca groans. Chloe Beale (and she only knows her surname because Jesse talked about her this one time in the holidays – she didn't, like, ask about her, or anything) is shaping out to be the death of her.
If only she knew.
Chloe seems to find her everywhere after that. Underneath the tall tree by the lake, on the pitch after practice. Sometimes she brings her coffee, which pretty much solidifies their friendship for Beca.
So, yeah, they hang out a lot. Sometimes they sit in silence and do their homework, sometimes they lie around on the grass and talk. Well, mostly Chloe talks and Beca listens, but sometimes Beca tells Chloe about herself as well. Chloe talks about her family, about how much she misses her three brothers and how her mom always makes too much food on her first day back for the holidays. Beca never talks about her family, but she does talk about Quidditch practice and how she wants to knock her team off their brooms sometimes, and Chloe seems okay with her giving just that much, for a while.
But every once in a while the redhead will ask something about her – what her favourite foods and colours are, what she likes to do when she isn't running the Ravenclaw Quidditch team into the ground, who her favourite artistes are. And Beca sometimes has to work through her answers slowly, but she does, at least, give the other girl answers. Some answers are shorter than the others, but Chloe never seems to mind.
It's all so gradual, she doesn't realize that she's given the redhead so much of herself until Jesse brings her coffee one day when they're supposed to be studying and all she can think is Chloe would know exactly how much sugar I take.
Chloe also finds her on her way up to the Astronomy Tower, holding a bunch of baked goods she stopped at the Great Hall to swipe.
The older girl catches her as she's hunting around the first floor for the staircase that will take her near the tower, and positively lights up when she sees Beca. She doesn't really pry, but she does hold the question in the way her eyebrows knit together slightly even if she never voices it aloud.
"Just wasn't in the mood for people," Beca tells her. It's not a lie, really. Some days, she's fine with the crowd, but others, the people are suffocating. After the letter she received that morning, they're just especially so. The staircase she's looking for finally swings down to her, and she climbs on before it moves again.
"Wasn't?" Chloe repeats, following her without being invited. "So you're okay with people now?"
Beca sighs. "You can come if you want, I guess," she allows. "I probably took too many muffins anyway."
Chloe grins. "Did you take the blueberry ones? I love those." She launches into a story about picking blueberries with her parents a few summers ago, and Beca listens, nodding at all the appropriate times but never saying anything herself. By the time they reach the Astronomy Tower, she's even laughing a little at the image of a younger Chloe tripping over a basket and landing in a bush, squashing half its fruits and getting blueberry juice all over her butt. (She tries not to think about Chloe's butt, because she's seen it and all, and it's a very nice butt. If Chloe notices the way her cheeks flush, she doesn't call her out on it.)
She wonders, as they settle down on the floor, how Chloe knew exactly what she needed.
It's when they're gathering up the crumbs of their sort of meal that Beca opens up.
"My mom wrote me this morning," she says, and she's not sure why she's telling Chloe this, of all people, because even though they've hung out a little since that day in the shower and occasionally shared a table in the library, they're not that close. But Chloe is there, and maybe she just needs someone to know.
"She has cancer."
And, yeah, maybe she told Chloe because Chloe gives the warmest hugs even when she's not sure if she wants them, and suddenly it's all spilling out. It's still in the early stages, which is good, she has a decent chance of getting through it with chemotherapy and a surgery to remove the tumour, which is also good. But Beca is stuck in school while her mother goes through all of it on her own, and it'd be one thing if Beca was alone, because she's good with alone, but this is her mother and should anyone really go through cancer alone and Merlin she just really wants to go home.
She's kind of a mess by the end of it, because even though she's trying really hard not to cry, her eyes tear up and a couple of tears slip out and she's pretty sure her makeup is at least smudged. But Chloe – Chloe is an absolute saint, holding her tightly and letting her get it all out, and when Beca is finished she helps her fix herself up, brings her back to Gryffindor Tower, lends her a pair of pyjamas, and lets her spend the night. If anyone notices the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain being guided through the common room into the Gryffindor dorms, they don't say a word.
Beca is glad that it's a weekend because she wakes up at ten the next morning to see Chloe sitting up in bed. When she notices Beca's awake, she offers her a muffin she snagged from the kitchens, and Beca feels okay for the first time since she read her mother's letter.
Still, she doesn't allow herself the time to linger on her mother's illness. Instead, she throws herself into the busyness of school – she kicks Quidditch practices up a notch (their first match is in two months, anyway, and they need to be ready because no team led by Beca Mitchell is going to lose), spends most of her free time flying laps around the pitch, and when she's desperate enough for a distraction, camps in the library, actually studying.
She goes days on end without actually talking to people outside of the Quidditch team, but after two weeks of this (she suspects her team already hates her, but as far as she's concerned, they can suck it up because they're in it to win it), Chloe finds her at the pitch and makes her stop flying laps and talk to her.
"Becs," Chloe says sternly, "you're wearing yourself out. You need to take a break if you want to make it to your first match."
Beca decides to concentrate on what Chloe's saying rather than on the flopping her stomach does at the nickname. She hadn't known they were close enough for nicknames. Not even Jesse has a nickname for her. Then again, Chloe has no sense of boundaries, so maybe she's close enough to do nicknames with everyone. "I'm fine," she mumbles, running her thumb over the handle of her broom.
"No you're not," Chloe states. "You can't keep doing this to yourself. I know you're worried about your mother, but don't you think she'd feel even worse if she saw you like this?"
Beca shrugs, trying to act like Chloe doesn't have a point. "So what? She's not going to see me like this."
Chloe sighs. "You know," she says, "you could always apply for leave. Flitwick would understand."
The statement gives Beca pause. "Leave," she repeats, turning the idea over in her head. "But the team-"
"The team will understand too," Chloe interrupts, reaching out to take her broom from her. "You've exhausted them, anyway, they'll probably appreciate the break. Go look for Flitwick. I'll put this away for you."
Flitwick looks a bit surprised when she bursts into his office, but he turns out to be incredibly sympathetic once she explains the situation and gives her permission to return home for a week. It's more than she'd expected – she'd been hoping for a weekend, at the most, but hey, she's not complaining.
Her dad, on the other hand, is definitely complaining.
He lays into her when they pass each other in the corridor a couple of hours before she's set to leave through the fireplace in Flitwick's office. "You can't just skip a week of school! Were you even going to tell me?"
"No, I wasn't," Beca spits out, and she's thankful that the corridor is deserted right now because this isn't the kind of thing she wants anyone to see. "Because if you didn't care enough about me or mom to stay when she was doing fine, then you wouldn't care that she was sick, either. I saw no reason to inform you of my plans. Look, I use your surname, and I go to this school because you wanted me to, but that's where our relationship ends. As far as I'm concerned, you lost the right to push me around when you walked out the door three years ago."
"Becs, don't be unreasonable," he says, and her temper flares up again because as far as she's concerned, there's only one person who's allowed to call her that, and it's certainly not him.
Before she can say anything, though, someone takes her gently by the elbow, and she automatically jerks away, turning to glare at whoever it is before she realizes that it's just Chloe. Chloe, whom she was supposed to meet ten minutes ago by the lake. "Oh, it's just you," she says, running a hand through her hair. "Sorry, I got held up."
"It's alright," Chloe says, almost overwhelmingly cheerful. She turns to greet the History of Magic professor. "Professor Mitchell."
"Miss Beale," he returns, and Beca loves it because he's visibly uncomfortable and appears unwilling to continue this conversation in front of someone else.
That is, until Chloe simply inserts herself into the conversation. "If you're worried about her work, don't be," she tells him. "I'll help her get caught up when she gets back."
"You will?" Beca asks, looking at her sceptically. "Aren't you busy?"
"I always have time for you," Chloe says, grinning down at her.
Her dad clears his throat. "Well, Beca, I'm glad to see you're making friends."
"Yeah, sure you are," Beca says, rolling her eyes. She's had enough of this conversation, she decides. "C'mon, Chlo, let's go."
"Bye Professor," Chloe calls over her shoulder, following Beca as she heads out onto the grounds. After a few minutes' silence, she asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Beca shakes her head. "Not at all."
The thing she likes about Chloe is that she doesn't push, and instead helps Beca change the subject. "So, what are you doing in class now?"
"Whichever class I'll be helping you catch up in," Chloe says.
"Wait, you were serious?" Beca's kind of stunned, for a moment, because people don't generally offer to help her. She's never let many people close enough that they'd care to. "You don't have to, you know."
"I know," Chloe says, shrugging. "I want to, though."
And that is how Beca ends up with a schedule for tutoring for when she returns.
Chloe Beale is the worst kind of tutor.
She's like, crazy smart. When Beca had told Jesse that Chloe would be helping her with her schoolwork, he'd whistled and let her know that Chloe had gotten, like, almost straight O's for her O.W.L.s. And she explains things in a way that Beca gets immediately. So, okay, she's kind of great.
But she's also all kinds of touchy-feely, and it's downright distracting.
They're sitting under the tree near the lake, and Chloe is playing with Beca's hair as she drills her on the theory behind the Gemino Curse. When she'd first started braiding the brunette's hair, Beca had stiffened, but she hadn't pulled away. She couldn't quite figure out why. Normally, Beca is big on personal space and refuses to let anyone touch her, but Chloe is different, and she can't (won't) explain it. (If she's being honest, she just doesn't want to think about why this is so.)
Maybe it's because Chloe's hands are really soft and it's a pleasant feeling. That's all there is to it.
Her trip home had been uneventful, to say the least. She'd accompanied her mom to chemo, and to a doctor's appointment, and yeah, her mom had been glad to see her, but had also told her there was no need to worry. Beca would have argued if she hadn't looked so determined. It's been two weeks since then, and her mom has taken to sending her updates at least once a week, so Beca doesn't feel like she's drowning in uncertainty anymore, which leaves her free to mostly concentrate on her schoolwork and Quidditch.
"Creates an exact replica," Beca says, for the third time. "Incantation Geminio. Just a flick."
Despite the fact that she only missed one week of classes and doesn't have all that much to catch up on, by some unspoken agreement, the tutoring thing has worked out to be a permanent arrangement. They meet under the tree on Tuesdays after their last class and on Saturdays after breakfast.
It's a Saturday today. Beca has spent enough time with Chloe to know that she generally feels lethargic on Saturdays and usually never uses Saturdays to study, which is why she was surprised when Chloe first suggested it. She hasn't quite said it, but she's grateful for the older girl.
"Okay, I think you've got it," Chloe says, clapping her hands. "Is there anything else you needed to do?"
"Only an essay for Muggle Studies," Beca says, shaking her head. "I've got Quidditch practice in a bit, though, so I'll probably do it later."
"Muggle Studies?" Chloe raises an eyebrow. It's the first time Beca has mentioned taking the subject to her. "You're a Halfblood."
"Didn't want to take anything else," Beca says, which is a total lie. She'd actually wanted to take Ancient Runes, back in her third year. Her dad just ruined that for her. Standing, she continues, "At least I can half ass Muggle Studies and still get a decent grade. I've got to go for practice, so I'll see you later?"
"I'll walk you over," Chloe says, gathering her books and standing up too. As they walk towards the pitch, Chloe loops her arm around hers, and it probably says something that Beca lets her.
(She's dead set on ignoring what that something is, and instead thinks about all the different ways she could use the Sloth Grip Roll in a play.)
Their first match of the season is against Hufflepuff. They win, two hundred and thirty to forty.
Jesse, despite being a Hufflepuff himself, sends her a grin and two thumbs up from the stands, and she pumps her fist up in return. Her team played a great game, executing their plays without a hitch, and, even though she's mostly annoyed at herself for letting those four goals in at all, she lets herself get swept up in the victory because it's a great start to their season. It also doesn't hurt that Hufflepuff has traditionally been their rival in the tournament.
She hits the showers in the locker room right after the game because she can't stand feeling all sticky with sweat when she doesn't have to be. Everyone else has gone by the time she emerges, but when she shuffles into the common room afterwards (she'd had to think really, really hard about today's riddle because Merlin but she was tired and if she'd known about this riddle thing way back in first year maybe she'd have asked for a different house) she doesn't just slip by like she thinks she will. The common room erupts in cheers and she actually jumps and she briefly considers just giving excuses and heading up to the dorms.
But then her team has surrounded her and someone offers her a butterbeer, and maybe being Quidditch captain isn't the worst thing in the world after all.
Jesse nudges her in the side. "You're drooling."
She flushes at getting caught staring. She'd only swung by the music room because she'd needed to return Jesse's notes from Transfiguration, but then she'd caught sight of Chloe singing at the front of the room, and she'd gotten distracted. "Shut up."
"Wait, are you actually blushing?" Jesse's eyes widen to saucers. "Oh my god, you totally have a toner for her!"
Beca immediately shushes him. "Dude, could you be any louder?" She frowns, processing what he just said. "What the hell is a toner?"
"Musical boner," Jesse explains dismissively. "Frog Choir thing, Aubrey came up with it. Don't change the subject. You're totally into Chloe."
"Am not," Beca protests weakly.
It is at this point when Chloe notices Beca and bounds over. "Becs!" She grins, wrapping Beca up in one of her bone-crushing hugs. "Are you thinking of joining the choir?"
"Aren't auditions long over?" Beca asks. "Also. Getting hard to breathe."
Chloe loosens her grip, but doesn't move away. "Yeah, but we'll totally make an exception for you," she says. "Wouldn't we, Jesse?"
"We would? I didn't even know Beca could sing." Jesse waggles an eyebrow at the complete lack of space between them, and Beca tries to take a small step away from Chloe without it being noticed. This fails when Chloe holds her in place.
"You didn't?" Chloe looks amazed. "I thought you were best friends. I heard Beca in the shower once, she's got an amazing voice."
"In the shower, hm?" Jesse's grin is so wide, Beca is surprised his face hasn't split. If he doesn't wipe it off soon, Beca will be pleased to do the splitting for him with her left hook. "Hey, Chloe, did you know-"
Thankfully, Aubrey chooses right then to call Chloe back to the front of the room. "Duty calls," she says, excusing herself. Beca has never felt so relieved.
"So, you sing, and you've seen Chloe in the shower," Jesse says. "And you've got the hugest toner for Chloe I've ever seen. You barely even let me give you a high five, but you let her hug you? What else haven't you been telling me?"
"Dude, that's so not a thing," Beca says, rolling her eyes. "Even if it were, I don't have one."
The pit of denial she lives in is slowly swallowing her whole.
When the first Hogsmeade weekend rolls around, Beca has no intention of going. The school is always emptier on these weekends, and it's perfect for lounging around or flying or whatever she might feel like doing, really.
In the early hours of the morning, she finds herself hovering above the pitch, waiting for the sun to come up. She doesn't usually get up early in the mornings when she doesn't have to – Beca isn't a morning person, like, at all – but when she does, she usually comes out here to watch the sun rise. It's strangely calming, and the warm orange spreading across the sky kind of reminds her of a certain redhead's hair, and – well, Beca knows she's fucked, basically.
But hey, it's all fine if nothing happens, right? Chloe never has to find out.
As the rest of the school slowly starts waking up, Beca decides to go on a couple of laps around the entire castle. The wind whips at her hair and adrenaline pumps through her veins and yeah, this is probably something she'll miss when she leaves the wizarding world at the end of the school year.
It's when she's coming off her fourth lap, ending with a few rolls in mid-air, that she hears someone shouting her name, so she looks down and there's Chloe, calling up at her from the stands. She floats down and dismounts on one of the wooden benches. "'Sup?"
"Aren't you going to Hogsmeade?" Chloe asks, tilting her head. Beca thinks she looks a little like a puppy when she does that. She'd never admit it, but she thinks it's cute.
"Um, no." Beca shrugs. "Didn't see the need to."
She doesn't expect Chloe's face to light up like she just handed her Christmas. "So you don't have plans?"
Oh. "Not in the strict sense of the word," Beca says slowly. "But I'm not letting you drag me to Hogsmeade, either."
Chloe just looks expectantly at her, but Beca tells herself she can take it. Nearly all of Hogwarts packed into one tiny town in winter? Yeah, she'll pass, thanks. She's not going to cave on this one.
It's not her fault, though – Chloe can play downright dirty when she wants to. Beca has been working on building up some kind of resistance to her pout, and maybe one day she'll get there, but apparently today is not that day. They part only so Beca can shower and change into something other than her Quidditch robes, and meet up again in the Entrance Hall half an hour later.
Chloe maintains a steady stream of chatter all the way to the town, and when she slips her arm around Beca's, Beca almost doesn't notice. Almost. She stiffens for a second, but takes a deep breath and relaxes before Chloe can comment on it.
"So," Beca says, as they approach the town. She regrets this already. Too many people. "Why'd you ask me to come with you? I thought you would have come with Aubrey."
"I missed your company," Chloe answers simply. "I've come here with Aubrey loads of times, anyway. I wanted to do this with you before I graduated."
"Ah." Sometimes Beca forgets that Chloe is in her last year here. It doesn't really matter, because after this year Beca won't be here either. The knot that forms in her stomach is completely irrational. "What will you do after graduating?"
"I'd like to teach," Chloe responds, "or be an exotic dancer, whichever pays more."
Beca's brows shoot up. "Exotic dancer?" she repeats. "Dude, you're hot and all, but are you sure?"
As her brain catches up with her mouth, she feels her cheek heating up, and, ugh, she's not the only one who notices. The redhead grins. "You think I'm hot?"
Beca looks everywhere but at Chloe when she replies. "I have eyes."
Chloe's answering smile is wide, but she mercifully cuts her a break. "So what do you want to do?"
"Now, or next year?"
"Both," Chloe says.
"I dunno, you dragged me here." Beca shrugs. She deliberately ignores the other half of the question. "You pick."
It turns out that "you pick" is not something you should say to Chloe Beale lightly, because she is a whirlwind of energy and Beca can barely keep up. They go to at least a dozen different stores in under two hours, and Beca wonders if maybe Aubrey didn't want to come with Chloe because this is honest to god exhausting. She leaves Honeydukes with a box of Every Flavour Beans and a tin of hot chocolate powder (which she shrinks and stashes in her purse because no one is going to see her carrying that around) since she figures she should have something to show for this torture, and spends the rest of their visit carefully picking out beans and hoping for the best.
"I didn't peg you down for a Bertie Bott's kind of girl," Chloe says, snickering when Beca bites into a bean and makes a face.
"What can I say? I like the thrill." Beca shoots the remains of the phlegm-flavoured bean into a nearby trash can. "What kind of girl did you think I was, then?"
"Blood-flavoured lollipop, maybe?" Chloe suggests innocently. Beca rolls her eyes, but there's no bite behind it. Being mean to Chloe is like refusing her when she pouts – apparently impossible. "Okay, okay, how about No Melt Ice-cream? Or some kind of fudge."
"I do like No Melt Ice-cream," Beca acknowledges. "Just not in this weather."
"And fudge?" Chloe presses.
Beca sighs and admits defeat. Somehow, Chloe has her pegged down good. "Chocolate. Want a bean?"
Chloe takes one, and bites into the corner gingerly. Her face brightens. "Peanut butter," she announces, popping the rest of the bean into her mouth. Of course. Even the universe can't be mean to this girl. "So, you never told me what you're going to do next year. What N.E.W.T.s do you want to take?"
Beca runs a hand through her hair. "I don't plan on taking any. After O.W.L.s, it's back to the Muggle world for me."
Chloe gapes at her. "What? Why?"
"I want to work in the Muggle music industry," Beca says, purposefully keeping her voice light. "You know, mix sounds, produce music, that kind of thing. It's hard to work towards that in a place where electronics don't work."
"Oh, is that it?" Chloe waves a hand dismissively. "Let's go back to the castle. I want to show you something."
Chloe ends up dragging her all the way up to the seventh floor corridor, where she paces up and down. She shushes Beca with a wave of her hand before she can even ask what she's up to, so Beca just stares at the ugly tapestry of Barnabas teaching the trolls ballet while she waits.
Beca is kind of stunned when a door just materializes in the wall, but she snaps out of it fairly quickly. Magic. Right. She should be used to this kind of thing by now.
What she isn't used to is walking into a whole room of music equipment.
"Holy shit," she breathes, taking it all in. Acoustic panels line the walls, and there are all sorts of musical instruments lying around the room – she itches to pick up the violin because that was her very first instrument and she'll probably always have a soft spot for it – but she gravitates towards the table in the middle. It has a desktop computer and a trackpad and an actual soundboard and a bunch of things that in all honesty she has no idea how to use, but Beca runs her hand over them anyway. "I thought electronics don't work in Hogwarts."
"They don't," Chloe says, booting up the desktop. "Well, not usually. There are charms you can use to get around that, but those are complex and we don't even cover the basics until next term. But the Room of Requirement can block out magic if it has to. You won't be able to cast any spells while the room is like this, but electronics will work. It's how I've been keeping up with all my TV."
She steps aside to let Beca have the computer, but Beca just stares at her. "You have all these possibilities open to you, and you use it to keep up with your TV?"
"A girl's gotta cope with school somehow," Chloe defends herself. Beca snorts, but lets it drop, instead moving to click through the programs on the computer. "So, do you think you could show me what you do?"
"Honestly, I can't do that much with this equipment," Beca says. "Haven't had enough practice, and it'll take a little time to mix up something good. But, I, ah, can show you something else?"
"Go for it," Chloe says, so Beca walks over to where all the string instruments are. She trails her hand over the strings of the harp lightly, but she's still got that itch to play the violin, so that's what she picks up. It's sleek and black and electric, and since she's going to play for Chloe, she figures she might as well go all the way. She hunts around until she finds a loop pedal, and once she's done setting it up, she picks up the violin and just plays.
She starts slowly, recording the beginning notes and setting them looping before building up the rest of the song. It's been a while since she's done this and she's already nervous as hell (it's easy to ignore the why of it when she's focusing on the music), so she picks a song she knows well. It turns out Chloe knows the song well, too, because as she enters the first chorus, she moves closer and starts singing along, and Beca nearly loses track of what she's playing because every time she hears Chloe sing feels like the first time. Chloe has that kind of clear and (dare she think it) angelic voice (yes she does) that's easy to get lost in if you're not careful.
"My god, amazing how we got this far…"
It's the best and the worst feeling at the same time, because making music on her own is great, but making music with Chloe is amazing and gives her a rush she only otherwise gets from playing Quidditch. Beca might be emotionally closed off, but she's not that oblivious, and she knows what this feeling means.
And maybe Chloe does too, because when the song ends and Beca puts down the violin, Chloe is already there, in her space, and her hand cups Beca's cheek as she says, softly, "I'm going to kiss you now."
What's the proper protocol for when the girl you have a crush on moves in to kiss you? Beca doesn't know, but she suspects that even if she did know, the knowledge would have been useless because she finds herself frozen to the spot. So when Chloe leans down and closes the gap, Beca is there to meet her. All she can really think about is that it's soft. Chloe's soft. And also kind of – not quite forceful, but confident. And her lips taste like the strawberry lip gloss she's always using, which is kind of nice.
When Chloe's tongue flicks across her lip, she lets out a whimper, and it's that sound that brings her back to the ground. Where she's kissing Chloe Beale, or Chloe Beale is kissing her, or whatever, and maybe she likes how fast her heart is thudding and how warm everything feels, but then it's hard to breathe, and –
And she can't do this.
She pulls away and stumbles through "I'm sorry" and "I can't" before she does the only thing she can do – she runs.
It turns out it's not that hard to avoid someone in a giant castle.
She makes Jesse give her the Frog Choir's schedule so she knows when to avoid the Great Hall and the music room. In the mornings, she goes for breakfast really early and then rushes back to the dorms before most of the other students wake up. During lunch, she darts in and out of the hall to grab a muffin or a croissant or one of whatever kind of baked goods is available for the day, and she skips dinner entirely, opting instead to slink down to the kitchens and beg one of the house elves for a bit of food and a quiet place to eat. House elves, she has learned, are all too willing to oblige if you ask nicely. She doesn't stay anywhere Chloe might find her; she stops hanging around the Quidditch pitch, becomes the first to leave after practices, and spends most of her spare time in the Ravenclaw dorms.
She doesn't catch a single glance of Chloe for a week, so Beca figures she's been successful. Just two more weeks and then it's Christmas and maybe she'll be home free. If she's being honest, though, avoiding Chloe makes her kind of miserable. She feels emptier, somehow, and she suddenly has so much more free time, which makes the degree to which the redhead had inserted herself into Beca's life even more obvious.
Of course, she forgets that Chloe's best friend is Aubrey Posen, Pain in the Ass and, more importantly, a fellow Ravenclaw. The rude reminder that this is a fact comes when Chloe waltzes into the dormitory on Saturday afternoon as she's pulling on her Quidditch robes.
"Can we talk?"
Beca jumps, dropping her gloves. She quickly swipes them off the ground. "Can't, I have practice in ten minutes. How did you…?"
"Aubrey," Chloe answers, and Beca mentally hits the Head Girl with every expletive she knows. "I'll walk you."
Beca says nothing, only pulls her hair into a ponytail and leaves the room. She doesn't really know what to say to the older girl, who seems content to let her stew. "Can we just – pretend that didn't happen?" she finally asks, as they near the pitch.
"We could," Chloe says, and Beca wonders why that answer makes her feel like a rock has settled down in her stomach. It's what she wants, isn't it? "But I don't want to."
"Oh." Beca tugs on her robes as they step onto the pitch. With just five minutes to practice, most of the others are already there, and this conversation is probably not one she wants to have in the presence of other people. "I, um, need to set up."
"Go ahead," Chloe tells her. "I'll be waiting in the stands when you finish practice, so don't even think about running away again."
Beca sighs noisily, but nods her head, which seems to satisfy Chloe. She levitates the equipment out of the broom shed and grabs her broom before heading to the centre of the pitch.
"What's up with you?" Stacie asks.
"What do you mean, what's up with me?" Beca raises an eyebrow. "I'm fine. Totally fine."
"Right." Stacie drags out the word. "Well, you're the captain."
Beca rolls her eyes and puts her broom down. "Yeah, I'm the captain, and as captain, I'm starting us off with five rounds of the pitch on foot, let's go."
Her team lets out a collective groan – she thinks she hears Lilly mumble something about knowing how to set the entire castle on fire – but Beca gives them a look that says she could always make it ten, so they follow her as she starts jogging. She wouldn't tell them, but part of the reason they're running laps instead of flying laps today is because she has a perfect excuse not to look up at the stands if she's still on the ground.
Five rounds of the pitch later, though, she really can't avoid going up there anymore because, well, it's a sport that's played in the air. She mounts her broom and she gets the team doing Sloth Grip Rolls from one end of the pitch to the other, width-wise. (Half of her wanted to have them do it length-wise, but the other half wanted to not have to deal with anyone losing their lunch.)
"Stacie, stop trying to fondle your boobs when you roll, you're going to fall off," she calls out, hovering above them. She hears Chloe laugh, and she grips her broomstick tighter. "C'mon, guys, we're not stopping until your rolls are totally smooth!"
"Easy for you to say," Stacie complains. "I don't see you rolling in the air."
In response, Beca relaxes her shoulder muscles and executes a perfect roll. "You were saying?"
"Nothing," Stacie says. "I was saying absolutely nothing."
"That's what I thought," Beca says, unimpressed. She watches them roll until they've got it – Emily the Seeker is the last to give her a smooth roll, but she gets there eventually – before having the Chasers work on their passes and the Beaters on their accuracy, which leaves her to work with Emily.
Beca holds up the small golden ball. "We're going to release the snitch, and you're going to catch it before I do, or it's another five laps on the pitch on foot for you, got it?"
"Got it," Emily says, so Beca releases the snitch and they give it ten seconds to fly off before they start after it. The younger girl is a pretty good Seeker, but Beca is smaller, and faster, and a little bit luckier today, so Emily ends up having to do the extra five laps.
By the time they end practice, the team looks ready to drop. "Alright, take a break, guys, we don't meet again until the friendly with Hufflepuff on Friday after classes," Beca reminds them. Lilly mutters something about the bathroom as she walks past her, heading to the lockers. As she puts her broom and the equipment back in the shed, Beca wonders if she has a chance of escaping before the redhead corners her.
She doesn't. She doesn't even know why she even thought she had a chance. Chloe is waiting for her right outside the shed when she emerges, which startles her a little. "Dude, announce your presence, or something," Beca says.
"If I had, you might have crawled out the back window to get out of this," Chloe says.
"That would be a fair point," Beca acknowledges, "if the shed had a back window. Or any other entrance other than this door."
The redhead shrugs, unbothered. "Can we talk?"
"If you want to, I guess." Beca follows her to the side of the pitch and sits down next to her on the grass.
Chloe seems to know Beca isn't going to start, so she takes the lead. "You're avoiding me."
Biting her lip, Beca makes a noncommittal noise.
"That day," Chloe begins. "In the Room of Requirement. You kissed me back."
Beca doesn't look at her. "Yes."
"But you said you 'can't'," Chloe continues. "So you do want this, but you can't do it?"
Beca just shrugs in response, but Chloe takes it as an affirmative.
It's perhaps the most personal thing the redhead has ever asked her, and Beca knows it's the one question for which she'll accept nothing less than an answer.
"I can't" – Beca stops, drawing in a ragged breath, wondering why it feels like she's about to cry, why it feels like it's getting hard to breathe and maybe this is why honesty doesn't work for her because it feels like she's drowning – "I can't lose you like that. I don't want to be the one to fuck you up."
"Becs," Chloe breathes, "Becs, look at me."
Beca shakes her head, but Chloe's hand finds her cheek and it's so soft, she leans into it before she catches herself. And then Chloe is gently turning her to face her, and she sees the concern in those blue eyes she's come to know so well, and – and she almost forgets how to breathe. She pulls away and pulls her knees up and hides her eyes in her hand because she can't do this. Not with Chloe.
"Beca." She feels more than sees Chloe shift so that she's in front of her, leaning in close. When she breathes in her nose is filled with the scent of Chloe's vanilla shampoo and it's so familiar that it's comforting, despite the situation. "You're not going to screw me up," Chloe tells her, gently taking her free hand. "And you're not going to lose me no matter what happens, okay?"
"You can't promise that," Beca says weakly, shaking her head again.
"I can't," Chloe agrees. "But I can promise that I'll try."
"My parents tried, too," Beca says. "Sometimes trying isn't enough."
"We aren't your parents," Chloe points out. "And god, Beca, you're better than you think you are."
Beca isn't sure why she looks up. Maybe it's something in Chloe's voice. Chloe meets her gaze steadily, giving her a small smile, but Beca just sighs and looks down at the grass. "You don't know that."
"I do." Chloe leans forward some more, enough for her to wrap her arms around Beca's hunched up form. She's warm and solid and there, and Beca admits to herself that she likes the way Chloe's hugs make her stomach warm. "But if it makes you that uncomfortable, I'll back off."
Beca mostly feels relieved, but also a little bit disappointed, which is totally unfair of her because this is what she wants, isn't it? She's glad the other girl can't see her face right now because she's not sure how to school her expression. "That's… good."
"Don't sound so relieved yet," Chloe says, hugging her tighter. "I just know how to pick my battles. We're still friends, though, right?"
"Right." Beca nods, even though Chloe can't see it. She can probably feel it, though. "Just friends."
She tries to ignore that just friends feels a lot heavier than when they were nothing at all.
Things more or less go back to normal after that. Beca stops actively avoiding Chloe, and they pick up where they left off – studying together in the library, hanging out under the tree by the lake. So, more or less normal.
It's not completely normal, though. As the days go by, Chloe seems to progressively let go of any respect for Beca's personal boundaries she once held. She drapes herself over Beca's lap, and plays with Beca's hair, like, all the time, and occasionally after Quidditch practice she insists on giving her backrubs. Beca tells herself that the only reason she doesn't say no is because Chloe's hands work magic of their own.
Sometimes, Beca even forgets what her personal space was before Chloe became a permanent fixture in it. The part of it that terrifies her is that she doesn't quite mind.
Beca holds it in for as long as she can, but when Chloe transfigures a yellow rose with red tips from a blade of grass and gives it to her the day before they're due to leave for Christmas break, she doesn't know how to respond. She takes the rose, obviously, because that's only polite, and Chloe deserves polite, but that night at dinner she steals Jesse away from the Hufflepuff table and drags him out of the Great Hall to tell him about everything that's been going on.
"So let me get this straight." Jesse pauses, furrowing his brow. "Or… not straight?"
Beca slaps him on the arm. "Dude, so not the time."
Jesse just grins. "Right, right. So, you like Chloe, Chloe likes you, you kissed, but flat out refused to date her?"
"Sounds about right," Beca says.
"And she said okay, we'll just be friends," Jesse continues, "but now she's doing all this coupley stuff with you like lying on your lap and braiding your hair and giving you backrubs, and you like it?"
"And she's giving me roses," Beca adds, pulling out the rose from within her robes just long enough to show him. "Or, well, just one rose. Don't forget that. What the hell does a yellow and red rose even mean?"
Jesse shrugs. "We could ask her," he says, looking over Beca's head into the hall. "She's totally looking at us."
He waves cheerfully in what she presumes is Chloe's direction, and Beca hits him again before dragging him further to the side so they won't be seen by anyone from inside the hall. "Jesse, you're not helping!"
Now Jesse just laughs. "I know," he says, not ashamed in the least. "It's fun seeing you like this. I've never seen you so into someone before."
Beca grinds her teeth together. "Still. Not. Helping."
"I could ask Benji, if you really wanted to know," Jesse finally offers. "He's good with flowers. Herbology, in general, but especially flowers."
"Never mind, I'll ask him myself," Beca says. "Flower aside, what do I do?"
"What do you mean, what do you do?" Jesse is so excited, he's bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You're obviously smitten with her, she's obviously smitten with you. Go tell her you want to have her children already."
"Ugh, gross." Beca wrinkles her nose. "I don't know why I talk to you."
"You love me," Jesse sing-songs. "Obviously not like you love Chloe, though. What's stopping you?"
"It's just" – Beca wrings her hands in front of her – "Chloe is sunshine and rainbows and everything that's good, you know? And she's pretty much my best friend. What if I screw that up?"
Jesse puts a hand to his heart. "When did she replace me as your best friend? I'm wounded."
"Nerd." Beca flicks him in the forehead and takes satisfaction in his yelp. "You know you're my best friend too."
Jesse grins. "Oh, I know. I just wanted to hear you say it." This time, he dodges out of the way before Beca can lay a finger on him. "And because I know, I can tell you that you're not going to screw this up. Do you want to know why?"
Beca raises an eyebrow, dubious. "Why?"
"Because you like her," Jesse says, "enough that you're actually talking about your feelings and being honest about what you want. You're not going to screw this up because this relationship means something to you and you're going to be careful. So let yourself have this."
When Beca goes to bed that night, she falls asleep thinking of fire away, fire away and tell me what you want to hear, and I'm going to kiss you now and you kissed me back, and so let yourself have this.
She finds herself in a cabin with Benji, Jesse, Emily and Stacie on the Hogwarts Express the next day. They're lucky to get a compartment all to themselves; as the train pulls away from the station, Beca is surprised that no one else has come in to ask if they can share.
For a while, they trade stories; Jesse and Benji regale them with tales from the Hufflepuff common room and the girls tell them about mishaps during Quidditch practice. When the trolley comes around, they buy enough confectionary to form a pile on one of the empty seats, and Beca immediately pops open the box of Every Flavour Beans, picking one for herself (grapefruit, thank Merlin) before passing the box around.
About an hour into the journey, Chloe appears in their doorway, and Beca tries to pretend that her stomach doesn't do a flip at the sight of the redhead.
"We had a prefect's meeting," Chloe explains, sliding the door shut behind her. "Mind if I join you?"
Jesse levitates the pile of sweets off the seat next to Beca and onto the table by the side. "Make yourself at home."
Chloe practically bounds over and immediately cosies up to Beca, who rolls her eyes (fondly) and offers her a bean. The older girl wastes no time in taking one and popping the whole thing in her mouth. "Marshmallow," she proclaims.
Beca shakes her head. Yeah, the universe can't be mean to Chloe Beale either.
It probably says something that she doesn't notice how all her friends seem to be conspiring right in front of her until they're all gone.
Emily and Stacie leave first, citing a need to go to the bathroom. Benji is the next to go, telling them that he just remembered he needed to get a Herbology book from some Hufflepuff senior. After a while, Jesse leaves, telling Beca and Chloe that he's going to see what's taking Benji so long even though the other boy has only been gone for five minutes.
"They're not exactly subtle, are they?" Chloe muses. Still, she wastes no time in shifting closer to Beca.
"No, they're not," Beca agrees. "Remind me to make Em and Stacie run extra laps when we get back."
"Aw, Becs, don't be mean," Chloe chides. "I think it's cute."
Inwardly, Beca thinks that if she can't be mean to Chloe, she might as well be mean to the other two girls. She has a reputation to uphold, after all. "You would think it's cute that they're obviously trying to set us up."
Chloe laughs, and Beca knows she's a goner because she feels like she'd do anything to make Chloe laugh every day. Instead of doing something stupid, she reaches for a Cauldron Cake that Chloe ends up eating half of.
"We have, like, a whole pile of food here," Beca says, gesturing at the table. "Can't you take one for yourself?"
Once the redhead pouts, Beca knows she won't be winning this one. "But I wanted to share yours."
Beca shakes her head, but lets it rest. They lapse into an easy silence, during which Chloe gets close enough to rest her head on Beca's shoulder. Beca would ask if she actually finds that comfortable, but that'd be drawing attention to how short she is, which is something she definitely doesn't do, and so the silence continues.
"The rose," Beca says suddenly, remembering. "Yesterday. What did it mean?"
"Yellow is for friendship," Chloe answers, without hesitation. "The red tips are for falling in love."
"Oh." Beca's voice sounds very small, even to herself. Chloe doesn't say anything, opting to just let that sink in. Beca finds it's easier, at this moment, to look at anything but the other girl, so she keeps her eyes trained on the window and the scenery flying by.
"I know what you're doing, you know," she finally says, not looking away from the window.
"Oh?" Chloe lifts her head, and it's this that makes Beca turn back to look at her. It's written all over the older girl's face that she's amused. "What am I doing?"
Beca huffs. "Like you don't know. You're trying to ease me into it."
Chloe leans over to rest her head on Beca's shoulder again, humming in agreement. "Is it working?"
Beca doesn't answer immediately, but when Chloe's hand comes to rest on top of hers, she gives in. "Yes," she admits, already feeling the heat that creeps up her neck and spreads across her cheeks. "Dork."
Chloe squeezes her hand. "So you'll give us a try?"
"Yeah," Beca says. It almost feels inevitable, how everything has led to this. "Yeah, I will."
Their next match sees the stands filled with blue and bronze and silver and green.
Beca really, really hates playing the Slytherin team. Most of them are large, towering jerks who use brute force to knock her players out of the way. It's frustrating, to say the least, but her team makes her proud by successfully dodging – sometimes rolling – their way out of potentially painful situations.
It's a good game for her, though. So far, they're winning ninety to twenty. If they can pull off a win now, they're in good standing for the Quidditch Cup.
And they do. She sees when Emily spots the Snitch, hovering just below the stands, right about the same time when the Slytherin Seeker spots it. It's a mad rush as both Seekers try to get to the Snitch first, and Beca tries not to care too much because the game is still on and Slytherin has possession of the Quaffle, but then Madam Hooch is blowing the whistle and the stands have erupted and there's Emily, thank god, holding up the Snitch with a large smile on the face. Beca is so relieved that she relaxes, too fast – she doesn't notice the Bludger still heading her way, and it ends up slamming against her arm.
She's pretty sure something fractures, because she hears the crack, and she tries really, really hard not to let the pain show because the Slytherin Beater who sent the Bludger her way is looking at her with the smuggest grin she's ever seen. She probably really just needs an Episkey or something, but she really wants to wipe that smug grin off his face.
It's lucky, then, that when she reaches the ground, Chloe is already there to meet her. She isn't sure that she wouldn't have gone after the Slytherin player if she'd been left alone. "Are you okay?" she asks, and Beca gets this pleasant buzz because of course Chloe would be watching her even when everyone else was looking at Emily and the Snitch.
"I think it's fractured," Beca says, and the sentence has barely left her mouth when Chloe pulls out her wand and casts an Episkey. Her arm goes from very hot to very cold and then it feels fine. "You are a godsend."
Chloe just laughs, stowing her wand back into her robes. "You looked really hot when you were out there," she says, grabbing Beca's hands and pulling her close. "And I'm going to kiss you now."
Beca still hates playing the Slytherin team, but she could get used to this.
O.W.L.s come and go in a blur, though Beca is reasonably confident in most of her subjects due to the amount of studying she's been doing with Chloe. Before she knows it, they're heading into the end of the school year, with Chloe standing on the cusp of graduating and leaving her behind.
It's a clear day out, so they're sitting under the tree again. Chloe is sitting behind her, pulling her hair into yet another ridiculously intrinsic braid. It's only the day after Chloe's final exams, so they're both still feeling pretty tired. Beca doesn't want to speak and ruin the mood, but she knows she has to get it out sooner or later.
"I've decided to stay," she says. "For N.E.W.T.s. And the Quidditch team."
She feels Chloe's hands still on the back of her neck, but only for a moment. "That's great," her girlfriend says, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm proud of you. Have you decided which N.E.W.T.s you're going to take?"
Beca shrugs. "Astronomy and Defence for sure, but I figured I'll decide on the rest when I get my results."
A pause. Then – "I've got something to tell you too," Chloe says. "Flitwick asked me if I wanted to take over as choir conductor, next year. As a job."
Beca tries to look back at her, but Chloe just tuts and holds her head still. "Does that mean…?"
"Yup," Chloe says. "I'm sticking around too. I mean, I'll see how it goes, and if I don't like it, I can always leave after a year or two, but if you're staying for N.E.W.T.s, then we'll both be back next year."
"Is this because of me?" Beca asks. "Because you really don't have to."
"I want to," Chloe says simply. "You're not getting rid of me that easily, Becs."
Beca is thankful that she has her back to Chloe, because her smile is so wide it's ridiculous. "Wouldn't dream of it," she quips.
"Yeah?" Braid finished, Chloe secures it with an elastic band.
"Yeah." Beca looks over her shoulder at her. "Do you still get to use the Prefect's Bathroom if you're technically a member of staff? Because I'll kind of miss the shower duets."
Chloe laughs. "Kiss me, you dork."
"You're the dork," Beca fires back playfully.
She leans in to kiss her anyway.
parts of this were inspired by:
Vero Strati's Titanium & 500 Miles Remix
Bryson Andres' electric violin cover of Secrets
No One Is Alone from the Into The Woods soundtrack
hit me up on tumblr: i'm at clexakomskaikru