They're in the middle of celebrating the fact that their school is free of the terror of the evil Cackle twin, with lots of students dancing and some music courtesy of Miss Drill - who it turns out plays some awesome magical synthesizers - when they receive a visitor.
"Miss Pentangle!" Mildred says with delight when the beautiful witch comes into view on her broom as she's landing in the school quad.
"Hello, Mildred," she says warmly as she dismounts, but there's something slightly off about her. Her gaze goes to where Miss Hardbroom and Miss Cackle are overseeing the festivities.
Miss Hardbroom looks like she's just been whacked in the face with a broomstick.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asks Miss Pentangle as she approaches them. Mildred thinks that's a bit rude, but then, she's noticed Miss Hardbroom is always prone to strange reactions whenever Miss Pentangle is mentioned or actually appears.
Miss Pentangle's face, to her credit, becomes only ever more serene. She bows and lifts her hand to her forehead.
"Well met, Miss Cackle, Miss Hardbroom."
They both return the gesture, if rather stiffly in the latter's case.
"I'm so sorry that I wasn't able to lend you my assistance in your recent trials," Pentangle says sincerely, "but I couldn't risk something happening to me. I'm all my students have - quite literally, in some cases."
"Of course," Cackle says, nodding, "we would never presume to-"
"How do you even know about our… trials?" Hardbroom asks, frowning at her, only for Pentangle to laugh good-naturedly.
"A witch can't give away all her secrets," Pentangle replies, with a secretive little smile. It falls a moment later, and she looks at Hardbroom with a kind of distress. "But it was terrible, I was stuck in my office, pacing - and you know how much I hate pacing, but I just couldn't help it, I was so worried!"
"Well, your worry is appreciated," Cackle says, smiling.
"I'm glad, and I was worried about all of you, I promise that, but I'm actually here because the majority of my worrying was irrationally… singular," Pentangle says, all at once sounding strangely out of breath as she looks at Hardbroom.
"Ah," Cackle murmurs, a new, knowing glint entering her eye as she looks between them.
"What do you mean, 'ah'?" Hardbroom asks her, looking at her with a furious bewilderment. When Cackle only shrugs and smirks at her, Hardbroom looks back at Pentangle. "Exactly what are you-"
"I'm trying to tell you that I was horribly worried about something happening to you," Pentangle says to her.
Hardbroom blinks, and then frowns. "Don't be ridiculous. You know I can take care of myself."
"Of course I do, but-"
"Then how am I supposed to believe that you'd come all the way here just to tell me that you were worried about me, that's absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever-"
Pentangle looks about ready to pull her hair out. "How is it possible that a witch of your renown and intelligence can miss the obvious so entirely?"
Hardbroom lets out a tiny, disbelieving laugh. "And what exactly is it that I'm-"
"Oh hush, you idiot, I'm trying to make a grand gesture here," Pentangle says.
To the astonishment of absolutely everyone, except Miss Cackle, Pentangle rushes forward, takes Hardbroom's face between her hands, and kisses her firmly. Hardbroom's entire body goes rigid.
A whisper goes through the crowd of young girls and Mildred feels her mouth drop with shock. Looking around, she isn't the only one.
But no one looks more absolutely bemused than Hardbroom herself, when Pentangle finally pulls away. The stern brunette witch stares at the witch in pink, mouth opening only for no sound to come out.
"What was that?!"
Pentangle half looks like she wants to hex her. "Do you need me to repeat myself so that you understand more clearly?"
"Yes," Hardbroom says, making Mildred giggle, "Wait, no - I simply - what?"
"You really can be rather slow sometimes, dear," Cackle says to her, sympathetically. "From the way you'd been talking about Pippa for the last few weeks, I was sure you'd finally gotten there."
"I've never had to be so completely obvious in my life, and she still hasn't gotten into her thick head yet," Pentangle says to her, sighing.
"SHE WANTS TO BE YOUR GIRLFRIEND, HB," Enid calls out, cupping her hands around her mouth to get the extra volume. She earns herself a glare that could probably make a tree wither - but not Enid Nightshade.
The glare fades, however, as Hardbroom turns to look at Pentangle. Her face is more open and more vulnerable and more hopelessly confused than Mildred has ever seen it.
"Pippa," she says.
"I know you feel the same way, I've always been able to tell what you're thinking," Pentangle tells her, "but we know that you have an inferiority complex when it comes to my friendship, so I'm going to make things extremely plain. I'm in love with you, Hecate Hardbroom, you ridiculous hard-brained idiot, and I have been for years."
"Oh," Hardbroom says.
Mildred might be imagining it, but she thinks she sees Miss Bat handing over some money to Miss Drill, who pockets it smugly.
"Actually, a repeat demonstration just to get it through my head might be good," Hardbroom says, still looking a bit dazed.
Pentangle laughs and kisses her again, and this time Hardbroom fiercely kisses her back.
All the girls cheer, and so do the other members of staff, and when the two witches finally break apart, the most incredible blush has taken up on Hardbroom's cheeks.
"Don't you all have things to be getting on with?" she barks at the students who are watching.
"Congratulations, Hecate," Cackle says before moving off, and Hardbroom nods with a rather funny uncertainty.
Mildred and her friends hurry away too, just like all the other girls. No one can resist convening to discuss the delicious new piece of gossip, though. The Year One's gather around a large shady tree.
"How could someone like Pippa Pentangle like Hecate Hardbroom?" one of the girls asks, baffled. "HB isn't even pretty."
"She is, when she smiles," Mildred says, frowning.
Several of the others laugh.
"Oh yeah, the two whole times that's happened, maybe," Ethel says, rolling her eyes. "Look, I like Miss Hardbroom just fine, but let's be honest, she's out of Miss Pentangle's league."
Mildred almost wants to shout in protest, but she takes a deep breath and looks back at Pentangle and Hardbroom in the distance. It looks like they might even be holding hands.
"Well, it's a good thing it's none of your business then, Ethel," Mildred says instead. "I think Miss Pentangle can decide who is in her league or not."
Ethel rolls her eyes and moves off with several of the others.
"I just think it's funny," Enid says, leaning against a tree and grinning. "The idea of someone trying to flirt with HB and her having no idea? Priceless."
Mildred and Maud giggle.
"That is pretty funny," Maud says.
"I think it's nice," Mildred says, smiling. "Oh! Do you think Hardbroom might be a bit nicer from now on?"
"I doubt it."
Hardbroom is nicer, going forward, but only marginally. Very marginally. Still, the girls take what they can get, and she is significantly nicer, or at least, less grumpy, if Pentangle is actually around.
There is one strange thing, though.
"It might just be a coincidence," Maud says, frowning.
"It matches up too much to be a coincidence," Enid disagrees, shaking her head. "Come on, Mildred, you must think so too. It's weird."
It's dinner time, and the headmistress and deputy headmistress are dining with the Year One's tonight. They're supposed to be eating, but much more talking is happening than anything else, particularly between the three notorious friends.
"Look, why don't we just ask her? I'm not scared of her," Mildred says.
"Alright, your funeral," Enid snorts.
"Miss Hardbroom?" Mildred calls down the dining table. "Why did you suddenly start cutting your nails? Is there a reason you did it right after Miss Pentangle told you she was in love with you?"
Miss Hardbroom chokes on her soup, as do a few other faculty members in hearing distance.
Mildred frowns, more confused than ever, as Hardbroom looks to Cackle with a bizarre kind of desperate plea for help in her eyes.
"It's so that she can better hold Miss Pentangle's hand, of course," Cackle says smoothly, and Hardbroom covers her face with her hand, but doesn't contest the statement.
"Oh," Mildred says, before smiling. "Well, that's really nice of you, Miss."
"Thank you, Mildred," Hardbroom says through gritted teeth, cheeks burning and hand still over her face.
When Miss Pentangle visits next, she gets a rather lot of attention, partly because she remains the most beautiful witch that many have ever seen, and partly because romancing the fearsome Miss Hardbroom is nothing short of truly impressive.
"I can't believe I never realised she was in love with you," Mildred says to her, while she and the Year One girls dig into the small feast of cakes around them. "It explains a lot about why she acted so funny whenever you turned up. Like she was always panicking."
"Well, she's stubborn and silly like that," Pentangle says with a fond smile. "Always has been."
"It's nice of her to cut her nails for you," Maud says.
Pentangle chokes on the large bite of cupcake she'd just taken, and coughs horribly for several moments before managing to swallow and catch her breath.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Miss Cackle says it's so she can hold your hand better," Mildred says, nodding. "We think that's really nice of her."
"I think I'm not quite sure it's true, actually," Enid says, frowning, "because my sister-"
"Don't be ridiculous, Enid, of course it's true, look, Miss Pentangle's cut hers too," Maud says, pointing towards the hands in question.
Miss Pentangle's cheeks are almost as pink as her dress. "Exactly," she says mildly. "You know, goodness, I really should be getting-"
"Ah, Pippa, there you are."
Hardbroom strides into the room, takes in the sight of the feast, and rolls her eyes with blatant disapproval. Luckily, she seems more focused on her girlfriend than anything else.
"Good gracious, Pippa, why are you the colour of a strawberry?" she asks Pentangle.
"I think she's embarrassed about you guys cutting your nails so you could hold hands easier," Mildred says, and Hardbroom and Pentangle meet eyes. Pentangle gives her a funny, questioning look, while looking like she's trying not to laugh, and Hardbroom shoots her some kind of warning look with a helpless sort of shrug afterwards.
Pentangle gets up and crosses to Hardbroom, taking her hand and kissing her fingertips. "Well, I think they look lovely. I've always liked your hands."
Hardbroom looks at her with an expression Mildred can't identity. "I know."
Pentangle entwines their fingers. "Come along, Hecate, dear, let's leave these girls in peace."
With that, they walk off, leaving the girls to their remaining feast of cakes.
For some reason, several hours later, Miss Hardbroom seems to be in an extremely good mood in their afternoon potions lesson. Or at least, she is until this is pointed out to her, at which point she turns scarlet again and goes back to shouting at them.