A/N: This was written for The Hogwarts Games 2012, category Women's boxing (write a femmeslash pairing), the Fanfiction Tournament, edition December 2012 Finals (write a story about Christmas) and the Honeydukes Competition, category Fizzing Whizbees (write about a Quidditch player (I'd like to think Rolanda played professionally before she became a teacher/referee)).
It's also for the following Boot Camps:
- Character Diversity Boot Camp with the prompt "unsupervised"
- Favourite Hogwarts House Boot Camp with the prompt "smile"
- Minor Character Boot Camp with the prompt "missing"
Thank you for your invitation to spend Christmas in Aberdeen. However, I'm afraid I won't be able to leave my ward unsupervised during the holidays.
Perhaps you'd like to come to Hogwarts? We can celebrate Christmas in the Great Hall and afterwards get a glass in my quarters. Just like old times?
Rolanda put the letter down and bit her lip. She didn't know what to think. She had much preferred it if Poppy were to come and spend Christmas in Aberdeen, because in Aberdeen, in her own house, she felt at ease. On the other hand, it wasn't a refusal, as she had feared, so that was a good sign.
She reread the letter and her eyes lingered on that one phrase: Just like old times. She was almost sure that the 'old times' Poppy was referring to were those of before, because it was the after that had drifted them apart.
Rolanda had always known she preferred women to men and Poppy had been alright with that, until Rolanda blurted out that it was Poppy that she cared for. Not that Poppy had shoved their friendship aside, but Rolanda had sensed the change in attitude and atmosphere in her, no matter how hard Poppy tried not to show it. They found they had less and less to talk about and their weekly visits became bi-weekly, then monthly until they stopped altogether and they would only great each other kindly at a teacher's gathering. She had moved on, had loved other women, but even though her feelings for Poppy had been tucked away, they never fully left.
Rolanda missed the days of unconditional camaraderie, long and deep conversations by the fireplace and a friendship that had seemed unbreakable. And at times she wished she had never spoken her heart, for it had ruined their friendship. But the fact that Poppy had agreed to spend Christmas together told her that she too missed their friendship.
Thus Rolanda went to the traditional Hogwarts Christmas dinner two days later. As she remembered, the Great Hall was decorated abundantly, with giant trees undoubtedly brought in by Hagrid. She was greeted heartily by most of the teachers. She shook hands and shared hugs. Poppy sent her a warm smile that made her heart skip a beat and was it just her, or did their hug last just a little too long to be friendly? She breathed in the familiar scent of sandalwood and patchouli and a hint of that scent people working in hospitals could never really get rid off. She let go and berated herself. Don't torture yourself into thinking it's more than it is.
The dinner went by without much interesting happening and Rolanda was looking forward to the calm and quietness of the promised after-dinner drink.
She followed Poppy into her quarters and looked around. Poppy had set up a small pine tree and there were fairy lights above the window. A familiar stocking was hanging by the fireplace and Rolanda smiled.
"I see you still have the stocking I gave you many years ago."
Poppy smiled back. "Yes, it still adorns my fireplace every Christmas. It reminds me of the old times."
"I kept mine as well."
Rolanda thought back fondly on that Christmas many years ago – before the incident of course – when each of them had independently decided to knit the other one a Christmas stocking, even though neither of them was particularly good at knitting. "My, we laughed a lot that evening, didn't we?"
"We did," Poppy confirmed. "But perhaps that also had something to do with the oak mead we drank?" With a twinkle in her eye she had conjured a bottle of Rosmerta's finest and Rolanda nodded in silent agreement with her choice for the evening.
She watched as Poppy poured the mead. Her sandy curls might have some streaks of grey in them and there were some lines in her face, but her eyes were still the same: an intense greyish blue. She wanted to stare into those eyes, run her hands through those curls and… No, no, no, she scolded herself. Don't think that. Let it go.
Poppy handed her her drink and they toasted. "To the old times."
"I've got something for you. I was out of yarn, so you'll just have to do with chocolates," Rolanda joked as she handed Poppy a box of Honeydukes handmade chocolates.
Poppy blushed. "I haven't got you anything…" she apologised. "I feel really bad now…"
"It's okay, I don't mind." It pained her a bit, but she feigned indifference.
"I'll get you one later, promise."
They sat in a silence that was of the comfortable kind of two people who know each other a long time.
After a couple of minutes, Poppy broke it.
"You know Rolanda, I'm glad we're on speaking terms again. I really have been missing your company."
"Me too. I'm sorry I ruined it back then…"
Poppy twirled the chalice around in her hands, looking nervous. "It wasn't right. My husband had just died and it wasn't… I just wasn't ready. I'm sorry too."
"There's no need to apologise. You can't force someone to love you." Rolanda looked at her friend and decided to be frank. "It never left," she added after a moment's hesitation. "A part of me will forever love you. But I've learned to live with that and I'm just happy to have you back as a friend."
"I'm ready now."
The words were spoken so softly it was almost a whisper. They caught her off guard and she was sure she only heard what she wanted to hear.
"I'm sorry it took me so long." Poppy leaned towards her and soft lips gently caressed her own. There was no mistaking that for anything else.
"You know, that might very well be the best Christmas present you've ever given me."
Rolanda's heart jolted as she – finally – rummaged her hands through her friend's curls and kissed her back.