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Of Love Potions and Startling Revelations

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For Melinda May, it’s just another morning at Hogwarts. Except it isn’t. Phil Coulson, her best friend, has recently been called into Professor McGonagall’s office, and now the inevitable hangs over her head, like the other shoe waiting to drop.

In her typical silent fashion, she makes her way down the staircase and through several corridors, maneuvering in and out of fellow students as she passes, giving an occasional smile and wave. The only sound that fills her ears is the bickering of a group of Ravenclaws, huddled in a corner and never sparing her so much as a glance. She moves on, mentally counting the seconds until her luck runs out.

An angry yell erupts from the other end of the corridor, followed by the sound of thundering footsteps.

“Melinda!!!”

There it is, Melinda thinks to herself. She releases the breath she’s been holding and plasters her face with the friendliest grin she can manage, turning slowly as to confront the advancing figure.

“Hey, Phil,” she greets casually, taking in the sight of the furious Hufflepuff. His face is beat-red, and his breathing heavy from rage, and yet she can’t help but internally giggle at how adorable he looks. Her nonchalant manner only angers Phil further.

“Don’t ‘hey, Phil’ me! You’re the one that got me into this mess,” he exclaims, getting up in her face, “Why’d you do it?”

Melinda feigns innocence. “Do what?” she asks, secretly satisfied when Phil’s face turns a deeper shade of red.

"Why the hell did you slip love potion into my pumpkin juice?" By his tone and his aggressive body language, she is well aware of his anger, and fights the laugh that bubbles in the back of her throat.

"I don't know, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” She shrugs and turns away, sauntering down the corridor once more. Her conversation with him so far has been amusing, but not once has she been late to Professor Slughorn’s potion class, and she’s not about to start today.

Phil’s voice goes an octave higher as he chases after her. "A good idea? You nearly got me expelled!"

Melinda rolls her eyes. Ever the dramatic, she thinks. "How was I supposed to know you'd try to kiss Professor McGonagall? You never told me you had a thing for her."

"Damn it, I don't!"

"Really? For someone with no romantic feelings for her whatsoever, you sure looked at her like a horny teenager with the sex-drive of a rabbit."

He scoffs. Good grief, the nerve of her sometimes. “Well of course I did! I was as high as a kite! I probably would've been ready to shag anything in that mindset."

"And yet in a room surrounded by pretty girls, your aging professor was the only person you had eyes for. Really, Phil, I'm disappointed in you." Melinda can see the frustration in his eyes as he races to keep up with her, but she really can’t help herself sometimes. Besides, what are best friends for other than to tease each other mercilessly?

"Disappointed in me? You're the one who put me in that position in the first place!" There’s that higher octave again. Melinda bites back a grin.

"I might have drugged you, Phil, but I certainly never told you to hit on the Professor."

As they round the corner, a guttural groan escapes his lips. "Damn it, Melinda, you’re missing the point!” Phil exclaims, rubbing his forehead relentlessly. He can feel a headache coming on in the back of his head, like the burn of an intensifying fire. “Because of your half-cocked stunt, I've got detention for the month. Do you have any idea what that'll do to my grades?"

His mood only worsens when Melinda finally releases the chuckle she’s been holding. Typical Phil, she thinks.

"Ever the nerd. Honestly, I thought your reputation would be a bigger concern here."

"It is!"

"Well then stop whining. You didn't have much of a reputation in the first place."

As much as he knows Melinda is only teasing to get a rise out of him, he can’t help but feel a little self-conscious. "No, before, I was known as Mr. Goody-two-shoes. Now everyone will know me as the love-drunk fool that tried to kiss Professor McGonagall!"

"It could be worse, you know. You could be known as the guy that tried to kiss Headmaster Dumbledore,” she comments, biting back a smirk.

Immediately, Phil doubles over gagging, not bothering to suppress an audible groan. Several nearby students glance over out of curiosity and concern. Melinda immediately shoots them a glare to dissuade them from paying any further attention.

"Damn it, Phil! You visualized it, didn't you!” she scolds, clapping him on the back. “I'm starting to think you have a thing for all your professors."

"No, no I don't! I--"

"Look, Phil, there's nothing to be embarrassed about, really,” she explains calmly, smirking when he releases an exasperated sigh.

"You weren't the one that tried--" he starts again, only to be interrupted once more.

"All I'm saying is that the world is very accepting of anything and everything these days, so I don't think anyone will bat an eye if you profess your undying love for Professor McGonagall, or any of the professors for that matter."

"The hell? No, that's not--"

She continues. "Honestly, Phil, I wish you had told me sooner, though. Then I wouldn't have made such an idiot out of myself, trying to flirt with you.”

"Damn it to hell, Melinda! I don't have eyes for any of my teachers!” Phil exclaims suddenly, grabbing her by the arm and stopping her in her tracks. “Not for McGonagall, not for Slughorn, and certainly not for Dumbledore! Everything that happened was because of that bloody love potion you slipped me! So don't you dare deny your responsibility in all—”

Something finally clicks in his mind. He looks at her apprehensively, slowly processing her previous words. When he finally speaks, his words come out softer and filled with caution, much unlike the raised voice he’d spoken with only moments ago. “Wait, did you say you tried to flirt with me?"

Damn, he heard her. Melinda releases a sigh. "Tried. Failed. Turns out you're more oblivious that I thought,” she shrugs, maintaining a tone of indifference as if to dissuade him from further pursuit on the subject.

He doesn’t take the hint.

"Hold on a second, you tried to flirt with me?!"

Why am I not surprised…? "Yes, try to keep up,” she insists, releasing herself from his grip and attempting towards the staircase leading to the dungeons.

He trots alongside her, all signs of frustration and annoyance gone from his features. “Since when? How long has this been going on?"

"Does it matter? Obviously, my feelings aren't reciprocated,” she sighs nonchalantly, hiding her true emotions behind a mask of disinterest.

He grabs her once more, this time far gentler. "Melinda, since when?" he implores softly, searching her features for any sign of acknowledgement.

Melinda turns away from his intense gaze, silently wondering how on earth they went from love potion mishaps to, well… this. She knows he expects an answer, a truthful one preferably, and gives in. Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? she asks herself sarcastically.

"Since our first year, when I met you on the train."

Phil arches a brow at her confession. "You punched me in the face,” he states, his voice rising an octave.

She shrugs simply. "I wasn't very good at it back then."

He gives her a look before returning to the matter on hand. "So hold on, what you're trying to say is that you've... liked me? Ever since the first day on the train?" he asks, a look of surprise and… was that relief that crossed his face?

"Look, it doesn't matter anymore. I'll be fine,” she insists weakly, shirking away and meandering down the stairs. To Melinda’s surprise, Phil does not follow.

"That's why you drugged my drink, isn't it?” he calls from the top of the stairs. “You wanted to see if I liked you as much as you liked me."

She turns back to gaze up at him, grimacing slightly. "It sounds stupid when you put it like that..."

"Melinda, it's not stupid--"

"Isn't it?” she demands, taking a couple steps towards him. For the first time, she raises her voice. “Like you said, I nearly got you expelled! All because I wished for something that wasn't even there."

"Oh so now you're accepting responsibility,” Phil replies smugly. Melinda glares at him.

"Phil!"

He sighs, skipping down a couple steps. "Look, Mel, I'm sorry I forced you to go to such drastic measures,” he starts, pausing to carefully consider his next words. Here goes nothing, he thinks.

“Truth is, I was afraid you wouldn't feel the same way I did."

A look of surprise crosses Melinda’s face. "Phil... What are you hinting at?" she asks, her voice trembling ever so slightly.

Phil smiles softly at her, taking the last few steps towards her. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that... I like you, too. A lot. Probably more that you like me. I always have, ever since I first saw you that day on the train. Ok, well except for when you punched me; I didn't like you very much after that."

"You-- You like me?" she asks again, as if him telling her once wasn’t enough.

He never thought it possible to render her so stunned. "Yeah, I really do,” he affirms.

For a short moment, Melinda simply stands there gaping like a fish, her mind taking an infinitely long time to process the recent revelation. Phil gazes at her amused, watching how her different facial muscles twitch as the wheels in her head turn. Finally, her eyes meet his gaze, and she lets out a nervous chuckle.

"Wow, I just thought-- You never-- It wasn't--" she starts, only to have him cut her off.

"Melinda, stop, it's fine. I should've told you a lot sooner,” he admits.

She scoffs, playfully slugging him in the arm. "Yeah, you should have."

Phil continues. "I wasted so much time, but I'm tired of that now. No more. I won't put off asking you any longer,” he states, gazing into her eyes.

"Ask me what?" she implores, her expression growing wary.

Taking her hand in his, he comes down to the step where she’s standing, and without breaking eye contact, bends down on one knee, internally grimacing at his awkward position on the stairs. Inhaling deeply, he then asks softly, "Melinda Qiaolian May, will you be my girlfriend?"

He expects her to squeal, laugh, cry tears of joy, or exhibit some kind of emotional outburst. So when he is met with deafening silence, he feels a twinge in his gut.

"Look, Mel,” he starts uncomfortably, “I don't mean to rush you, but my knee's starting to hurt..."

"Yes,” she says suddenly, snapping out of her trance.

His eyebrows shoot up, causing crinkles in his forehead. "Really?"

She lets out a cry of delight. "Yes! Now get up here before you make me cry,” Melinda demands, using the hand he’s holding to help pull him up.

Immediately, she yanks him into a hug, wrapping her arms around him. Before he can properly soak in her presence however, she pulls away, giving him a watery smile.

"Softie,” he teases.

Her brow furrows. "Prat."

Phil holds her amused gaze a moment longer before glancing warily around at the now empty stairwell. "Come on,” he says suddenly, “we'd better get to class before we get in even more trouble."

"You make a good point, boyfriend,” she responds, holding his hand delicately before leading him down the stairs.

Phil grins at her response, butterflies rampaging in his stomach from her use of the ‘b’ word. "Thank you, girlfriend.”

Together they alight down the stairs in silence, the only sound coming from the swishing of their robes and their footfalls on the steps. It isn’t until they reach the bottom that the comfortable sound of silence is broken.

"Hey, Phil?" Melinda asks suddenly.

"Yes, Mel?"

A smirk overcomes her features. "Why'd you go after Professor McGonagall?"

The silence that follows is deafening.

"... I have no idea... "