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“I could’ve handled them myself, you know,” says Clara, peering at Amy beneath raised brows. Amy doesn’t answer straightaway, mostly because Clara is dabbing something cold beneath her eye, and it’s all she can do not to gasp. The skin there is mottled yellow, and growing puffier by the second. As looks go, it’s hardly Amy’s best–but she’d refused, quite adamantly, to go to the hospital wing.

Amy furrows her brow, wincing almost immediately with the effort. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she snorts. “What about ‘Thank you, Amy’ or– ouch !” Clara had pressed slightly too hard with the heel of her hand; gingerly, Amy prods the spot, hissing when it stings.

Clara sucks in a breath. “Sorry,” she says, even as she swats Amy’s hand aside. Silence stretches between them, Clara briskly focused, Amy glancing from Clara to her own folded hands and back again with almost frantic energy. Finally, sighing, Clara sits back; she’d been fussing more than necessary at a minor bruise, but Amy doesn’t need to know that. “I didn’t ask you to help, y’know,” Clara chides, catching Amy’s eye at last. One brow delicately raised, she adds, “And I definitely don’t recall asking you to toss your wand aside and start a fist fight with a seventh year.”

“I panicked!” Amy narrows her eyes, affronted. “It wasn’t exactly the plan going in.”

They’re not friends , exactly–but there are some things you simply don’t tolerate, and three boys spitting nasty words at a girl half their size just so happens to be one of them. Amy hadn’t really been thinking when she threw the first punch–not in the strictest sense of the word. Perhaps, in all fairness, she might have done it all differently now, given the chance. But not so differently as to avoid this moment, sat in front of Clara Oswald with her eye purpling like some kind of Muggle delinquent.

“Amateur,” says Clara, “You might have hexed him instead.” She brings a hand to Amy’s jaw, turning her cheek to the side; the sheen of murtlap essence gleams faintly beneath her right eye, though the bruise had already begun to fade. Amy still stews in obstinate silence, eyes fixed on a point just slightly to the left of Clara. And Clara softens reluctantly, hand still lingering at the crook of Amy’s neck; she guides Amy’s gaze just slightly, until she can no longer look away. “Thank you anyway.”

Amy is certain she must be staring wide-eyed, but she can’t seem to keep herself from tipping just the slightest bit forward in her seat, mesmerized as if she’d been confunded. There’s a beat of quiet, Clara close enough Amy can make out the dimpled point at the corner of her mouth. They spring apart almost in concert, Amy nearly tripping over the seat in her hurry to be out of it.

“Yeah,” she says, aware of how high her voice emerges. “You’re welcome, I guess. Next time I’ll ask before I try and act the white knight, shall I?”

“Right,” Clara agrees, on a breath. “Yes. That might be best.”

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

There are several things Clara Oswald is looking forward to after an interminable Potions exam: a cup of tea, principally, or perhaps a book that doesn’t involve the ninety-six medicinal properties of lacewing flies. What she doesn’t expect to find is Amelia Pond, artfully arranged atop her duvet cover. Clara might have thought Amy had the wrong bed, if not for the fact they shared a bedroom; after all, she imagines most boys in their year (and one, in particular) would empty all the galleons in their bank account for the same chance. Clara, for the most part, is baffled.

Clara peers hard at Amy, as if at a mirage–nose scrunched, eyes narrowed discerningly. “Your bed is just there, to the left,” she says at last, tipping her head in that general direction. She tries a laugh, though it rings rather awkward in the quiet of their dormitory. “Had one firewhiskey too many, have you?” It’s meant to come across as good-natured, but it isn’t quite that, because Amy Pond is waiting up for her, and maybe it isn’t a mistake. She remembers this past week: Amy with bruised knuckles, bruised cheeks, skittish and strange; Clara’s hands lingering longer, perhaps, than was strictly professional. But Amy couldn’t think–couldn’t possibly believe...

Amy shrugs. “Please,” she snorts. “You know why I’m here.” She’s still in uniform, though her tie and vest have long since been tossed somewhere far away, and Clara is abruptly, acutely aware of the nightie she’s wearing, loose-fitting and floral like someone’s gran, and Oh, this is not happening right now.

“Just a quick snog in the gardens,” says Amy, impossibly airy given the circumstances. “In and out with no one the wiser.” She wiggles her eyebrows, which–Clara thinks–is every bit as infuriating as one might expect. “Oh, c’mon,” she groans, “I don’t bite, y’know!”

Some distant and utterly insane fragment of Clara’s mind thinks: Maybe, maybe, maybe. The thought is quelled before it can take root. Clara settles on a frown instead, arms folded tightly against the front of her nightie. “You do know how to woo a girl, don’t you,” she says dryly.

Despite herself, Clara can't help but press nearer, closing the distance between them in two short strides; bending down, she can just make out that ugly patch of purple beneath Amy’s eye, lighter now and dappled with freckles. At Clara’s approach, Amy tucks her legs beneath her–more natural, now, than crossed ankles and a practiced pout. It suits her better–not that Clara cares, naturally.

“Say I did,” says Clara curtly, unable to resist. “Like you, that is. I should think I would want something a bit more substantial than a snog in the bushes. Wouldn’t you?” Without realizing, she’d braced her hands at either side of Amy’s waist, palms flat against the bed.

“Not generally.” It sounds almost reasonable, coming from Amy–eyes heavy-lidded, mouth a breath from meeting Clara’s. “It’s the kissing part that interests me, if you know what I mean.” Their lips nearly brush; Clara allows herself that–an almost-kiss–though she retreats long before it can deepen. Amy’s eyes are still screwed shut with anticipation–but Clara rouses her gently, in tucking a strand of stray hair behind Amy's ear. Only when their eyes meet does Clara smile, almost triumphant. “I think you’re bluffing.”

What?” Amy scoffs. “That’s ridiculous.” Her mouth parts to argue further, but Clara presses a warning finger to her lips, muffling the response.

“You felt something the other day, didn’t you? That’s why you’re here.” Clara can’t help but look extremely unimpressed as she withdraws, freeing Amy to speak at last. “You can’t just snog away your feelings, y’know.”

“My feelings,” Amy repeats, bemused. “Oh, you are sweet, Clara–but feelings aren't really what I've got in mind.”

Clara chooses pointedly to ignore this. “You could take me out properly,” she says, stern as a professor noting poor behavior. 

"Maybe I will," Amy snaps, not seductive now so much as just tetchy. 

"Fine," says Clara coolly. 

"Fine!" Amy stalks toward the door; it falls shut behind her with a resonant thud, and Clara is left to wonder whether Amy had forgotten she lived here, too. 

Then again, she supposes that's really none of her business. 

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

She does mean to ask, really–kind of, possibly. It isn’t like Clara is ever very far from her mind in the weeks that follow the incident–lovely, clever Clara with her smug retorts and smugger smile. Still, Amy can’t pretend it doesn’t sting to recall that night; her cheeks grow hot at the thought, that not-quite rejection knotted tightly in her chest even now.

Perhaps more importantly, Clara wants something...what was the word she’d used? Substantial . And Amelia Pond doesn’t do substantial–a cunning word for narrow, hemmed-in paths with no escape in sight. Clara Oswald can dimple all she likes, that won’t change the fact that there are others far more willing and just as prettyor nearly as pretty, anyway.

Boys are easy–so wonderfully, predictably easy. She might promise them the world, and never have reason to keep it. Boys never fail to thrill at the prospect of a night’s harmless fun–boys like Rory Williams, awkward and stammering and sweet with Amy twined around him in the empty potions classroom, pressing frantic kisses to her mouth, her throat, the corner of her jaw. It’s a laugh until it’s over, until Rory drapes her cloak around her shoulders (coughing always, red-faced, into his hand) and leads her up the stair to the Gryffindor common room.

Easy.

So, Amy resolves not to think about Clara that way; perhaps girls are different, that’s all.

And it’s better, afterwards, being near her. Clara seems content to forget that night–forget Amy looking an ass, playing at seductive with her sleeves rolled up and the buttons of her collar undone. It doesn’t sting the same when they’re paired in Herbology, heads bent low over some writhing cutting of Devil’s Snare–or when Clara peers over Amy’s shoulder in the library, pointing out mistakes in Amy’s homework with the nib of her quill. It had always been just the two of them, before, at mealtimes–Amy and him, if not for Rory’s occasional interruptions. Now, Clara slides just as easily between them, with a brisk, “What’s for dinner, then?” and no one bats an eye.

It’s Clara Amy turns to when her knapsack splits its seam halfway down the corridor to History of Magic; Clara who stays up playing Exploding Snap in the empty common room long after he’d drowsed off against her shoulder. It's Clara, too, who runs a comforting hand through her hair when Rory snaps one Winter morning–not as content as she'd thought, it seems, to kiss in broom cupboards and under old stairwells like Amy's' worst kept secret. "It sounds to me like you just want different things," Clara says, and pretends–wisely–not to notice that Amy's cheeks are damp and red. 

The truth of the mater is this: Somewhere along the way, Clara becomes something like a friend–and that’s better, isn’t it? Friends stay, after all.

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

The dormitory is silent when Amy wakes Christmas morning, the sky beyond their little dormer window white as new-fallen snow. Of the beds beside her own, only Clara’s is occupied; the other girls had long since departed on holiday, though Amy hardly envied them that. Better here, basking in bright dawn light on the cusp of a Christmas feast than trapped in dull Leadworth with Aunt Sharon.

She nearly wakes Clara, but her face seems so serious in sleep–nose wrinkled, brow sharply furrowed–and Amy can’t quite bring herself to interrupt. By the time she’d bathed and worked the knots out of her hair, Clara is already awake–curled in her usual spot at the window seat, a mug of tea steaming between cupped hands. Amy can’t help but feel it’s fair game to surprise Clara now, and so she raises her wand; with a whispered, “Accio!” the mug zooms away, leaving Clara scrambling for purchase on midair.

“Morning,” says Amy, smiling beatifically around a sip of Clara’s tea. Clara only raises a brow, stern until Amy’s grin coaxes a mirroring one of her own.

Clara’s nose is still red and raw from Tuesday’s match against Hufflepuff, and wading through a sea of fresh snow had hardly been their plan for the morning. Still, it doesn’t surprise either one of them when a snowball thuds against the window pane, obscuring their view of the courtyard below. “Oi!” Amy shouts, leaning across Clara to pry the window open, “I know it’s you down there, so you’d better quit it n–”

Another snowball launches at rocket speed, catching Amy right in the nose. Clara does her best to disguise her laughter as a hacking cough. Gently, she leans across the window seat to brush snow from Amy’s cheeks with the sleeve of her robe. “It’s partly your fault, you know,” she says coolly. “Opening the window like that. You know how he can g–” A third snowball lodges itself in the eaves–but the fourth splats cleanly against the back of Clara’s head, leaving her sodden and shivering.

“Ooh, you little cheat!” Clara gasps, rounding on the open window with a scowl. “My back was turned!” Amy only smirks, brows raised as if to say, Now who’s the fool?

At last–though too late to make much difference–Amy shuts the window with a pointed bang . Clara, though, is already on her feet. “C’mon,” she says, impatient. “Up you get. He’s not getting off the hook that easily.” Amy groans, leaning back against the wall with eyes screwed tightly shut–but Clara wins in the end. She’s right , after all. They simply can’t allow him to win; the smugness would be unbearable.

Still, Amy is squinting as they emerge into morning sunlight, glancing pale and bright off the nearby lake. She nearly asks if Clara’s sure this is really how they ought to be spending Christmas morning when yet another enchanted snowball catches her in the ear. “That’s it,” she growls, pawing at the spot with a mittened hand. “Where is he?”

Peering into the trees, Clara raises her wand and whispers, “Homenum Revelio.”

There !” It’s more a muffled shout than a whisper; Amy brings a guilty hand to cover her mouth, but the damage is done. He stands, tossing a snowball neatly from one hand to the next and back again.

“Gotcha,” he says, and the war begins.

Surprising no one, it’s played dirty from the start. Clara shrieks–caught half between laughter and scandalized shock–as Amy juts out her leg, leaving him sprawling sullen in the snow. They take cover behind trees and crouched amid bushes, red-faced and sweat-slick despite the cold. Amy had just ducked low, scooping snow hastily into a cupped palm, when a veritable wave of snow sweeps over her. Spluttering, she surfaces, spitting out strands of wet hair.

Clara bends to meet Amy’s eyes, grinning unrestrainedly. “Surprise,” she says, wand raised at the ready.

Now who’s the cheat.” Without thinking, Amy tugs Clara down just near enough to smash what little snow remains in her hand right against Clara’s face.

In short order, several things happen at once; most importantly, Clara overbalances, toppling wide-eyed and quite drenched into the snow beside Amy. She rolls onto her side, teeth chattering violently now, and huffs out an irritable sigh. “Suppose I deserved that, didn’t I?” Despite their wool cloaks, both of them are soaked through to the skin. Amy can hear him calling in the distance, no doubt primed to batter either one of them with snowballs at the slightest notice.

Leaning up on her elbow, Clara feels around in the snow for her wand; with a complicated little wave, a column of steam comes streaming out of the tip. Amy nearly groans with relief as the warmth seeps through her wet robes, chasing off the encroaching numbness. “You look ridiculous,” Clara adds, still doing her level best to steam Amy’s clothes dry. “Absolutely mental.”

And she does, of course–red hair clinging wetly to her cheeks, ruddy and damp and shaking hard. They hadn’t been as close since that night in the dormitory all those months ago, and Clara can’t help but watch her closely. Amy’s eyes are narrowed, no doubt on the cusp of an impassioned “Shut up ,” but Clara cuts her to the chase. “Close your eyes,” she orders, with such firm resolve Amy obeys at once.

Still, one eye pops open a moment later like a child instructed not to peek. “Why?” she asks, suspicious.

“Because I really want to kiss you just now, that’s why.”  

Both of Amy’s eyes have opened now, trained on Clara with pure, unguarded surprise. “And what about–y’know....” A helpless, frustrated gesture. “...the dating and the wooing .”

“Well,” says Clara seriously, “Let’s see. You haven’t missed even one of my quidditch games this term. You dozed off in my lap last night. And, actually, I’m pretty sure that’s my sweater you’re wearing now.” She’s smiling as she yanks Amy closer, hand knotted in the sweater that, yes, very much is Clara’s. Clara leans in, intent– finally –on kissing Amy breathless, only to rear abruptly back. “Assuming,” she adds, idly mocking now, “You’re not still worried you might catch feelings ? Of course, I wouldn’t want to put you out–”

“Oh, shut up,” Amy groans, and at last they’re kissing properly–if properly is the right word, really, for what’s happening. Clara’s cheeks are like ice , and Amy thinks she must have sunken another foot into the snow with Clara’s rush to climb on top of her; her right arm is pinned beneath them, and it’s gone quite numb by the time Clara shifts her position, cold and flushed and breathing hard. It might have been torment, if not for the fact that Amy desperately wants to pull Clara back for another go round.

“Not the brightest idea we’ve had,” says Clara archly, leaning back in the snow.

Amy follows, grinning through chattering teeth, to hook a thumb beneath Clara's jaw. Clara's expression is nothing if not a challenge, and so Amy decides to kiss her again–tauntingly now, slow and utterly deliberate. Clara winds a hand around her neck, fingers finding purchase in the wet mass of Amy's hair. She bites out a muffled sigh when Amy's teeth catch against her bottom lip and Amy laughs, the sound a low thrum against Clara's mouth. "Not our worst idea, either," she hums, thumb moving absently against Clara's damp cheeks; she smells distinctly of Amy's perfume, and she's tempted to ask whether Clara is wearing it. But Clara kisses back in earnest now, gloved hands splayed against Amy's chest, and Amy can't bring herself to think of much else. Clara smirks when at last they pull apart, watching with amusement as Amy runs a tentative finger along her lower lip. 

"Okay," she breathes. "Wow." 

"Is that all you have to say for yourself, then?" says Clara, smiling. "Wow?" 

"I think wow about covers things, actually." 

 

☆ ☆ ☆

 

The armchair makes for a snug fit; they manage it only barely, with Clara’s chin nestled just so in the crook of Amy’s shoulder. Clara’s books lie forgotten on the rug beside the fireplace, spread wide with worn spines turned toward the ceiling. Her fingertips are still black with ink–yet another reminder of work yet to be done. Sighing, she burrows more deeply in her seat, nose squashed flat against Amy’s neck. She lingers only a moment longer before shifting reluctantly aside; it’s rough work, disentangling herself from a sleeping Amy, who refuses stubbornly to budge.

As if in answer, Amy wakes with a groan–quick, even in sluggish repose, to catch Clara’s wrist in her hand; her nails glint in the firelight, colored that tacky, metallic red she insists on painting them. Gently, Clara pries Amy’s fingers back, one by clinging one. “I’ve got Charms first thing tomorrow,” she says, trying her best to be firm. It isn’t easy, with Amy like this –hair mussed, eyes heavy with sleep, running one red-enameled nail light and teasing up the skin of her arm. “We both have. You do know that, don’t you?”

Settling awake, Amy purses her lips in mock-seriousness. “And that’s important, is it?”

Clara rolls her eyes–not in the least bit fondly, thank you very much. She means to answer, but Amy’s finger traces up and up, and Clara forgets her reply–though she’s almost certain it should have been cross. Perhaps Amy catches the way Clara wavers, just the slightest bit, beneath her touch; the merest suggestion of a shiver, and Amy is smug–almost unbearably so. “You were saying, Miss Oswald?”  

Ooh, shut up, you.” Languid, Clara rolls onto her side–knees resting on either side of Amy’s hips, so that the coarse tweed of her skirt itches Clara’s legs raw. Slow and purposeful, her mouth meets the curve of Amy’s jaw; the spot purples before she moves farther down, Amy arching wide-eyed beneath her. “That’s the trouble with you, Pond,” Clara says, the words muffled soft against Amy’s skin. “You’re all talk.”

But Amy’s eyes widen, now, for a different reason; without warning, she simply pushes. Clara makes a sound like an angry cat as she hits the ground, scattering parchment and ink. “Sorry!” Amy yelps, hands flying to cover her mouth. “Sorry, I just...panicked!”

Obviously, Clara means to say–but the sudden clatter, deafening in an otherwise silent common room, draws her eye. It’s him, of course, stumbling blindly about with his fingers fanned across his eyes. “Not looking!” he shouts, peeking quite blatantly through the gaps between his fingers. “This is me doing the...not looking. Thing.”  

Exasperated, Clara lies back against the floor. “I can see you looking, y’know.” She rolls over, propping her chin in her hand–all the better to watch the mayhem unfold. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches Amy’s sympathetic wince as he  narrowly avoids barreling into solid wall. “If you’re aiming for the dormitories, you’re not doing a very good job of it.”

Amy snorts at this, and the snort soon devolves into peals of laughter. Clara’s lips twitch at a threatening smile, but she holds it deliberately in check. “You pushed me!” she says, whirling on Amy at last. She means to sound affronted, but Amy is howling in earnest now, pink-cheeked and gasping. “Oh, honestly .” A determined tug of the ankles and Amy joins her on the floor–splayed eagle, spitting hair from her mouth. She looks a sight, red-faced with laughter, still squinting through sleep. It seems reason enough to kiss her, and so Clara does; her hand creeps upward in the meantime, moving to brush the hair back from Amy's ear–and tuck something quietly behind it. Amy plucks the quill from its hiding place a moment later, exasperated. "Check and mate," Clara hums, already thumbing through the pages of her textbook. Grumbling, Amy follows suit, glowering as she dips her nib in the inkwell. 

"You do know you're totally insufferable, don't you?"

Beaming, Clara drops her chin against Amy's shoulder. "Oh, absolutely."