The sniffles were never a surprise. Ada got teary eyed at the most ordinary of school presentations. One of the things that endeared Hecate to Ada the most was how she could find joy in the simplest of accomplishments and burst with pride over practically every pupil. No the sniffles weren’t a surprise but the swaying and barely contained sob as the last girl faded from view was.
Hecate gently took Ada’s soaked soft pink handkerchief and offered a dry black one. Ada gave her a watery smile and took a few unsteady breaths as she wiped her eyes.
“I thought I might,” she sighed and blew her nose, “be a bit more composed.”
Hecate offered her a gentle smile. “To your credit, you remained so while they were saying their goodbyes.”
Ada extended a hand to Hecate’s forearm and squeezed. “Thank you.”
Hecate nodded. “Would you like to take one more walk?”
Ada sniffled. “In a bit. I have to check in with Esme and give our rooms one more sweep.” She leaned up and kissed Hecate’s cheek.
Hecate allowed herself a moment to lean into Ada slightly before she transferred and left Hecate with the quiet of the front lawn.
“Oh, Miss Hardbroom?”
Hecate rolled her eyes before she turned around. “Miss Hubble, as I’m sure you’re aware, I am off duty.”
Mildred beamed. Though she’d never admit it, Hecate had been relieved that, though her face had matured significantly in twenty years, Mildred’s smile still held the good intentioned light of her youth. “I am but you are needed for just one more thing in the Great Hall.”
Hecate sighed. “Very well.” She lifted a hand and transferred them both.
Mildred chuckled. “Should have expected you’d do that.”
Hecate quirked an eyebrow. “Would you have me walk?”
An arm linked inside Hecate’s as her wife winked up at her. “Perish the thought.”
Hecate tilted her head at Ada. “Do you know what this nonsense is?”
Ada shook her head. “As hard as I tried to get it out of this one, she wouldn’t budge. I think we taught her too well.”
Esme shook her head as she stood by Ada’s side. “You’ll see soon enough.” She nodded toward the closed doors. “Off you go.”
“Honestly,” sighed Hecate. She clicked her fingers, irritated at the delay of precious time she’d more than earned with Ada.
She stopped just as soon as they entered. There were streamers in the school colors all around the hall and lit candles floating from the ceiling. A banner hung above the stage that read Thank you Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom . She adjusted her half moon spectacles at the witches gathered on the stage and recognized them as former pupils. Minerva Mugwort from her very first year, Azalea Agave from the year Ada returned to the academy, Imelda Ivory who told her that she wouldn’t have even considered witching college if it hadn’t been for her and Maud Spellbody in her grand High Witch robes with a scepter and a smile.
“What’s all this?” came Ada’s whispered voice. Hecate knew it wouldn’t be long before she was in tears again.
Maud nodded to the witches around her. “We prepared something to send you off if you don’t mind.”
“You all must be so busy, you didn’t have to--”
“Course we did,” stated Enid Nightshade. She winked and transferred to the organ. “Let’s hit it everyone.”
The assortment of women, including Enid and Maud’s mothers, erupted in a rousing chorus of the school song. Hecate and Ada made their way to the two chairs arranged for them in front of the stage. The past few months had offered many a conversation between them reviewing their many years teaching together but neither had ever expected something so concrete to commemorate how far they’d come.
Ada did cry very soon into the program but her smile was just as bright as she fawned over grown women (whose granddaughters they’d just sent off to college) as if they were still first years. Hecate couldn’t deny the moisture in her own eyes though she was proud to note that she didn’t manage to drop a tear.
That was until Azura Moon and Mildred Hubble stood on opposite sides of a large cauldron. Mildred winked at Azura before she turned her attention to Hecate and Ada.
“When Azura first told me about what you are about to see, I thought it was going to be impossible.”
Azura chuckled. “But I told her that after having you two as teachers, impossible was only for witches who didn’t try hard enough.”
Hecate took a deep breath and didn’t dare look at Ada though the quiet crying was hard to ignore.
Mildred cleared her throat. “Hecate Hardbroom and Ada Cackle, we present sixty years of teaching excellence.” She raised her hands in time with Azura and offered a watery smile. “We’re going to miss you.”
A large swirl featuring a sea of color rearranged itself at Mildred and Azura’s words. The pictures before them offered a comprehensive slideshow of conferences where they’d been presented with teaching awards, Spelling Bees, school wide presentations, Sports Days, performances for the Great Wizard, the Supreme Sorceress, and the current High Witch and various parties and celebrations.
It was not only a feat of impressive magic but Hecate felt as though she were allowed to pay witness to the two best love affairs of her life: teaching and Ada. She watched pupils improve and present them both with an array of gifts and gratitude in the form of improved spellwork. She watched as they stood closer in presentations and she knew the moment they’d become something more.
The weight of leaving, truly leaving, hit her and she was powerless over the wave of emotion. Suddenly a familiar white handkerchief with bluebirds appeared in one hand as her wife took the other.
All of the women turned to them after, not a dry eye among the bunch as they stated, “Thank you, Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom.”
Maud took a deep breath and smiled. “We wouldn’t be the witches we are without you.”
Enid winked next to her. “We promise to do our best to continue making you proud.”
Esme wiped her eyes. “You can trust us and we wish you well on your journey.”
Ada stood and Hecate quickly followed. They clapped and Ada offered words of praise where Hecate felt she couldn’t even speak. This was their legacy and she couldn’t be prouder.
They left the Headmistress office later that afternoon and took one last walk around the grounds. Hecate couldn’t help checking the perimeter. Ada just chuckled and helped her reinforce the wards.
When they reached the entrance to the academy, their assortment of bags and brooms awaiting them, Ada looked up at Hecate.
Hecate took one last look at the academy and nodded. “Lead the way.”