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The wind rustles through the dying October leaves. Amity stands in perfect casting posture, feet spaced at shoulder width, elbow slightly bent. She traces the arc of a fire spell through the air again. Luz stands a few metres in front of her, filming the spell on her phone and then diving out of the way of the ensuing fireball.

“Did you get it this time?” Amity asks, shoving her wand back into its holster and walking over. The fireball continues behind Luz, setting a yellow-leaved birch tree on fire. Amity absent-mindedly draws a spell circle and flicks it past Luz to the tree, putting the flames out.

Luz sucks in a breath. Amity uses magic so casually. Luz tears her eyes away, and checks her footage instead.

“Still can’t see any glyphs. I wonder why it worked with Eda’s magic but not yours. Maybe you cast differently?”

Amity shrugs, smiles briefly, then surveys the forest around them.

“Hey, how about we look around at the trees? Maybe we could find another plant glyph.”

“Sure, let’s go.” Luz tries to reach for Amity’s hand, but she pulls it away quickly. 

Agh. Luz is about to apologize when Amity stalks off, practically stomping in the leafmeal. She suddenly feels like she missed something. But she can think about that later. For now, they have glyphs to discover!

“To adventure!” Luz says. To her relief, Amity turns back to her and laughs.

Two hours later, they’ve found a single glyph - one that formed in the waters of the forest stream that winds behind the Owl House. Three concentric circles, a triangle at the centre of the smallest.

“Luz, that’s just ripples. I bet the triangle is just some- magical coincidence or something. God knows there’s enough of those around your weird house.”

“Okay, you be a pessimist like that. I am going to try it.”

Amity huffs, but then smiles at her, her mint hair moving in the autumn breeze, contrasting prettily with the falling orange leaves. Luz tears her gaze away, instead taking out her pad of paper and sketching the circles and the triangle. She hands the pad to Amity.

“Would you like to do the honours?”

Amity taps the paper cautiously. Nothing happens for a second, but suddenly the paper glows green-blue and a spurt of water leaps up, almost hitting Amity in the face.

“Woo! Well, that’s another one!”

Amity grins.

“Nice job, human.” Luz resists a sudden urge to preen. “But it’s getting dark.”

The stars are already out, filtering through the hazy twilight of the Boiling Isles.

“Ugh. You’re sleeping over tonight, right?”

Amity tilts her head forward firmly, as though she has been debating the question in her head for ages and has finally come to a conclusion. Luz watches her, resisting the urge to bite her nails. The poplars whisper in the distance. After a few seconds of silence, Amity flops down on the long riparian grass of the stream banks.

“Yeah. But can we just stay out here a little longer?”

“What, are you scared of seeing Eda again?”

This earns her the classic threatening Amity glare, but it’s all bluff. Until Luz realizes that Amity has been slowly tracing the water glyph in the dirt right next to her.

Amity’s just as soaked, but she laughs at Luz anyways. Then she reaches over and wipes the water off of Luz’s face. The already river-wet soil, now thoroughly waterlogged, soon absorbs the imprinted lines of the glyph. Circle, circle, circle, triangle. Luz’s heart decides it needs to beat five times as fast, for reasons entirely unrelated to Amity's fingers.

I want Amity Blight, her heart decides firmly.

Whose side are you even on, Luz asks it.

But really, it wasn’t her (stupid, fluttery) heart’s fault. Ever since she’d watched Amity on the grudgby field, playing a casual game with Willow, interfacing her magic so easily with Willow’s game plans, she'd been a lost cause. Ever since she’d watched Amity as co-president of the fan club, talking about her favourite Azura ships like nothing else could be as real. Ever since Luz had watched Amity working in the Abomination classroom, tongue between teeth. It was her own fault really, for having eyes. And a basic sense of aesthetic. Because faced with something like Amity Blight, what could you even do?

“Luz!” Amity’s voice is filled with wonder.

“What?”

“There’s a glyph on your sleeve!”

Luz examines her sleeve. There’s nothing on it.

“Uh.. can’t you see it?”

“No?” replies Luz.

Amity stares at it with that intense look of hers, that she wears sometimes when she’s working on a problem in class. Then Amity traces something in the air. A circle, circumscribing a cross. Amity grabs the pad of paper from her and scribbles the symbol onto it.

“Would you like the honour?” Amity asks back in imitation, smirking.

Something about the pattern scares Luz a little. But she looks back up at Amity, and taps it quickly. The glyph dissolves, and then creates a bright, blinding flare of light. Luz feels the strange compulsion to talk, like the frantic stuttery feeling she gets when called on in class.

“When I was nine, I walked over to this crowd of people getting free ice cream. And I took one, and then realized all the other people were actually all part of one big group. And glaring at me,” Luz blurts out. When she finishes speaking, the light fades.

“What?” Amity asks, laughing, her eyes crinkling at the corners.

“I’ve never told anyone that before,” Luz says, quietly. “Not even my mom.”

“Weird. I’ll try the glyph again.”

Amity re-sketches the circle and cross, and taps it.

Immediately after, Amity gasps out “I don’t actually ship Azura and Hecate, I just said it because I wanted to have something in common with you.”

“What? Amity!”

“Sorry. I’m sorry for lying.” Amity glances down.

“No, no, it’s okay! I just mean- okay. Yes, it’s all fine. What does this glyph do? Weird. It’s the same pattern as the badge thing on your sleeve.”

“What badge thing?”

“The thing you always wear? The glowy thing?”

“I have a glyph on my sleeve?” Amity asks, looking puzzled. It’s an adorable expression on her.

“Oh. It’s a glyph. You can’t see it?”

“No. That’s weird.” And Amity has that look of contemplation on her face again, lips pursed, eyes focused on something in the distance.

Luz wants that look.

“Luz, yours glowed brighter just now. And you’re sure I have one too?”

“Yeah. Right there.” Luz moves to touch it, but Amity wrenches her hand away so fast her hair flutters with the motion.

“Uh. Sorry?”

“Just- don’t touch it, okay? Clearly, this circle and cross thing is a glyph for revealing secrets. So don’t poke at it.”

“Ohhh. Secret glyphs. Yeah, that makes a lot more sense now. My sincerest apologies for almost touching your secret glyph, your highness.”

“Oh, shut up,” Amity snickers. “Ow!” she suddenly exclaims, shaking off a huge greenish-black centipede off her jacket. “Bit me! Anyways, let’s go back inside. I’m freezing,”

“Oh- okay. Alright! Yes! Cool!”

She may want Amity, but she has no idea how to say it.

 

--oOo--

Amity lies on the floor of the Owl House, idly making snow angels within her conjured sleeping bag, staring around at the dark, junk-cluttered room. She’s a little worried about what her mother will say in the morning. “Blights don’t sleep over in the houses of people who have bounties on their heads, Amity dear,” or something like that. She glances at her sleeve. If she squints hard enough, she can see the faint, glowing gold-silver outline of a circle-and-cross.

They’re the only people who can see them. No matter how much she and Luz had shoved them in Eda’s face, the witch had just shrugged and said “Nope, nothing, kid. Now if you’ll excuse me-” And Eda had walked out, arms full of dripping slug eggs.

The glyph reminds her of Luz. And then she can’t help herself, stepping out of her bag and kneeling next to Luz, who is breathing quietly in her sleep. The wood digs against her knees.

She tries not to think about Luz, or Luz laughing, or Luz laughing with her. Or that one day Luz had popped into Abomination and cheerfully bothered Amity with inane questions until the professor ordered her out. Or that grudgy game when Luz had cheered for her any time she did anything, looking at her like she was worth it. And the way she had grabbed her hand today, twice.

But she’s looking at Luz now, so obviously she ends up thinking about these things.
Luz’s left hand is trapped half under her body. But Amity can still see the light of her secret glyph, glowing quietly in the darkness.

“Amity?” Luz murmurs sleepily. She flops over onto her back, and smiles up at Amity.

“Uh, hi.”

“Hiii. You know, I’m proud of you for not picking another fight with Hooty,” Luz says, still smiling, looking at her. Asleep to alert in less than half a minute. Luz props her elbows behind her head.

“Oh- yeah. I think I’m almost used to him.”

At that moment, the glass of the window breaks.

“Hi guys! How are you doing!” Hooty squeaks, extending his body ponderously through the window frame.

“Holy-” Amity swats at him panickedly.

“Go away, Hooty! It’s past midnight!”

“I found a cool new friend in the forest! Do you want to meet her? She’s all like- scritch scratch! And bugs! Insects! And she talks in my head!”

“No! I don’t!”

“Aw, come on, Luz! She says she wants to talk to you!”

“No, I don’t want to meet your friend, Hooty!”

After a few more insistent mutters from Luz, Hooty slithers back out.

“He sure does take some getting used to.”

“Yeah,” says Amity, trying to get her heart rate back down to normal. “Also, could you stop squirming around so much over there?”

“Hey, it’s because I’m freezing. Trying to get some blood flow. I never realized how cold it gets here.” Of course. Luz only has a thin blanket.

“You could come in here,” says Amity, motioning to her bag. Wait. Sharing a sleeping bag. With Luz. Why would she suggest that? Welp, her mind is a total blank, and she’s now running on caffeinated autopilot. Quick, distract yourself.

“Hey, Luz?”

“Yeah?” Oh shit, she didn’t have an actual follow up planned.

“Uh…”

“Cat got your tongue?”

“No, shut up, Luz!” Luz smirks at her. God, she looks... inciting like that. Wait, what were we trying to do again? Oh, yeah. Conversation. “Uh, what’s the secret you’re keeping? It’s a secret you’re keeping from me, isn’t it? That’s why I’m the only person who can see the glyph.”

Luz runs a hand through her messy brown hair. “Sorry, Amity. I’m- um- not ready to tell you.”

“Ah. That’s alright,” Amity replies, in her best diplomatic tones.

“But any chance you’re ready to reveal yours?”

Definitely not.”

“So we admit we know what our secrets are?”

“Wouldn’t you like to think that.”

“Okay, Amity. Why don’t you shut your superior trap and budge over?”

“So pushy, Luz,” she says, half-smiling despite herself.

Was that a blush?

Amity’s eyes instinctively flick to Luz’s brightening glyph, and when she looks up, she notices Luz is also glancing at hers. She shakes her head, trying to dispel the tension, and draws a glowing circle over the sleeping bag, expanding it with a spell. In silent agreement, Amity curls up in one corner, and Luz tucks herself into the other. She suspects Luz is facing her, but she’s not about to turn around to check.

It would be so easy to- no. She doesn’t want you like that. Does she? No, she doesn’t. Of course she doesn't, don't be stupid.

Amity flips over suddenly, rolling onto her back and turning to look at the girl next to her. Luz’s eyelids slam shut, and Luz proceeds to do a very good impression of someone who has been asleep this whole time. Amity laughs. Luz drops the act, opening her pretty brown eyes and pouting.

Beautiful, Amity thinks.

“Agh! Jesus Christ, Amity! Can you not burn my eyes out?”

“What?”

Luz fingers Amity’s right sleeve, the one with the glyph. “Your glyph just got a lot brighter.”

“I can see it too, now.” It’s more visible than it had been at the beginning of the night.

“Really?”

Luz is close to touching the glyph. Amity wants to jerk away, but she lets Luz continue circling around it.

“Well, it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it, dummy. Should we sleep?”

“Come on, Amity, it’s not even that late! And secondly,” Luz narrows her eyes, “I’m not dumb.”

“You aren’t.” (Luz has figured out how to do magic without even having any. Of course she isn’t.)

Amity falls asleep listening to Luz talk about her classes at Hexside, their faces a few inches apart.

She knows what her own secret is now. (Beautiful, she’d thought, and then the glyph glowed.) But she sure as hell isn’t planning on telling Luz. Because Luz would never want her like that.

She wonders what Luz’s secret is.

“Ow! Fuck!” she hears from the other side of the sleeping bag. She cracks an eye open. Luz is busily shooing away an evil-looking spider the size of her palm. Amity can tell that it’s the size of her palm because it’s on Luz’s palm. Luz finally swipes the spider off with a sigh of relief, hitting it with a strong light glyph.
Odd. Huge bug season in the Boiling Isles is early summer, not October.

--oOo--

The next morning, post-Amity, nobody in the Owl House is being a good listener.
“This- this tabby next door had the audacity to look at me!” King growls, the picture of outrage. “A tabby! Not even a respectable breed!”

“God, I can’t believe that wizard stiffed me five snails,” Eda says. “I swear, I will hex the living night out of him if I ever see him again. The audacity. Steal from me! The Owl Lady!”

“How dare anyone be that pretty? And that cute little ponytail- And she has straight A’s. And she looks so good in Abomination purple. Okay, King, what do you think of this plan?”

King jumps up to yank Luz’s notepad from her unceremoniously.

“Hm. Grand romantic gesture. Flowers. Confess through a card. I don’t know, Luz. How am I going to teach the cat his place by mailing him chocolates?”

“Luz, just talk to her. I, for one, am going to have a word with that wizard.” Eda grabs her staff, jabbing threateningly at thin air. Owlbert growls along with her.

“I can’t just talk to her!”

“Wait... who are you talking about?” King asks.

“Hold up. Do you like someone?” Eda asks, suddenly catching up.

“Wow! Is it Willow?” King asks, bouncing on his hind heels.

“Boscha?” suggests Eda.

“Your Illusions teacher? Oh my god, is it me?”

“Nope, not you, sorry King. It’s nobody!” Luz says brightly, then grabs her bag, hugs King, and waves goodbye to Eda. 'Wow! Is it Willow?' She still can’t believe that it’s okay to... like girls in this world. She’d been shocked when Eda had casually mentioned that she’d had a girlfriend in her school days. People in Luz’s old school ripped down anything even remotely rainbow and said, well, not the nicest things about people like Eda. People like Luz.

She thinks about Amity the night before, listening to Luz talking stupidly, just half a pillow away. The way Amity jumped half out of the bag and hurled attack spells almost every time Hooty barged in through the window. The way Amity laughed awkwardly and settled back down after, her beautiful light-teal hair finally loose and falling into her eyes as she leaned forward. The night sky shining outside. The gold of her irises, like frozen daffodils and wintery sunshine and yellow leaves, and all other pretty, chilly, autumnal things.

Amity is so out of her league. She could never find someone like Luz beautiful. And that aside, how do you just tell someone something like this? She feels like she’s wandered into one of her own sappy romance plot lines, a brave heroine pining away after the unattainable.

Out of sight, the glyph on her left wrist glows brighter.

Then, a moth the size of a lamp smacks into Luz’s face, fluttering disgustingly. “Agh,” she mutters, and slaps at it until it flies away. She’d never be good enough for Amity.

--oOo--

Amity would never be good enough for her family. She sits to the left of her father, who is currently reading some newspaper, at the long polished-maple dining table. Her mother sits at the head of the table, wearing a pristine black suit over an ironed black shirt, her dark blue hair down tonight in loose blue waves. Edric and Emira are opposite her.

The twins get top marks, like Amity, but more importantly, they were involved with practically every social circle at Hexside. They knew witches from every track, people rich and poor, guys and girls. Amity, on the other hand, didn’t really do that. Didn’t know how, or didn’t want to, what did it matter? She eats her salad. It’s spinach and strawberries tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Amity’s mother finishes questioning the twins about their latest misdemeanor (third call from Bump this week) and moves on to questioning Amity.

“How was your day, Amity dear?”

“Good.”

She can hear Emira snickering under her breath.

“How are Boscha and the rest of your friends?” her mother asks doggedly.

“They’re all doing well, I think. Boscha won another game.”

“Oh, really? Wow. By the way, are you still spending time with that Luz girl?”

“A little bit.”

“Amity dear, I’m really happy that you’re making friends. And she seems nice enough. But do be careful around her. You know she’s living with that Wild Witch.”

“I know, mother.” There was always a ‘but’.

“Wonderful. You know, with your last name, you really could be friends with anyone? Most people would love to get cozy with a Blight, even if you’re still young right now.”

“Yes, mother, she knows, we’ve all heard this speech a dozen times,” Edric says.

The table descends back into silence, other than Emira once again whispering something to Edric, causing him to burst out laughing. Amity glares at her salad, and stabs a spinach leaf with her fork.

“You alright there, Amity?”

Amity stabs harder. Her father puts down the newspaper and turns fully to her.

“Hey, Am. Is something bothering you?”

Amity remains silent for a moment. “A little bit,” she admits.

“Wanna talk?”

“No, but thank you.”

“Alright. Whatever floats your boat.”

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll figure it out.”

“Well, that’s my girl.” Her dad cracks a warm smile. Amity is torn between something like happiness and something like disquiet, but she smiles back and turns back to eating her salad, this time less vindictively.

From across the table, Amity’s mom laughs hard at whatever joke Emira is currently telling, almost falling into her soup and thoroughly wrinkling her suit jacket.

Amity’s family really is wonderful. People think that just because the Blights are one of the old rich families of the Isles, they’re heartless and snobbish and predatory. But that’s not how it is at all. Their wealth has been accumulated through years of making friends and connections, being the middle man (and woman), making everyone happy. Admittedly, sometimes they do seduce people for political reasons. But only sometimes!

Blights have always been expert at becoming liked, being effortlessly charming, being wanted everywhere, being exactly where they’re supposed to be.

Amity spears the last strawberry in her salad, which has been sitting alone on her plate for some time.

At Hexside, Amity eats lunch apart from everyone else.

--oOo--

“Hey, Eda?” Luz says, setting her latest Azura installment down. Eda makes a non-committal noise and continues to rummage through the upstairs closet, tossing miscellaneous junk over her shoulder. Luz ducks as a taxidermied worm soars through the air.

“Spit it out, kid. I’m busy here.”

“So I was wondering. Could you teach me another spell?”

“Huh. Aren’t you learning enough at Hexside? You’re enrolled in every single track.” Eda continues, muttering. “Still can’t believe Bump just let you do that.”

“Actually,” Luz says, dragging out the ‘y’, “I had to defeat a basilisk first.”

“Basilisk, smasilisk. When I was a girl, dead basilisks were a dime a dozen.”

“Edaaaaaaaa-”

“What!”

“Pleeeeeeeeeease?”

“Thought you wanted conventional education. Thought I, poor old Eda, had no more to offer you.”

“Come on, Edaaaaaaaaaa-” Luz goes on for at least half a minute. Fortunately, she has great lung capacity. Eda growls.

“Oh god, okay, fine, you nuisance! I’ll teach you something! Just stop whining!”

Luz grins at her.

But then Eda scratches at her hair.

“Hey, Luz, I’m actually still not sure how to teach you spells. You don’t have a magic heart sac. You have your glyphs, but I can’t teach you those.”

“Oh.” Luz looks down. “Right.”

“Hey, hey. Don’t look so down, kid. I’ll let you have a slug egg.”

Eda drops a slimy ball the size of a walnut into her hand. Luz eyes it.

“Thanks, Eda.” Eda throws her a peace sign in response and goes back to flipping through her piles of trash. Stupid magic bile sacs. Luz walks away, and not for the first time, wishes she wasn’t who she was.

She just really, really, really wanted to be good at something for once.

--oOo--

Amity sneaks through the corridors of Hexside High, dodging the hallway monitors with a few convenient Illusions she'd borrowed from Gus. Should I really be doing this? she thinks to herself. But then she looks inside the Plants room, and Luz’s glyph is so bright it almost blinds her. Like the first cheerful jellyfish of yes in a lifeless pre-Cambrian ocean of no.

So yes, then.

Amity leans herself against the open door frame, and pretends to be preoccupied with her scroll, waiting for Luz to notice her.

“Amity! What are you doing here?”

Luz has abandoned her struggle with the flytrap to come talk to her.

“Hi, Luz. Just wanted to see how you were getting along without me,” Amity says mock-condescendingly, casting a glance to the plant gnawing on Luz’s arm. Luz gives her that adorable sulk again. “Need some help there?”

“Yes, actually. This plant keeps spitting runes at me, and I have no idea what they say, and I’m losing it. Please help.”

“Anything for you, Luz Noceda.”

Luz’s blushes are so perfect. Luz is so perfect. Out of sight, Amity’s glyph glows brighter.

A black, glisteningly hairy housefly the size of her fist picks that moment to bite her. “Agh!” Amity says, casting a fire spell at it. It finally leaves. But by the time she looks back up, Luz has gone back to muttering at the plant, no blush in sight.

Well, whatever. Luz doesn’t want her.

Besides, Blight daughters don’t infatuate themselves with girls. Blight daughters are pretty and perfect and charming and uh, probably also heterosexual.

And Amity is sick of eating alone.

So she borrows books on controlling emotions, getting over stupid crushes, and she borrows books on ancient runes, the closest thing she can find to Luz's runes. She finds incantations for diminishing the power of a rune.

But despite Amity’s best efforts to extinguish it, her glyph only shines brighter and brighter as the days go on. So does Luz’s. As the strength of their glyphs increases, so do the bug attacks, which become increasingly frenzied. On her way home, Luz is attacked by a swarm of mosquitos, a three foot long scorpion, and twice, by a flying flesh demon. Amity is ambushed by a herd of spiders hanging from silk, and her shoes seem to be constantly filled with biting ants. It’s even worse when they’re together. At one point, an actual starfish launches itself out of a pond to wrap itself around Luz’s hands when she’s about to help Amity carry her books. Amity no longer has to worry about Luz getting near her secret glyph, because the only time she does (when Luz hugs her goodbye) a anaconda-sized millipede hurls itself from a tree and smacks Luz in the neck, bowling her over.


“What the hell,” Luz says, panting.

“Are you alright?” Amity asks, trying to conceal her anxiety. She extends a hand to pull Luz up. Just then, a crab the size of a large dog scuttles by at full speed and bowls Luz over again.

“Okay, that’s it. If one more crawly creepy thing attacks you, I swear to god I’ll-”

Amity hears the crackle of leaves, and a shadow falls over the forest path. A black widow spider so big its mandibles are like scythes has stepped above them.

“You’ll what?” Luz grins up at her.

“Oh, shut up,” Amity replies, pulling out her practice wand.

--oOo--

The spider had chased them through the forest, or they had chased the spider. It hadn’t been entirely clear who was hunting who, but that didn’t matter now, because now they were stuck in a bunch of caves with a bunch of monstrously sized spiders.

“How do we always manage to get ourselves into these situations?”

“Don’t know, Luz. Almost as if we’re hurled into awful places just for the amusement of invisible spectators,” Amity responds, smirking again. And apparently that’s enough to make the blood rush to Luz’s face. She snaps herself out of it, and counts the rhythm of her feet instead, living in the moment. Just like Hooty always said. Or sang, really. Horribly.

“Wait. Oh shit.”

“What?”

“We forgot the number one rule of all stories.”

“What’s that?”

“Always pay attention to what the annoying side character says.”

“What? -oh. Hooty.

Behind them, a spider roars.

“Guess we’ve met his bug friend now.”

Amity snorts. “More like several bug friends. Wait, didn’t he say something about a voice in his head? Because these spiders are awfully taciturn.”

“I mean, it’s Hooty, of course he hears voices. What do you expect.”

The noises of tarsi tapping against stone grow louder. They both run faster through the darkness, struggling not to trip over stalagmites or be caught by the jagged cave ceiling. They duck through a side tunnel. The giant spiders thunder after them.

And then the whispering starts, like a tiny little insinuating voice in Luz’s head.

Hey there, Luz.  Ah yes, it's finally happened. I’ve finally pined so hard after Amity I’ve gone insane and am now hearing voices in my head. Was about time.

Silly dear, I’m not a voice in your head. I'm just here to tell you that you’re not a real witch, you know? I’m sorry my sweet, but you'll never be a real witch. The voice drones on, a strange clicking sound to it.

Go home, silly. Nobody thinks you belong here. You’re not good at anything the way everyone else is. Luz flinches, even as she runs. What are you doing here? Even Amity doesn’t think you’re good enough, the voice asks, almost comforting, almost motherly. But at the same time, the voice contains undertones of snapping jaws and acid spit, something that speaks directly to Luz’s primal desire to run away.

Luz claps her hands over her ears and jogs harder.

Oh, my poor Amity, you think anyone wants you? Not even Boscha wanted you. I’m so sorry to say this to you, but you ride on the coattails of your family’s reputation and that’s all you are. All Blight, no Amity. Nobody wants Amity. I don’t mean to cause you pain, though. I just wanted to make sure you knew, my darling. So that you don’t get hurt. And- on the note of getting hurt- do be very careful about Luz, dear, the voice sings, echoing her mother's words, the way Amity imagines a queen would speak to a subject. A drone.

Amity runs faster, pulling ahead and almost leaving Luz behind.

“Amity!”

A giant centipede has overtaken the spiders and is right behind them. Amity grits her teeth and casts a sleep spell at it with the last bit of magic in her practice wand. It falls to the ground, causing the walls of the cave to rumble. The spiders hurtle over its prone body. But an instant later, it’s back on its feet and alert.

“Nothing works!” yells Luz, as she frantically slingshots marbles at the approaching beasts. Amity had helped her carve glyphs into them the day before. Plant glyph: completely useless. Fire glyph: makes them stay away for as long as the fire is lit. The water glyph they had found together a week ago: useless.

A spider grabs Luz by her shirt and drags her down a side-tunnel, while another traps Amity in place. You can’t even rescue the people you love, huh, Luz? Amity ducks under the first spider’s spindly legs and slides on her back under the second, punching it hard in its underbelly (with perfect form as always) until it releases Luz. You’re the one who gets rescued, Luz. Like a damsel in distress. Pretty, but useless. Luz ignores the voice, bites her lip and tries not to think about how hot that was, rescue or not. Amity grabs Luz’s hand and drags her along, working up to a sprint. Luz risks a glance back, to see the silent-footed centipede about twenty metres behind them. Oh dear. My, my. Can’t even outrun my minions.

“Who are you and why are you in my head,” Luz thinks as angrily as she can. There’s no reply. Always listen to side characters, she reminds herself, too late this time.

“There!” Luz gasps. There’s a narrow gap in the rock face just a little above shoulder height. She laces her hands together, allowing Amity to step up, almost snapping at her to go faster. Oh my, do watch your temper, Luz dear. You wouldn’t want Amity to figure out what you really are. This voice is really getting on Luz’s nerves. Amity scrambles up, fitting herself into the gap. Then she pulls Luz up, Luz’s shoes scraping harshly for purchase against the rock. They both fall into the cave inside. The spiders stop, and turn back along the tunnel, leaving.

When they regain their breath, Luz slowly realizes that Amity’s arms are still wrapped around her, one across her chest and one hand against her stomach. Oh. There’s a hissing noise at the edge of her hearing, as if the voice in her head is angry, but she must be imagining it.

“Ew. What the hell is this?” Amity pulls something out of Luz’s pocket.

“Uh… Oh. That’s a slug egg.”

Amity drops it like a hot potato. “What the hell? Why do you have that?” And then Amity practically screeches. Ooh, they’ve found you! the voice says.

The five remaining spiders and the centipede have somehow gotten into the cave. Luz realizes with horror that she and Amity are trapped against the wall. The centipede twitches its long antennae, one of them almost touching Amity as it sweeps by. They’re both covered by scratches, and Amity is bleeding lightly from a gash on her upper arm. In tandem, all the bugs move closer, backing them against the stone. I love spiders, the voice sighs happily in her head. So loyal.

Luz has one marble left. Light.

She throws the marble against the ground. It shatters, and creates a glow that illuminates the cavern. The bugs look far less dangerous in the light, more comical than grotesque. To her astonishment, they hiss and retreat, turning tail and scuttling away into side passages. There’s a hiss inside her mind as well. She turns to Amity.
“Is your arm okay?”

But Amity ignores her, staring at the fleeing insects.

“It wasn’t the fire they were afraid of. It was the light,” she says, wonderingly.

“Well, that was my last glyph. But you can cast the light spell in case any more of those things show up, right?”

“Uh…”

“I thought you said all witches knew how to cast light!”

“I may have… lied a little bit. I actually, uh, don’t know how. Not without a wand.”

“Okay. Okay. That’s fine. We’re going to have to draw the glyph then.”

She grabs Amity’s hand, and she doesn’t flinch away this time. Both their glyphs glow star-bright, lighting the way forward. They dart into one of the many tunnels out of the cavern, running until their feet hurt. They’re going around in circles, Luz suspects.

“Shut up,” Amity growls, but it’s full of none of the friendliness Amity usually uses while saying it to Luz.

“I didn’t say anything?”

“I was talking to the voice in my head,” Amity says, and Luz would have laughed at that sentence if it weren’t for the look of barely constrained fury on her face. And if it weren’t for the fact that Luz has been hearing the exact same voice.

And then they run into a huge, writhing, larvae-like thing, bigger than a house.

“Wait. Is that a slug?” Amity asks. Mmmmmm, the voice hums happily in her head.

“Have you ever seen a slug that big before?”

“Have you ever seen centipedes the size of school buses before?”

“Point taken.”

Luz glances around the cave for the first time since they walked in. On one side, there’s a narrow gap, a sliver of dim grey light shining through it.

“Is this the cave we were in before?”

“Took you long enough to notice.” Amity bends down and picks something off the floor. It looks like a tiny limp balloon.

“Wait- is that a slug egg case?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that-” Luz gestures to the huge white thing in the cavern, “is that what I was carrying around?”

“Seems to be so.”

“Okay, even I know that slugs don’t normally grow that fast.”

Amity shrugs, dropping the egg case. Who’s a pretty pretty slug, the voice coos in Luz’s head. Won’t you look at who’s come to visit you?

The creature slowly turns disgustingly milk-filmed eyes towards Luz and Amity.

“You’re out of magic. Get behind me, I’ll deal with it,” Luz and Amity say to each other at the same time. They stare at each other for a few seconds challengingly, then burst out laughing. When Luz glances back at Amity and smiles (oh my god her eyes, Luz thinks), both their glyphs become eye-splittingly glaring. And for a few blissful seconds, the voice is silent. I want her, Luz thinks. And I don’t know how to say it.

As the light shines, the slug jerks away, making a strange guttural screaming noise. It jams its bulbous head into a hole in the ceiling of its cave and slithers away, squirming slightly when it’s halfway up.

“Wait. The light of the glyphs!” Luz exclaims. “That’s why it’s running!”

“But nobody but us can see them,” Amity says, thoughtful. God, who was thoughtful while being chased by giant bugs and a creepy voice in their head?

“I think these bugs can. That’s why they’ve been following us around all week.”

Amity examines her glyphed sleeve critically. “Hm. Why would they follow something if they hate it so much?” But she looks up and smiles. “We don’t need to cast light, then. Guess this is our ticket out.”

“Well, let’s go, then!”

They set down a new tunnel, their shoes sticking in the slime. Whenever they find bugs, all they need to do is raise their sleeves for the insects to flee. They stumble through sticky underground lakes, full of strange gasping creatures that also flinch from their light. But as they encounter fewer and fewer insects, the caves themselves seem increasingly hostile. Tricky shadows conceal stalactites and pitfalls, they turn down the same tunnels again and again, the air practically pushes against their progress. Despite it all, Luz is happy. Because Amity’s here, too. And the voice hasn’t said anything in minutes.

And then the voice returns. Luz feels the brunt of such unspeakable hatred she can barely walk. Amity stumbles beside her, falling to her knees. Luz, Luz, Luz, LUZ, I’ll have to deal with you myself, the voice screeches. From a cavern in front of them, twenty times bigger than the one that had contained the maggot, bigger than ten Hexsides, a swirling darkness pours forth. And darkness isn’t visible, but Luz can see it.

The darkness isn’t darkness, it’s ants, thousands of glittering ants. They coalesce into the shape of a woman. Her eyes are two cockroaches. Strings of ants clinging to each other trail off her shoulders, forming an elaborately weaved cloak. Spiders descend from the ceiling, land on her head, and fly off, leaving behind trails of silk, until she has a full head of silvery floaty hair. Two millipedes delicately climb her spider-made wig, and form themselves into a black circlet above her brow. Luz, Luz, Luz, Luz. This is who has been whispering in Luz’s ear.

Luz finds her physically repulsive.

There’s a dull thud next to Luz. To her shock, Amity has taken a knee. Her eyes have glazed over strangely. They look milky, the same way the slug’s eyes had.

“What are you doing?” Luz hisses.

Thank you, Amity. And the crowned woman expresses so much antagonism into those three words that Luz doesn’t know how Amity is still kneeling serenely. Your parents have taught you well.

The woman takes another step forward, through the dim cavern, the ants that make up her leg shifting frantically. And Luz despises her back just as much, nothing much more than an instinctive disdain for things that creep and sneak and snap.

Why would Amity bow to this?

You, on the other hand. Luz. Eda has not taught you anything at all, am I correct?

For a second, Luz believes the words. Eda really had done her best to avoid teaching her anything. Maybe it was because Luz wasn’t en-

“Don’t talk about Eda,” Luz demands, shaking.

Oh, my dear- the woman extends an elegantly, disgustingly supplicating hand.

“Don’t call me that!” Luz barks.

Mm.

“Please do forgive her, your Majesty,” Amity says, rising gracefully. Amity now reminds Luz of the spiders, the way the meaningless words fall limply out of her mouth. Mindlessly carrying out tasks.

Ah. Amity. You have taken my advice to heart, I see. You could be such a good Blight.

“Yes. I think I will be a Blight. Thank you, your Majesty.”

“Amity? What’s going on? Why are you listening to her?”

She learns quickly. Knows what’s best for her. Very nice and soft and influenceable. Unlike you, Luz. The queen tuts.

“You don’t know me, and you don’t know anything about Amity if you think she’s just a Blight-” Luz’s voice rises.

The woman raises three fingers. There’s a quiet creak behind them. Luz turns. Three giant scorpions step in just behind Luz and Amity, poised to strike.

I know many things. And  many things are, how should I put this, obedient. To me.

“So you’re why those bugs have been chasing us for weeks-!” Luz hisses, the rage bubbling up just under her skin.

“Why have you brought us here, your Majesty?” Amity asks, interrupting her. Luz has never heard her so sycophantic.

Well, Miss Blight.

“Answer her!” Luz demands. Amity’s mouth twitches ever so briefly, but her eyes remain glassy.

I expect you are expecting me to launch off into a cute little explanation of my villainous motives? Conveniently giving you just enough time to escape and save Amity from my terrifying grasp? You’ve always been much too much into fantasy, Luz.

“Fantasy is more useful than you’d think. Believe me, I’ve heard more than enough about fantasy.

Oh, I know you have.

“And that’s another thing. How do you know so much about us?”

The woman snaps her fingers, and suddenly there’s an intense intrusion on her mind, like someone is rattling around in there, pulling out memories from their filing cabinets and stealing her thoughts. It’s like how Luz imagines a Legilimens from Voldemort would feel. The woman snaps her fingers again, and Luz sinks onto the floor, gasping and grabbing at her head.

I know things. I command things. These are my domains.

“So what are you, some kind of insect hivemind?” Luz says. She intends it to be fierce, but it comes out as a hoarse whisper.

A rather crude way of seeing it, you silly thing. Luz tries not to bristle. And if you'll recall correctly, spiders, centipedes, and slugs are not insects.

"No, they're just things that fear light. Just like you."

“Once again, please excuse my friend,” Amity says. “She is unused to this sort of thing.” She looks so sincere, but the Amity she knows doesn’t talk like this.

Oh, Luz. You see, Amity here fears light too. You could be a good servant, couldn’t you, Miss Blight? A little deceptive, but good nonetheless. And the deceptiveness would be easy to fix.

Luz wants to punch the woman in her face. She wants to punch Amity, since Amity is now controlled by this filthy creature. But no. She won’t hurt anything that ever had to do with Amity. From the movement of the shadows, Luz can tell that the scorpions behind them have been creeping slowly forwards.

“Your Majesty, it would be my honour to pledge my service, if you’d accept it.”

So eager, too.

“Amity!”

“You don’t want me, Luz. She does,” Amity says, with a solemnity that Luz finds farcical and laughable and revolting, her usually pretty golden eyes a milky diseased yellow.

And then the despair that the queen has been emanating finally sweeps over Luz in a breaking wave, and she wonders how she’d managed to push against it this long. No wonder Amity had succumbed. Luz feels her vision clouding over, like a film growing across her eyes.

What’s the point of Luz’s life without a friend? A guide? A ruler? Nobody thinks Luz has any beauty or worth or utility, anyways. A queen, a commander.

Yes, yes. I want you, Amity. And I think you’re good enough, Luz. The woman’s mouth, made of sideways lips, clacks gently. The woman strokes a quivering hand over her millipede crown.

I know your insecurities, I do. I know your secrets, my darlings. But you don’t.

“What?” Luz asks, snapped out of the queen’s hypnotic pull by nothing more than sheer confusion.

And then she knows what’s wrong, what has been wrong all this time. She grabs at Amity’s left sleeve. The secret glyph there has faded to a dull green. She taps at it desperately, trying to activate it.

“Luz. No,” Amity says robotically.

Indeed. Luz, no. It’s too late for heroics now. You two will be nice and safe here with me forever...

There wasn’t any art or finesse to confessing secrets. You just had to do it, and fuck if Luz was going to let a few oversized bugs and a stupid whispery bug queen get in her way.

Luz stabs at her own glyph, trying to get something, anything, to work.

What are you doing?

She grabs Amity’s limp hand and touches it to her glyph. Suddenly, the possessed filmed-over look in Amity’s pale yellow eyes fades away. She no longer looks like a put-upon, upper-class, social-climbing Blight heir but like a teenager, carefree and snarky. Like Luz’s put-upon Blight heir.

The glyph flares up as Luz turns to look at Amity.

I want you,” Luz sighs into Amity’s space. Almost happily, the glyph flashes bright for a second. The queen lets out a strangled, cut-off, angry noise when the light reaches her.

What are you doing, she asks frantically. What did you tell her? Amity?

“Do you really?” Amity asks dully, turning to Luz.

“Of course I do!” Luz grins at her. Amity stares at her, and the possessed look steals back into Amity’s expression.

“Amity?” Luz asks cautiously, her grin slipping away.

“I think you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Amity says, with a solemnity that Luz finds unbelievable, breathtaking, stupid. “I think you’re good enough. Actually, I think you’re perfect.”

Luz isn’t anywhere near Amity’s glyph, but it flares up briefly just like hers had. The queen bends over double, choking. And her gagging despair foils against Luz’s emotions, the elation rising up inside Luz until she feels like she’ll throw up.

STOP, the insect queen screeches, all clicking mandibles and lethal stingers, threatening poison danger with every guttural sound. The scorpions lash their tails. But Amity turns to smile sweetly at her, the archetype of every mocking glance and deriding sneer. Like Azura facing the Snot Dragon in Book 6, pg. 436, second paragraph from the top, just before she finally gets with Hecate.

“Should have gone for the villain motive speech, your Majesty. Because it’s not the protagonist it buys time for,” Amity says, in the condescending voice she uses to annoy everyone, Eda and Boscha and teachers and everyone in between. Even Luz. But for Luz, it’s always a little fond, too. I just wanted to see how you were getting on without me...

Fuck you, you little brat, the queen spits.

And then Amity pushes Luz against a scorpion’s pincer and kisses her, grabs her wrist and presses it against her own. The glyphs collide with each other. And then Luz knows it’s true. Amity thinks she’s beautiful, Amity thinks she’s perfect, and she can feel Amity’s hair against her cheek, and she wants her so much. And Amity knows that, too.

Amity pulls away from her, giving her a strange look which contains at once a wistful smile, an embarrassed smirk and an absolutely shit-eating grin. Her hair band has fallen out, her hair down and messy, like a halo around her head, the light shining through the strands. God, how has this much joy literally existed at her fingertips all this time? Not a good time to throw up, Luz advises herself.

The glyphs explode. They splinter out into bubbles of light, flowering in the darkness, rushing out to fill the cavern. In the background, the Queen is screaming, screaming, but all Luz hears is the sound of Amity’s soft laughter. The scorpions dissolve into dust, and Luz stumbles backwards onto the floor, Amity kneeling over her.

“That’s the secret you were keeping from me? Amity, you idiot!”

Amity sighs from on top of her.

“I sure am kind of dumb, aren’t I?”

“You sure are. ‘I think you’re beautiful.’ What kind of lame secret is that?”

“Oh, shut up.”

Luz grins up at her. “You had a giant spider to help you with that last time. How will you shut me up now?”

Amity kisses her, all pretty messed-up hair and closing golden eyes, and Luz shuts up.

The Queen screams, hatehatehatehatehate i HATE light, and their dissolved secrets shine on like truth, filling the vast cavern with silvery, beautiful, wanting light. The ants that had made up the queen collapse down into the floor. The millipedes slink away, looking half embarrassed and half confused. A pile of spider silk remains on the floor where the queen stood.

Luz pushes Amity up off of her shoulders.

“So, you really think that I’m... good enough for you?”

“What- Luz, you’re good enough for everyone. How do you not see that?”

“But I can’t do magic.”

“God, Luz! You know when I started liking you?”

“No?”

“It was the day you showed me your light glyph.”

“You hated me then!”

“Yes, whatever, rivals to lovers, get used to it. The point is, magic is just what we call the things that we can’t do. And few people could do what you did, discovering glyphs on your own, Luz. It was magic to me." Amity looks away into the middle distance, and a dazed, saccharine expression steals over her face. "All of you is magic to me.”

Luz stares at her open-mouthed, then starts talking rapidly. “I don’t believe you. No, wait I do believe you. No, I don’t. Wait-”

“You’re short-circuiting, Luz.” Amity smiles amusedly, but it fades away suddenly. “Uh… Luz. You really want me? Me? Amity?”

“Amity, who wouldn’t?”

Amity looks contemplative, as if she’s genuinely making a list of people who wouldn’t want her.

“Well, there’s everyone at school, they’d definitely never want me- oh, and Eda, she’d never want me to be her apprentice, and, oh-” Luz laughs loudly, cutting Amity off and earning herself a glare. And somehow, that laugh does more to reassure Amity than any words ever could.

The last whispers of the queen fade from their minds.

“Well, let’s never do this again,” Amity says.

“Aw, you don’t want to kiss me again?”

“Luz- oh my god. I mean the part where we keep secrets and then almost get killed by an insect queen. In other notes, I think we could find better places to kiss than against an actual scorpion while some god awful being wails in the background,” Amity says.

“Don’t kinkshame. I was kind of into it.”

“Luz.”

“I mean, if you want me to shut up again, all you have to do is- mmph.”

And they’re both still a little unsure of their places in this world, but the light shines on through the caves, golden like haystacks and melting butter and sunsets, and all other pretty, summery things.

And so they walk out of the caves, living in their own light.

--oOo--

“Look, Luz. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Amity. Don’t worry so much.”

“My mom is literally friends with Lilith.”

“Your mom’s friends with everyone, what’s the big deal? Hasn’t your family literally been friends with both the Gaunts and the Emperor?”

“That’s different, the Gaunts aren’t Wild- wait, how do you even know that? Okay, whatever. My point is, if this goes wrong, I’m blaming you.”

Luz pulls a piece of paper coloured with what looks like TV static out from her bag and holds it firmly in front of the crystal ball camera until it fills Amity’s screen.

“Luz, what are you doing.”

“Oh, look, static! Guess the connection is cutting out. Oh dear. I don’t know if you can even still hear me. Well, bye then Amity!”

“Luz, I swear to god-”

“See you at six!”

Luz hangs up. Amity will never forgive her.

Except, obviously, when she turns up at 5:50 wearing a sleek navy blue pinstripe blazer and white slacks and heels , carrying a bottle of apple blood, Amity instantly forgives her. 

“Welcome!” says Amity’s mother, still deciding on what flavour of friendliness to offer when talking to a sworn enemy. Amity’s mom had always been skilled in the Blight art of amiability-as-weapon. 

Eda leans against the pillars of the porch, wearing a white pantsuit and her usual don’t-give-a-shit attitude, while Luz jumps up and down hyperactively as if she’s already taken a head start on the apple blood.

“Don’t get overexcited, I’m only here to make sure you don’t give Luz any ideas.” Eda pauses. “ Too many ideas, I mean. That girl’s a sponge.”

Amity’s mother smiles, but Amity can tell it’s beginning to be forced. “I assure you, I had no intentions to corrupt your pupil, Ms. Clawthorne.”

“Yes, your daughter is already doing a fair job of that.”

“I’d say Luz’s not the one being corrupted here, Ms. Clawthorne.” Amity flinches, somewhat shocked by the fact that her mom is abandoning her friendly pretense so fast.

Call me Eda,” Eda practically demands.

“Then call me Gloria.”

“Fine, Gloria.

“Fine,” Amity’s mother shoots back, looking icy. They glare at each other with more hostility than even Amity was prepared for. Watching from a few steps behind, Amity glances pointedly at Luz, who smiles back at her. 

Wow. Bad idea. Amity’s heart picks up at the sight of Luz in formal attire. There’s slight traces of eyeliner and mascara littered recklessly around her eyes - there’s a smudge of it on her cheek, and a loopy spiral of black colour that extends from the corner of her eye like Luz tried for a catseye and then got a little carried away - and yet it looks amazing.

“Well, please come in. Amity’ll show you in.” Amity’s mom says in short sweet tones, suddenly once again the gracious hostess. Eda throws her a dirty look as she stalks past, ignoring Amity’s faint “the dining room is this-”

“I know where it is,” she says, looking directly at Amity, but somehow Amity gets the feeling she’s not the one being talked to.

Luz and Amity stare after Eda’s retreating back. 

“I didn’t know she’s been here before,” Luz says. Amity turns to her mom, who is watching Eda with a strange expression. It almost looks like- nostalgia. Suddenly, the torches that line the hallway flicker out, plunging them into darkness. Gloria sets them back alight with a wave of her hand.

In the brief second during which the lights are out, a dull green circle-and-cross is visible in Gloria’s hair.

--oOo--

You could cut the air with a knife, Amity thinks, sawing at her steak. Eda and Luz are sitting at the other end of the long dining table.

“So, Eda,” Amity’s mother says. “How are things in the gastropod-egg business?”

Eda snorts loudly, and pulls a live mouse out of her hair, examining it critically. Amity winces, and down the table, Luz does too. 

She keeps it there on purpose just to gross people out, Luz manages to express, by scrunching up her face, making an affirmative gesture, pointing to Eda and then swinging her arm around the table.

Typical, Amity replies silently, twisting her lips in a half-smile and gesturing to Eda, then shrugging. She turns away quickly, because if she spends another second looking at Luz it will not go well for the things (chairs and a protruding fireplace and the dinner table) that have the audacity to occupy the distance between them.

“Who’s a cute wow, oh yes, you are, fluffy floof, fluff,” Eda proclaims rather audibly, cutting off whatever Amity’s mom was about to say. Mother sighs with uncharacteristic melodrama, and apparently gives up on conversation, allowing Eda to continue murmuring incomprehensible nonsense to her mouse. 

Where’s your dad? Luz asks, using some impressively ad libbed sign language, with some weird flipping hand motion that somehow perfectly calls Amity’s father to mind.

Not coming, Amity replies, by making a pulling motion from the door and shaking her head at the same time.

Oh, Luz replies.

The other non-verbal conversation at the table does not appear to be doing nearly as well. Amity’s mother has her hands buried in her hair, and Eda is practically screaming to her mouse about how adorable it is. Eda suddenly quiets, propping her hand on her chin, and smiling fakely at Amity’s mom until she looks up. Then, Eda puts her fork into her mouth and licks it.

Before Eda Clawthorne, Amity hadn’t realized it was possible to convert every single action into a personal taunt.

“Eda!” Luz says.

“What?” Eda asks, leaning backwards in her seat and smirking. 

To Amity’s shock, Amity’s mother practically growls. She jumps out of her seat and draws a spell circle in the air, her hands shaking slightly, brief flashes of colour flaring out in the air around her. They’re memory fragments, leaching out of her mind in her anger. Most of them stay up in the air, swirling like a thunderstorm, but a few flutter weakly to the floor. One lands on Amity’s hand, and a few are blown all the way across the table, landing near Luz and Eda. Amity hasn’t seen her mother like this, not since the time a wizard tried to swindle Emira and Edric into letting him into the family home. She smiles though, friendly and dangerous, as always. Always still a little bit composed.

A wine bottle flies towards the air towards Eda. Eda looks surprised, jumping up and casting a shield just in time with her staff. The bottle bounces off demurely as if it had intended to do nothing else. It uncorks itself and pours into Eda’s empty glass.

Amity’s mother summons the bottle back with a forceful jerk of magic, pours her glass far too full, and then says, quite calmly, “well, there’s nothing like wine to make everything bearable, isn’t there?” She smiles, and then downs the whole glass, somehow managing to chug gracefully and ladylike, her throat working slowly. 

The memories have mostly all returned to her mind, but Amity had completely accidentally pinned the one near her under the end of her knife. It struggles vigorously for a few seconds, then lays still. Down the table, Luz is not nearly as subtly holding a memory, cupping it with her hands.

Amity glances up. Her mom is on her second glass. So she glances at the memory.

“You will never be welcome here again, Eda. I will never pour you another glass of wine. That’s all I wanted to say. Please feel free to leave any time.” In the memory, a young-looking Eda flinches. And the memory ends.

She glances over at Luz, who has released her own memory and is looking guilty. And then Luz looks at Eda questioningly. Amity quickly follows suit, nudging her knife off of the fragment. It makes its way to her mom’s ear and slips inside discreetly.

“Can I go talk to Amity for a second?” Luz asks Eda.

“Absolutely not. We are doing shovel talks and then we are leaving ,” Eda says, still looking directly at Gloria. She drags a protesting Luz down the table to Amity’s mother, muttering a “have at her” under her breath.

“Come on, Amity. Time to vaguely threaten you.”

“Uh-” Amity replies. Eda pulls her into her father’s study and shuts the door. She takes a seat at the desk and steeples her fingers.

“What are your intentions regarding my-” Eda abruptly pauses to laugh raucously. “The look on your face! I’m just kidding. I just wanted to get away from Luz and your mother .”

Oh. I can sympathize about my mother.” Amity twists her lip. “ Why Luz though?”

“She had started to ask uncomfortable questions about my dating history, that kind of thing.”

“Your what?

“Don’t worry about it,” Eda says, leaning casually against the back of the chair, but there’s something stiff about the movement that gives her away. For a second, Amity thinks she sees a dull circle-and-cross on her left cheek, but she must be imagining it. The lights seem to dim.

Amity stands there fidgeting for some time.

“Hey, Amity. I've been meaning to say this to you. Y ou seem reallyyyy uptight about your last name.”

“What? Last name? I am not!”

“Your jacket literally has Blight embroidered into the pocket.”

“That’s one thing!”

“What about the time you almost screamed at Luz for writing Amity B. instead of A. Blight?”

“They asked for first initial! And besides, A. Blight just looks better.”

Eda quirks an eyebrow at her.

“I’m not obsessed with my last name,” Amity mutters.

“Yeah, yeah whatever. You just need to relax a little. Let go, you know? Nobody thinks of you as A Blight Daughter Trademarked, anyways. You’re just Amity. Hey, what do you think they’re talking about in there?” Eda indicates the dining room with a lazily pointed finger. “Don't answer, we already both know your mother's being dull. Oh, have you ever heard of anarchism?”

--oOo--

In the dining room, Luz feels duly threatened.

“I believe Amity quite likes you.”

“Uh, yeah. Um.”

Amity’s mother quirks an eyebrow at her, which seems to insinuate vague disapproval of this situation.

“I mean, I know I’ll never be a good enough witch for her, but I really like her, and-”

“What makes you not a good witch? Amity speaks quite highly of your casting abilities.”

“You must have misunderstood her, because I can’t cast . Don’t have a bile sac,” Luz says, trying to make light of it, but feeling deeply out of place next to this woman who can cast in a heartbeat and whose memories literally magically fly out of her ears when she gets angry.

“You don’t need to have bile to be a witch, Luz,” she says.

“But isn’t that what a witch is?”

“What do they teach you in that school,” Gloria muses disapprovingly. “A witch is just someone who works with magic. And you do that, even if you don’t have bile.”

“Every other witch has bile,” Luz says.

“Oh, sweetheart. I don’t suppose Amity has told you much about her family history?” Gloria says, gearing up to some big lecture.

“No.”

“About five people on her dad’s side of the family are non-magical. But they all went to Hexside anyways, and they’re all remembered as witches.”

“But-”

Gloria cuts her off. “Two went into illusions, and became so proficient at smoke and mirrors they outdid the rest of their class. I still don’t know how they did it. Which I think is kind of the point.”

“I suck at illusions.” Gloria ignores her.

“One of them joined the Plants stream, Alisa Blight. She spent all her time in the greenhouses. By the end of her first year, she knew more than anyone about the specific needs of the Atlantic mandrake, the most volatile of all the plants. She had managed to raise two pallets of them. Most people struggle to keep even just one alive. The second she graduated, Bump hired her to teach Plants.”

“I suck at Plants. Amity’s much better.” Gloria ignores her again.

“The fourth is Amity’s father. He went into Oracle, and had a lot of fun going around telling everyone the entire track was a load of phonies and that he could outperform any Seer by making predictions entirely randomly. Which he proceeded to do, gaining national acclaim in the process.”

“Wow. He really has a point about the phonies thing. Wait, your husband can’t do magic?”

“Well. Depends how you define magic. You wouldn’t say that after you’ve watched what he can do with a crowd of people.”

“But that’s not magic . That’s just- skill.”

“Like I said, you have to see it. Believe me, you and I would not be able to do what he does.”

“Oh.” Luz thinks for a second. “Who’s the fifth?”

“Eric Blight. Great-Uncle, I think. He was top of his class, Potions. Didn’t matter that he didn’t have some sac on his heart.”

“So-”

“Yes. Believe me, Luz, I’ve heard all about you. You don’t need magic to be a witch, and you are more than enough witch for my daughter.”

Luz falls silent, then hurls herself around Gloria. Gloria smiles and hugs her back gently. 

“You know, Eda used to call this the ‘parallel arms’ thing,” Gloria says.

Luz suddenly pulls back. “I saw one of your memories.”

“Oh. Did you?”

Of course I love you, silly! Eda reaching out and pressing a chaste kiss to Gloria’s lips.

“Did you and Eda ever- date?”

“Of course not, Luz.”

“Ah, right. Okay. Sorry for asking.”

“It’s alright.” Contrary to Gloria’s words, the glyph in her hair flares up, begging to be revealed. Gloria clearly isn’t aware of it.

Amity and Eda emerge dramatically from the study, and Gloria's glyph dims.

“I will never allow my freedom to do whatever the hell I want to be taken from me!” Amity proclaims.

“And you were worried about me corrupting yours ,” Gloria says.

“Smart girl, this one.”

“I’m an anarchist now,” Amity explains at Luz’s questioning glance, and grins rebelliously. She spins around, her perfect blue dress flaring out, and walks straight into Luz’s arms, sighing contentedly. “Your makeup looks really good.”

And people said that love knew bounds.

“Sheesh, Luz. Wipe that dopey look off your face," Eda drawls.

“Amity, why don’t you show Luz around the gardens?” Gloria suggests, with slightly more tact.

“Come on, your highness,” Amity says, grabbing Luz’s hand and pulling her away.

“Are we sure those two won’t kill each other while we’re gone?” Luz asks, glancing backwards at Gloria and Eda, who at present are watching them with identical expressions of amusement, standing quite close together for people who hate each other, actually.

“I get the feeling they need to talk.”

Luz laughs. “You could say that again.”

Amity spins around again, dragging Luz with her.

“Did Eda get you high or something?” Luz says.

“No. She did kind of take a weight off my shoulders though, in a circular Eda way.”

“Ah, yeah. She does do that sometimes.”

“You, on the other hand, seem quieter than usual.”

“Just thinking about some things.”

“Must be quite novel for you.”

“Oh, shut up, Amity.”

“First of all, that’s my line. And secondly… make me.”

And the story ends quite predictably, with a kiss in the rose gardens behind an old family home, the night sky shining over them like a reminder of something they’ve long ago forgotten.

All the things that fear light, the centipedes and bigots and spiders and those who can’t bear their own truth, and the cockroaches of the troglodyte queen, they’ll still go bump and creak and snap in the night. But what is there to fear, when you’ve worn your heart on your sleeve and walked out unscathed?

In the house, Eda and Gloria dance around each other in the shadows like the estranged friends-exes-enemies that they are. But Luz and Amity do as they will, in the rose garden beneath the stars. And if a constellation in the stars takes the form of a circle-and-cross, none of the four notice.