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the heartbreak prince

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Rey notices him the moment she walks into the Great Hall with the rest of the seventh years.

 

In her defense, he's hard to miss.

 

Severe black robes do nothing to hide the breadth of his shoulders. He's sitting down— at the High Table with the other teachers— but he looks tall, the top of his head almost level with Chewbacca's chin— and Chewie definitely has giant blood, even if no one dares mention it out loud.

 

The genetic makeup of the Hogwarts gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor is currently the last thing on Rey's mind. All of her attention is focused on the stranger next to him.

 

He's striking even from afar. A lush mane of raven hair gleams in the amber light of the thousands of wax candles floating above the tables. His eyes are as dark as coals, embedded in a pale, narrow face, the sharp features of which are offset by the unexpected fullness of his lips.

 

Rey nearly trips over her own feet, she's staring at him so.

 

His gaze happens to sweep over to her at the exact moment that she stumbles. Her cheeks grow hot with embarrassment as she rights herself, and the corner of his mouth lifts in the ghost of an amused smirk before he looks away.

 

"That's the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor," Rey hears Tallie whispering excitedly to Jess as they take their seats at the Gryffindor table. "Rumor has it he's American— the son of Leia Organa—"

 

"The MACUSA president?" Rey blurts out. Too loudly.

 

Tallie and Jess— as well as a nearby gaggle of sixth years hitting pause on their own conversation— blink at her in surprise.

 

"No, the Queen of England," Tallie finally says, rolling her eyes. "Merlin, Rey... Oh, are you all right? You seem a bit flushed."

 

"I'm fine," Rey mutters.

 

Tallie nods, then turns back to Jess, leaving Rey to wallow in her own awkwardness. She's known Tallissan Lintra and Jessika Pava since they were eleven, but she isn't what anyone would call bosom buddies with them— or, indeed, with a good majority of her housemates.

 

It's not an I'm not like other girls thing. Rey barely gets on with most of the boys, too.

 

She's just... socially inept.

 

She sneaks another glance at the High Table. The new teacher sits as still as a coiled spring, but those intense dark eyes of his are roaming everywhere, taking stock of his surroundings. She wonders what he thinks of the Great Hall, with its long wooden tables and plethora of hovering candles and the cavernous ceiling that's been enchanted to mirror the sky outside— currently, it's like black velvet, dotted with icy silver stars.

 

Seeing it for the first time had been a transcendent experience, although, granted, she is Muggleborn. A bewitched ceiling is probably nothing to him, being the MACUSA president's son and all that.

 

True enough, he glances upwards only briefly. Then his head starts to turn in her direction again. Rey freezes, waiting for the moment their gazes collide with a mixture of anticipation and dread.

 

She nearly jumps out of her skin when Finn plops into the empty chair beside her.

 

"Where have you been?" she demands. She'd lost sight of him in the crush at the main doors of the castle— maybe she wouldn't have made a total cake out of herself in front of the new teacher if she'd had someone to talk to.

 

"Somewhere," Finn mysteriously replies. His school tie is crooked, like someone's been yanking on it to within an inch of its life.

 

Acting on a hunch, Rey peers over her shoulder at the Hufflepuff table. Sure enough, Rose Tico's only now just taking a seat, blushing and bright-eyed, shiny black hair in disarray.

 

"Missed each other, did you?" Rey quips to Finn, who turns scarlet and patently refuses to dignify her with a response. He and Rose had danced around their mutual attraction for ages before he worked up the nerve to ask her out on a proper Hogsmeade date towards the end of sixth year. Rey knows she should be happy for her two best friends— and she is, but—

 

But sometimes she can't help feeling that they've left her behind.

 

Which they have, in a way. There's a place now where it's only the two of them, where she can't follow.

 

Her gaze slides back to the new professor. His face is turned to her in profile as he stares somewhat moodily off into the distance. Save for the occasional grunted remark from Chewie, none of his colleagues are talking to him. It doesn't take long for Rey to figure out why— he's easily the youngest staff member at the High Table aside from Dameron and Hux, who are all the way on the other end, and his demeanor doesn't exactly scream welcoming.

 

It occurs to her that he might be lonely, too.

 

"Pity he took the D.A.D.A. post," Jess is saying to Tallie. "He's so fit, I'll be sad to see him go."

 

"Jessika!" Tallie squeals, slapping her shoulder. "You're naughty—"

 

The two girls giggle.

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts is traditionally held to be a cursed subject— they've never had a teacher stay for more than a year. Something unfortunate always happens.

 

"Well, that's why Obi-Wan had to hire from overseas, isn't it?" Jess continues. "No sane Hogwarts graduate wants the job. Poor Professor Veers, last I heard he was still at St. Mungo's— and they never did find Professor Jerjerrod, did they?"

 

Before Tallie can respond, Mon Mothma— the Transfiguration professor and head of Gryffindor House— places a frayed, battered, rather moldy-looking wizard's hat on a stool at the head of the Great Hall.

 

It's time for the Sorting.

 

A mouth slashes open along the brim of the hat and it breaks out into song. The lyrics are different every year, but it's always about the four founders of Hogwarts and the qualities that each one favored in a student.

 

Courage and determination for Gryffindor.

 

Justness and loyalty for Hufflepuff.

 

Wit and wisdom for Ravenclaw.

 

Cunning and ambition for Slytherin.

 

After the last lines of the song fade away, Mothma calls the roll from a long piece of parchment. One by one, the first year students approach the stool. They sit down and put on the Sorting Hat and, after a varying amount of time, it announces in a booming voice which House it's selected for that particular student, and they stand up and join the appropriate table to applause and handshakes.

 

Over the years, Finn and Rey have made it a game to try and guess ahead of the Sorting Hat. He's so much better at it than she is; he knows everyone and everything. They're both Muggleborn, but Finn had taken to the wizarding world like a duck to water, and although Rey sometimes tries to console herself with the fact that she's better at other things— like flying and Arithmancy— she can't deny that it hurts, on occasion, to see how well Finn fits in.

 

It's yet another area where he's left her behind.

 

"That's Pamich Nerro Goode's younger sister," he's telling her now. "Definitely Ravenclaw, all their family have been in—"

 

"RAVENCLAW!" yells the Sorting Hat.

 

Finn pumps a fist in the air. "Yes!"

 

The next student is as scrawny as the rest of his peers— in that way that eleven and twelve-year-olds so often are— but his robes are exquisitely tailored and he carries himself with a haughtiness unique to the old pureblood families.

 

Rey snorts. "Slytherin, that one. No question."

 

"SLYTHERIN!" the Hat confirms a few seconds later.

 

Rey smirks at Finn. "Bringing my A-game tonight."

 

They keep it going for several more names down Mothma's list, but there comes a point when Rey looks at the next first year girl to be Sorted and finds herself wondering if she had ever been that small. That anxious. That unsure of magic.

 

It sinks in that this is her last Start-of-Term Feast, and that this will be her last year at Hogwarts.

 

Finn catches on to her mood. He must be feeling it, too, because he drapes an arm over her shoulders and gives her a reassuring squeeze.

 

"I know, peanut," he says— a little fondly, a little sadly. "I know."

 

When the Sorting ceremony comes to an end, Headmaster Obi-Wan Kenobi rises from his seat of honor at the center of the High Table. "The very best of evenings to you all!" he says cheerfully, with that ever-present, enigmatic twinkle in his blue eyes. "To our new students, welcome, to our old students, welcome back! Another year full of magical education awaits..."

 

It's more or less the same spiel as always. After a few gentle reminders— Curfew is at ten, the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds— Obi-Wan pauses. For effect, Rey thinks as he beams at the assembly.

 

"This term, we have a new faculty member joining us all the way from across the pond—"

 

Rey's stomach flips. She tells herself that she's just hungry, but she's already back to staring at the dark-haired stranger. His expression has shut down and his right hand has curled into a fist where it rests on top of the table.

 

He's nervous, she realizes, her eyes widening.

 

"— I've known his family for years and it is my honor to bring such a brilliant lad into the fold, and to introduce him to all of you," continues Obi-Wan. "Everyone, please welcome our new instructor of Defense Against the Dark Arts— Professor Ben Solo!"

 

There's a smattering of polite applause throughout the Great Hall that's markedly more enthusiastic among the older female students. Chewie pokes him in the side and Professor Solo reluctantly stands up, his head jerking forward in the barest of nods.

 

Rey doesn't clap, mostly because she's forgotten how to move her hands. Hell, she's forgotten how to breathe.

 

He's well over six feet tall. And he's so broad that it's honestly not even fair.

 

"Merlin's beard, Tallissan," Jess groans. "I want to climb him like a tree."

 

"Bugger off, I saw him first," Tallie hisses.

 

No, I did, Rey thinks, feeling warm and strangely hollow all at once. Unlike Jess and Tallie, she's not even remotely joking.

 

And it scares her.

 

✨✨✨

 

With the feast at an end, her belly full of steak and kidney pies and roasted potatoes and lamb chops and peppermint humbugs and treacle tarts, Rey troops up the winding stairs with the rest of Gryffindor House minus Finn, who'd gone off to walk Rose to the Hufflepuff dorms. Everyone's chatting about what they did over summer vacation and what they're looking forward to and dreading this term. Rey's silent, a pebble in a fast-moving stream, bobbing along with the current but never truly part of it.

 

Left to her own thoughts, she realizes something— Obi-Wan had made no mention of Professor Solo's parentage. Is it supposed to be a secret? But if Tallie knows, the whole school is sure to find out.

 

Sooner rather than later.

 

Rey broaches the subject when she and Tallie are alone in the communal bathroom and brushing their teeth side by side. She gargles one last time, spits into the sink, then watches her housemate's reflection do the same.

 

"Tallie..."

 

"Hmmm?"

 

Sapphire blue eyes blink inquisitively at Rey in the mirror, slim fingers coaxing long copper hair into neat braids. Tallie's one of the most beautiful girls at Hogwarts, along with Jess. Rey always feels like a cave troll next to them.

 

"How did you know about Professor Solo being Leia Organa's son?"

 

"Oh— Mum told me," Tallie replies. "A friend of hers was in America on business last July and heard about it. I'm surprised the Daily Prophet hasn't shouted it from the rooftops yet, to tell you the truth, but Solo does strike me as the private sort. Why do you ask?"

 

Rey seriously considers Obliviating the other witch. "Nothing, just curious." It's not a lie— she can't even articulate her reasons to herself.

 

It's a good thing that Tallie doesn't press the issue. "All I know is, if my mum were the president, I wouldn't be a teacher," she says as she continues braiding her hair. "I mean, I'd be free to do anything, wouldn't I? And in any case I certainly wouldn't teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, not even if you paid me a million Galleons. Poor Professor Veers and Jerjerrod and the rest of them—"

 

Tallie keeps talking and talking and talking. There's really no way for Rey to make a graceful exit at this point— and it's her own fault for opening her mouth in the first place— so she just stands there and nods at what she hopes are the right moments, until, eventually, Tallie finishes wrestling with the last copper-colored plait and chirps an airy good night as she sails out of the bathroom.

 

Rey's shoulders slump in relief.

 

One of the taps is leaking. She listens to the drip of water on porcelain for several long moments, and then she grabs her wand and utters the incantation for the Mending Charm.

 

The sound stops. She studies her reflection in the ancient mirror-glass as the newfound silence rings in her ears. Slowly, her lips move in the barest of whispers as she tries out the shape of his name for the first time.

 

"Ben Solo."

 

The girl in the mirror looks like she's telling a secret.

 

✨✨✨

 

She catches neither hair nor hide of him the next day, or the day after. It would appear that the Welcome Feast had been an outlier and he prefers to take his meals away from the Great Hall. She can't decide whether she's grateful or sorry for that, although she leans more towards the former; in order to prepare the seventh years for their Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests in June, Rey's other professors have hit the ground running with regards to lessons, and she doesn't need to be distracted by thoughts of luscious dark hair and wide shoulders and lonely eyes.

 

On Wednesday, she turns eighteen.

 

"Birth!" Finn yells first thing in the morning, prompting everyone else in the Gryffindor common room to pelt her with greetings that she clumsily accepts.

 

At breakfast, a small lemon drizzle cake adorned with a single lit candle magically appears in front of Rey once she's polished off her fried sausages and bacon and scrambled eggs. Finn leads their table into song, after which Rey gamely blows out the candle— the orange flame transmutes into dozens of peacock butterflies that whirl overhead and then fly out the window, leaving gasps and applause in their wake.

 

"But that's amazing!" cries Doran Sarkin-Tainer, the current Head Boy. "A stimulus-activated Transfiguration spell— that's really intricate—"

 

"My girlfriend did it," Finn says proudly. "She's brilliant at that sort of stuff—"

 

"Oh, do you have a girlfriend, Finn?" Jess quips in tones of good-natured sarcasm. "We weren't aware."

 

As Finn sputters with indignation, Rey looks over to the Hufflepuff table to find Rose already beaming at her. Rey smiles back, and they toast each other with goblets of pumpkin juice.

 

Before Hogwarts, Rey had never gotten cake for her birthday. The first time Finn and Rose conspired with the castle's house-elves to present her with one, way back in second year, she'd very nearly cried.

 

As is always the case, her housemates are nicer to her today out of a sense of pity, undoubtedly noticing that once again there are no packages from home— nary a single letter or greeting card dropped into her lap by owl post. Rey doesn't even think her parents remember when her birthday is, and they wouldn't know how and where to mail her a parcel even if they did. They're drunks. They think she goes to Muggle boarding school on a scholarship.

 

She can't wait to fully disappear into the wizarding world after graduation and never see them again.

 

✨✨✨

 

On Friday, Rey has her first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson with Professor Solo.

 

Located off of the Serpentine Corridor on the third floor, the classroom is strangely gloomy despite its tall windows and the massive iron chandelier hanging on the ceiling alongside a dragon skeleton. It's as if residue from all the Dark magic that has been cast here over the centuries has been absorbed into the very walls, creating puddles of shadow even in places where there's nothing to block the light.

 

But Rey has never felt as unsettled in this room as she does now— and it's all because of the man who's poring over scrolls of parchment at his desk when she and the other students walk in.

 

Due to the fact that not all seventh years had met the requirements or opted to continue this subject at N.E.W.T. level, the class is a mix of all four Houses. Finn and Rose sit together while Rey slides into the chair behind Finn's— next to Korr Sella, the imperious, flint-eyed Head Girl from Slytherin, who deigns to acknowledge Rey's presence with a nod.

 

Before Rey can so much as nod back, Professor Solo calls the roll.

 

It should have come as no surprise that someone of his formidable height and build would have such a deep, deep voice, and yet Rey's so incredibly thankful that she's sitting down because she's rendered weak in the knees the second she hears it. It's low and rumbling, as soft as smoke around the edges. Her hands twist in her lap, crumpling the charcoal gray fabric of her school-issue pleated skirt.

 

"Niima, Eurydice," he says, and— like a sip of the best, most expensive vintage firewhiskey— it goes straight to her head.

 

"H-h-here," she stammers, her throat suddenly dry.

 

In contrast to him, she sounds absolutely horrid. Finn and Rose turn to her with eerily identical frowns of concern.

 

Solo's dark eyes flicker up from the parchment. They capture her face in the third row.

 

The corner of his mouth twitches in the same vague smirk that she'd seen in the Great Hall. Before she can fully register it, it fades away and he moves on to the next name down the list.

 

Oh.

 

Oh, fuck.

 

He remembers her, doesn't he? He remembers that she'd tripped while staring at him. Rey would like for nothing more than the floor to open up and swallow her whole.

 

It's going to be a long first class.

 

It's going to be a long, long school year.

Chapter Text

Rey's new teacher puts away his scrolls and gets to his feet.

 

It's a lengthy process. He moves with a languid grace, and there's so much of him that needs to straighten to full height.

 

Unlike the formal black robes that he'd donned for the Start-of-Term Feast, his outfit today wouldn't raise an eyebrow in Muggle London. He's wearing a dove gray waistcoat with matching suit jacket and trousers, and a crisp white button-up shirt and a navy blue tie. The clothes are perfectly tailored to emphasize his athletic figure, and golden rays of morning sun pouring in from the windows dance through artfully tousled hair that curls at his collar.

 

He takes Rey's breath away.

 

"Welcome to seventh year Defense Against the Dark Arts." Professor Solo instantly seizes command of the room; the idle chatter that had started burbling around Rey during roll call abruptly cuts off. "The objective of this class is to ensure that you make Hogwarts proud when you sit your upcoming N.E.W.T. examinations— the results of which will determine your future in the wizarding world."

 

It's so strange, Rey thinks, to hear an American accent ringing softly amidst the walls of Hogwarts Castle. It's novel enough that even the more talkative students are hanging on to every word.

 

Even when he's taking the piss out of them, apparently.

 

"I've been reviewing your syllabuses over the past six years and, frankly, I'm surprised that you were even able to scrape an Ordinary Wizarding Level in this subject in fifth year," Solo continues, prompting a wave of uneasy fidgeting from most of the assembly.

 

"Well, to tell you the truth, sir, we barely scraped," says Seff Hellin. His housemates mutter their assent. The Ravenclaws' collective grievance at the subpar quality of their D.A.D.A. education has taken on mythic proportions at this point.

 

"Indeed." Solo's lips press together in a thin line. "You have gone through six different instructors before myself. Each one had their own methods, their own lesson plans... and only two of them finished out the year." He looks faintly put upon, and it shouldn't be as endearing as Rey finds it. "I suppose I'll start off by getting a feel for what you do know. Stand up."

 

"Bit of a grump, isn't he?" Rose mumbles to Rey as they comply.

 

Rey can only shrug. If she were in his shoes, she'd probably be irritated, too. Headmaster Kenobi had mentioned that he'd known Professor Solo's family for years— was him accepting the D.A.D.A. post a favor to a friend?

 

She's so curious.

 

She wants to know everything about him.

 

He produces a blackthorn wand from the inner lining of his suit jacket. Rey's near enough that she can make out the intricate carvings and little flourishes on the wood. There's simply no mistaking the style.

 

What is an American doing with a San Tekka wand from Diagon Alley?

 

Professor Solo flicks his wrist; the rows of vacated desks part like the Red Sea, clearing a wide space in the middle of the room.

 

"We'll go in reverse alphabetical order," he says. "As I call your name, come to the center and demonstrate the required magic. Warv, if you please."

 

Bazel Warv tears away from his cluster of Hufflepuffs. He's the tallest in Rey's year, with a bulky frame that has made him a menace as a Beater out on the Quidditch pitch, but right now his green eyes are as wide as moons.

 

Solo conjures a heavy-looking wooden wardrobe from out of thin air. "Knockback Jinx," he directs.

 

Hesitantly, Bazel aims his wand at the wardrobe. "Flipendo."

 

The wardrobe's mirror cracks, but the massive structure itself doesn't budge an inch. Decidedly not knocked back.

 

Solo frowns. "That's a rudimentary Grade 2 spell, Warv."

 

Bazel hangs his head. "Sorry, Professor."

 

The minutes drag on in a succession of students coming forward and disappointing their new D.A.D.A. teacher one by one.

 

When it's Rose's turn, Solo once again flicks his wand— this time in the direction of the wardrobe— and it begins to shake. The door flies open.

 

And Paige Tico emerges from the wardrobe, hands on her hips as she stares at Rose with pursed lips, one foot tapping on the floor.

 

Rey clenches her teeth. The room is totally silent. She can't—

 

It's too late. A snigger worms its way up from her chest. The moment Finn hears it, his shoulders start shaking, too, as he claps a palm over his mouth.

 

Of course a disappointed older sister would be Rose's greatest fear.

 

At the sound of Finn and Rey's barely suppressed cackling, Rose cranes her neck to glare at them. "Oi! Shut up!" she hisses.

 

Which only serves to make them laugh even harder.

 

Rey emits a very loud, very unattractive, very piggish kind of snort that echoes through the room. This sets Rose off. She starts giggling as well, and the Boggart in the form of Paige Tico disappears without a single Banishing Spell being cast.

 

Professor Ben Solo stares at Finn, Rey, and Rose with a mixture of incredulity and annoyance.

 

Finn elbows Rey in the side— the universal gesture for We're going to get into trouble. She bites back her mirth until, eventually, she manages to swallow all of it down.

 

Her chest hurts. Her eyes are a little teary.

 

"Right." Solo's tone could have frozen the Black Lake. "I think I'm beginning to understand why the turnover is through the roof."

 

"You mean you don't know?"

 

There she goes again, with her big mouth, with the wrong words at the wrong times.

 

Rey isn't even fully aware that she's the one who'd spoken until Solo's dark eyes flash at her and nearby classmates subtly shift away lest his wrath fall on them as well. She can hardly function as she holds his gaze, feeling like the air between them is charged with static. She doesn't know if she wants to wither in the piercing depths of his undivided attention— or bloom in it.

 

Before she can make her choice, though, he looks away and calls on the next student to perform a Reductor Curse on the now empty wardrobe...

 

And so it goes. The only time he looks less than thunderous is when Korr Sella produces a flawless Smokescreen, precisely contained to within the diameter that he'd specified. "Very adequate, Miss Sella," he praises.

 

Rey's fingers tighten around her aspen wand. I'm not jealous, she tells herself firmly.

 

By the time it's her turn, Solo's leaning against the teacher's table, arms crossed, his gaze contemplative as she faces him. As she lifts her chin in both defiance and challenge.

 

"Patronus Charm," he orders.

 

Rey's classmates start whispering among themselves. Evoking the tangible positive energy force known as a Patronus— a spirit guardian— is ridiculously advanced magic, far beyond N.E.W.T. level. He's getting back at her for her cheek, she's sure of it, probably anticipating either a spectacular failure of spellcasting or a humbled admission that she doesn't know how to do it.

 

What he doesn't know is that— with the Ticos visiting family in Saigon and Finn leading the Hogwarts Gobstones Team to glorious victory at a tournament in Budapest— it had been a long and boring summer, and Rey had spent most of it locked up in her room with a dozen textbooks and pushing the limits of her abilities while her parents drank and argued and forgot they had a daughter.

 

It's not difficult to think of a happy memory, her birthday having been only two days ago. As she draws circles in the air with the tip of her wand, Rey pictures the lemon drizzle cake in her mind, her housemates singing, the candle's orange flame turning into a dozen butterflies, Rose toasting her with pumpkin juice all the way from the Hufflepuff table.

 

"Expecto Patronum."

 

A ghostly silhouette erupts from the tip of Rey's wand. It's a doe, slender and silvery, and it charges exuberantly at Professor Solo, who jerks as it passes through him before melting away in a patch of sunlight.

 

The Hufflepuffs gasp in wonder. The Gryffindors cheer. The Ravenclaws break out into applause. The Slytherins remain as inscrutable as always, although some raised eyebrows could be interpreted as probably being impressed.

 

But all of this is mere background interference. Rey can stare at nothing else but her professor's pale features. She's almost trembling as she waits for him to speak, to affirm that she's better than Korr Sella.

 

To tell her... fuck, to tell her that she's a good girl. She imagines him saying it in that deep, firewhisky voice of his.

 

It's a miracle her wand doesn't snap from how hard she's clutching it.

 

His lips quirk.

 

"Well, if Miss Niima can muster a corporeal Patronus, I see no reason why the rest of you shouldn't aspire to similar heights," Solo addresses the other students, although his inky, star-cut eyes remain fixed on Rey. "You all have a week to research the theory behind this spell and how to cast it. Next Friday, we'll have a practical quiz."

 

The Gryffindors' cheers turn into boos.

 

"Miss Niima," Solo continues, unperturbed, "given your advanced skills, I expect you to be able to nonverbally produce your Patronus next week."

 

Rey slinks back to her classmates as another student takes center stage. Her cheeks are flaming.

 

"He's not a grump," she corrects Rose in the lowest, most inaudible voice that she can manage. "He's an asshole."

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey doesn't go to Hogsmeade that weekend. Finn and Rose are currently in the lovers reunited after months apart phase and she already feels enough of a third wheel at school as it is. She waves them off, insisting that she needs to study, and then spends most of Saturday exploring instead.

 

The thing about Hogwarts is that there's always something new to discover. The staircases move at will, leading to corridors that had previously not been accessible before. The portraits are interesting to talk to, even if some of them tend to be quite rude. There are trophy rooms and abandoned offices and eldritch halls and cluttered storage facilities, all filled with quirky knickknacks and enchanted artifacts that Rey can pore over for hours.

 

The castle is the best place to get lost in. It's more Rey's home than the dilapidated council flat where she grew up fending for herself and keeping out of her tantrum-prone mother's way and despairing that things would never get better and she was doomed to this small, shabby existence.

 

Until the day an owl flew in through the kitchen window while her parents were passed out in the living room and dropped a letter into her bowl of cereal— fortunately, before she'd poured in the milk.

 

She'd thought it was all some sort of elaborate prank at first, but then Chewie came knocking later that afternoon. He'd taken her to Diagon Alley to shop for her wand and robes and school supplies on the Hogwarts fund for disadvantaged Muggleborn students, and he'd bewitched the acceptance letter to read like it was from— well, from a normal boarding school.

 

When Rey went back to the flat, her mother had laughed in her face. Her father had made some effort, promising that he'd bring her to the train station, but the day came and he was hungover and sluggish and grouchy, so Rey had slipped off on her own.

 

She pushes the bitter memories away. In early July she's going to graduate and she'll be able to leave that part of her life behind for good.

 

But, for now, it's a lazy Saturday afternoon, the castle quiet with most of the students either at Hogsmeade or enjoying the sunshine out on the grounds, and she's free to wander.

 

Rey heads to the seventh floor. There's a hilarious moving tapestry there that she enjoys looking at— a colorfully woven depiction of Barnabas the Barmy's foolish attempt to train a group of trolls for the ballet. The trolls are prancing around a forest clearing in pink tutus and matching slippers, some of them hitting the hapless wizard over the head with their clubs. Ever since stumbling upon it in her fourth year, Rey's often spent ages just observing the scene and chuckling to herself.

 

Today, however, there's a doorway in the wall opposite the tapestry that's never been there before. Five house-elves are scurrying out of it, carrying mops and dustpans and large flasks of cleaning solution. The door disappears when the last elf exits.

 

The fivesome wave at Rey when they see her. She smiles and greets each of them by name. "Where'd you all come from, then?" she asks, nodding towards the now blank wall.

 

"Is the Room of Requirement, miss!" squeaks Artoo. "We is using it when we need more supplies!"

 

Rey leans forward eagerly. A hidden room— that would be useful. "Can you tell me how to get in?"

 

The elves don't hesitate. Rey had found the kitchens early on in first year, and they've been spoiling her ever since. She loves them, if she's being honest, and she's pretty sure they like her better than most of her schoolmates do.

 

It's Threepio, the most erudite of the house-elves, who passes the instructions on to her in high, nasal tones, after which he and his peers vanish with loud cracks to attend to their chores elsewhere in the castle. Left alone in the hallway— and feeling mildly foolish— Rey paces back and forth in front of the wall three times, thinking "very, very hard" about what kind of space she needs.

 

Somewhere quiet. Somewhere she can disappear while not minding being alone.

 

Maybe with snacks?

 

Rey all but squeals when the door appears. She barrels into the Room of Requirement, and it's—

 

"Wicked," she breathes, her heart aglow.

 

✨✨✨

 

"This is bloody amazing!" Finn gushes.

 

Rey had led him and Rose to her latest discovery right after dinner. It's eight in the evening, which gives them a little under two hours before they have to go back to their respective dorms. In truth, Rey's contemplating missing curfew and just spending the night here.

 

It's a great room.

 

The size of a large cathedral, it contains tower after tower of random objects that were obviously dumped or hidden away by countless generations of Hogwarts inhabitants. There's piles of broken furniture, thousands of books, an assortment of pointy hats in every color imaginable, failed potion experiments congealing inside chipped bottles, bloodstained and rusty medieval-looking swords and axes, jewels, bits of dragon eggshells...

 

And so much more.

 

"No food, though," Rey mournfully declares. "I guess even this place has to conform to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration."

 

"You can't possibly still be hungry after demolishing the roast beef," Rose admonishes. "Oh, wait, what am I on about— 'course you are."

 

"Piss off," Rey says with a laugh. As her friends start playing with a Fanged Frisbee plucked from one of the many heaps of various contraband, she retreats down an aisle she hadn't been able to peruse earlier. Someone before her time had put a wig and a tiara on the head of an ugly warlock statue, and just beyond that ghastly apparition is a cage containing the five-legged skeleton of a creature she doesn't recognize— but Rose probably would. She calls out to the other girl to come have a look, but at that exact moment her gaze lands on a ripple of silver haphazardly draped over a nearby crate.

 

Finn and Rose turn the corner and immediately stop in their tracks when they see the filmy, shimmering garment that Rey is holding.

 

"Is that a..." Finn trails off in disbelief.

 

"An invisibility cloak!" Rose finishes with glee. "Those are really rare— my great-grandfather had one but the charm wore off after a couple of generations— go on, then, Rey, try it, let's see if it still works—"

 

Rey shrugs on the cloak, pulling the hood up over her head.

 

Judging from the ecstatic looks on Finn and Rose's faces, they don't have to worry about getting caught breaking curfew anymore.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey's no stranger to staying out past ten in the evening— she's just never done it so openly before. Instead of tiptoeing around and ducking into empty classrooms or behind statues and suits of armor, she's strolling down Hogwarts' darkened corridors with Finn and Rose as boldly as the three of them please. Huddled safely beneath the invisibility cloak that renders them undetectable to the naked eye.

 

They'd stayed in the Room of Hidden Things until Finn started yawning. It's now almost midnight and they pass by the caretaker, Unkar Plutt, as he's making his rounds, holding a lantern aloft and crooning softly to the only living thing he's ever shown an ounce of humanity towards— Mr. Pancakes, his fat brown-and-white cat whom Rey is convinced is pure evil in fluffy form.

 

Mr. Pancakes' sinister yellow eyes gleam in the lamplight, narrowing at Finn, Rey, and Rose as they quietly walk past. For a moment, Rey is seized by the very real fear that the malodorous feline will be able to detect their presence, but his velvety ears soon twitch in disdain and he continues waddling after Plutt, tail in the air.

 

"I love this cloak," Finn whispers once they're out of earshot.

 

They're dropping Rose off first. The Hufflepuff dorms are located on the basement level of the castle; as they're crossing the Entrance Hall, the main doors suddenly fly open, letting in copious amounts of autumn breeze and moonlight.

 

Finn, Rey, and Rose instinctively flatten themselves against the nearest wall. Rey glances down to make sure that none of their feet are sticking out of the cloak.

 

There are two figures looming at the threshold, their edges blurred by the clear night's dim radiance. Rey's pulse accelerates when she realizes it's Professor Solo, accompanied by Chewbacca.

 

"Well," the younger man snarls as his heavy boots thud into the hall, the torches along the walls automatically lighting up at his approach, "that was an utter waste of time."

 

He's wearing what seems to be hunting attire. A ribbed black tunic, black trousers, thick leather gloves. A flowing cape. He looks like the Dark wizards he's teaching the students to defend themselves against.

 

Rey shivers.

 

"I'm telling you, Ben, there's something out there," Chewie insists in his gruff brogue. He's wielding a crossbow— a massive thing that appears to be quite capable of killing a building. "The centaurs are spooked. All their signs point to ill fortune."

 

"Divination is hardly an exact science." Solo's tone is clipped. "I'm off to bed."

 

Chewie sighs, but nods. "Poe and Obi-Wan are still out there. We should let them know that we decided to head back."

 

"Fine." Solo draws his wand, tracing a quicker and more effortless version of the circular patterns that Rey had made in the D.A.D.A. classroom. His Patronus materializes, then bounds back out onto the grounds to find Professor Dameron and Headmaster Kenobi and relay the message.

 

Finn, Rey, and Rose stay rooted to the spot long after the teachers have left the Entrance Hall.

 

In Finn and Rose's case, it's because they can't resume walking without the cloak slipping off if Rey remains where she is.

 

In Rey's case, it's because she's afraid that, if she moves, the world around her will shatter.

 

Ben Solo's Patronus is a stag.

Chapter Text

It's four days later, and Finn and Rose still haven't let it go.

 

"What does it mean?" Finn dramatically throws himself against the wooden boards fencing in the pumpkin patch outside Chewie's hut. "A Patronus is an extension of the self— so how come you and Solo have matching ones?"

 

"A funny little thing called coincidence, perhaps?" Rey counters, glaring at him a little too sharply.

 

"Maybe they're soulmates," Rose teases as she hand-feeds more lettuce to one of the plump, slime-coated flobberworms that Chewie has for some mysterious reason decided were just what his N.E.W.T. level Care of Magical Creatures class needed to study on this fine autumn afternoon.

 

"Come off it," Rey snorts, leaning against the fence next to Finn. The two of them aren't feeding any flobberworms. They're not even in this class, but Chewie has a rather lackadaisical view of protocol.

 

"I wouldn't mind having Professor Solo for a soulmate," quips Jysella Horn, a redheaded Hufflepuff who's standing next to Rose and running a diagnostic spell on her own flobberworm. Traced in blue light, a miniature diagram of the beast's organ system glows gently in the air, shifting here and there as Jysella prods it with her wand, scanning for abnormalities.

 

Not that there's anything particularly complicated about flobberworm anatomy. Rey swears they're the most boring creature she's ever laid eyes on.

 

"That's because he's not your professor," Finn tells Jysella. "He's a pain in the ass, you wouldn't believe..."

 

As he launches into a tirade on the D.A.D.A. instructor's many flaws, Rey tunes out. What Finn had mentioned has plunged her into a somber mood; Ben Solo is her teacher, no matter how handsome he is, and she would do well to keep this attraction in check.

 

But, Merlin, she's never felt this way before. About anyone. She's an eighteen-year-old virgin and being around him sets her on fire.

 

It's not a simple case of hormones, either. There's something wild and lonely about him that pulls her in like an undertow. It's something she thinks she recognizes, almost as if she's made of it, too, and she just hadn't known until she spotted him in the Great Hall.

 

She thinks about his Patronus. She wonders what he must have thought when he saw what hers was.

 

"I'm curious about that, too," Finn says in hushed tones, and Rey nearly has a heart attack until she realizes that she'd been staring at the Forbidden Forest while zoned out and her best friend had only been following her gaze after Rose and Jysella headed over to the next batch of flobberworms. "What d'you reckon they were looking for in there?"

 

"I really want to find out," Rey admits. She and her friends have been in the forest before; they'd had Care of Magical Creatures lessons take place there in third year and, in fourth, they'd collected bubotubers for Herbology class— all the other not-so-sanctioned times, they were merely driven by curiosity and the allure that anything out-of-bounds holds to a gaggle of kids. But they've never gone further in than a few meters past the hippogriff paddocks, because there's a certain point where the trees start growing too close together for sunlight to penetrate and eerie noises creep in and there's the sensation of hundreds of unseen eyes looking back...

 

"Whatever it is, it must be dangerous," says Finn. "Did you see that crossbow Chewie was holding?"

 

"Yeah." Rey glances at the instructor. He's moving around checking on how his students are doing with their flobberworms, but every once in a while his beetle-black eyes dart to the Forbidden Forest and she can make out a frown beneath his thick brown beard. "Yeah, I did."

 

✨✨✨

 

On Friday morning, Rey wakes up earlier than usual. After showering and brushing her teeth, she casts a quick drying spell on her hair and tries to do something different with it. After four failed attempts at braids and chignons and half-ponytails that all collapse into tangled bird's nests of disaster, she gives up and settles for the usual three buns.

 

It's the only hairstyle her mother had taught her how to do.

 

And, honestly, it's not as if Professor Solo will suddenly look twice at her if she manages to figure out what the hell a French twist is.

 

Rey leaves the bathroom feeling very stupid. Her roommates are awake at this point, making their beds and cramming homework at the last minute. "Rey, you're up early," Jannah remarks. "Excited to face off with Solo again?"

 

Tallie and Jess giggle. Rey wills herself not to blush. "Just want to get it over with," she mumbles as she shoves quills and parchment into her book bag.

 

"Right. Well, Quidditch tryouts are on Sunday next week," Jannah informs her. "Not that anyone else will even dream of going for Seeker when you're around, but I've got to be fair, you know?"

 

"Of course, captain." Rey tips Jannah a small salute as she shrugs on black Hogwarts robes over her white buttoned shirt and gray skirt, then begins fiddling with her red-and-gold-striped tie in front of the mirror next to her bed.

 

"We'll be the first batch to win the House Cup for Gryffindor seven years in a row since Paige Tico," Jannah confidently predicts. "I have spoken."

 

Rey nods despite the sliver of anxiety that coils through her stomach. There's a lot of pressure on her this year but she hadn't been able to get on a single broom at all in the summer, stuck in the Muggle world as she'd been. She'll have to start spending her free afternoons out on the pitch in order to make up for lost time.

 

Half an hour later, as she enters the D.A.D.A. classroom, she's nervous for an entirely different reason.

 

Professor Solo's wearing a black tweed jacket, a light blue shirt, another pair of those trousers that are so expertly tailored that they emphasize his long legs and drive Rey to madness, and his usual stern expression. He offers the class a curt nod before starting the practical right away and, as expected, the results... aren't great. After having been given a mere week to study, it's less than a handful of students who successfully produce a corporeal Patronus while some manage a burst of shapeless silver light, and the rest nothing at all.

 

Solo saves Rey for last. She casts the charm nonverbally, as he'd instructed, her wrist moving in a precise imitation of his wandwork the night he'd summoned his stag in the Entrance Hall, and her doe shimmers into existence. There's a ripple of applause, cries of "Way to go, Rey!"— "Good job!"—

 

And Solo doesn't smile, not exactly, but the line of his mouth is softer than it usually is. He's standing close enough for her to see that his narrow face is dusted with a constellation of beauty marks, that his eyes are actually a rich chocolatey brown with a hint of olive, fringed by long lashes, and that the buttons of his shirt are straining against his chest.

 

Rey gulps.

 

"What are you," he murmurs, in that low, deep voice that's gone lower and deeper still, meant for her ears alone, "some kind of child prodigy or something?"

 

She can't think clearly. His nearness is dizzying. That voice, those eyes, that height. "I'm..." It comes out in little more than a breathless squeak. She licks her lips and tries again. "I'm eighteen."

 

I'm not a child.

 

Something in his expression shifts. He takes a couple of steps away, leaving her with the oddest of sensations that she's done something wrong. It's like a bucket of cold water being thrown over her head and, as awareness of her surroundings filters back in, it becomes apparent that not all of the students are happy about her progress.

 

There are snide mutterings about who knows how long she's been able to practice the spell before last Friday. Stage whispers about being graded on a curve. And the thing is, Rey can't even blame her classmates, because it is unfair, and all she'd wanted was to get through this last year with her head down and leave everyone with no bad memories, if not any particularly lasting impressions.

 

But now Solo's gotten her singled out.

 

He frowns as he picks up on the terse atmosphere in the room. "I had you study the Patronus Charm because the intense mental focus it requires vis-a-vis the dynamic wand movement is a good foundation for other types of combat spellwork. It was a quiz so that all of you would take it seriously. Your N.E.W.T. examinations will be far more grueling, I assure you."

 

The class had fallen silent at the beginning of his speech, and now everyone's listening intently, most of them appearing properly chastised. What sticks out is that there are no more resentful glances being thrown in Rey's direction.

 

"And for those aiming for a career as an Auror, knowing how to conjure a Patronus is an essential skill, which you now have a headstart in," Solo continues. "If the British Ministry of Magic is anything like MACUSA, they'll accept only the best of the best, not those who whine about others being better. Now— let's run through jinxes."

 

They spend the remainder of first period practicing the Knockback Jinx, Levicorpus, the Multi-Shot Jinx, and Waddiwasi on rows of dummies that Solo creates from thin air. He'd been right; with their minds sharpened by the last several days spent trying to cast the Patronus Charm, the seventh years have never been in finer form. They're all in high spirits by the end of the class, Rey included— maybe there's hope for this ragtag group of ne'er-do-wells, maybe they really are the next generation of elite Ministry Aurors—

 

"I can't decide which was more painful to observe, the generally sloppy casting or the part where you all forgot that simple jinxes should be nonverbal at N.E.W.T. level," Professor Solo drawls. "Keep training. I expect a less amateurish output next week, as well as a thousand-word essay on the importance of dueling form. Class dismissed."

 

The students troop out, shoulders slumped as they grumble among themselves. Rey's halfway through the door when Solo's gravelly voice stops her in her tracks. "Miss Niima— a word, if you please."

 

"I'll meet you at the Great Hall for lunch," she tells Finn and Rose.

 

"We don't mind waiting," Rose hurries to assure her.

 

"It's not a big deal," Rey insists.

 

Actually, she's a little worried— she can't possibly imagine what Solo would want to speak to her after class for, which probably means it can't be anything good— but it'll be a cold day in hell before Rey's friends go hungry on her account.

 

She waves Finn and Rose off and they nod before walking away with their fingers laced together. They never hold hands when she's around— probably so that she won't feel left out— and she watches them go with a slight pang before turning around to face her professor.

 

He's standing at his desk, meticulously packing his book bag. She keeps a careful distance, waiting. The room is so quiet that she's afraid he'll hear her thundering heartbeat.

 

"What happened to your other D.A.D.A teachers?" he asks.

 

Oh.

 

Rey starts from the beginning. "Professor Greenley ran into a bit of trouble with a hag during winter break in Bavaria. The next year, Professor Krennic's wand backfired while he was demonstrating a Memory Charm— he's at St. Mungo's now. In our third year, Professor Borkas was savaged by a hippogriff who wanted his ham sandwich, and when we were in fourth Professor Vischera was arrested for using an Unforgivable on a shopkeeper in Hogsmeade—"

 

"I think I get the picture," Solo dryly interrupts. "I wonder what grisly fate shall befall me this term."

 

Rey's not sure if she believes in the jinx on the D.A.D.A. position or if she's one of those who agree that it's a combination of coincidence and statistical fact— anything to do with the Dark Arts doesn't tend to attract the type of wizard who dearly values a long life or a complete set of body parts. What she's absolutely certain of, however, is that she doesn't want any kind of grisly fate to befall Professor Solo.

 

Even if he is an asshole.

 

"Maybe you'll be the one to break the curse," she suggests.

 

He doesn't look up from his task, but his lips twitch in the way that they always seem to around her. She has the distinct impression that he thinks she's a funny girl. "Thank you for the vote of confidence, Miss Niima. And don't let me keep you—"

 

She forces the question out before she can lose her nerve. "Why do you have a San Tekka wand?"

 

He glances at the aforementioned object on his desk. "My old wand broke, so I went to Diagon Alley first thing upon arriving in London. I still prefer the feel of tamarack as compared to blackthorn, but beggars can't be choosers— and I will concede that phoenix feather performs more versatilely than rougarou hair thus far."

 

"My wand core is phoenix feather, too," Rey offers shyly.

 

She hates the way she sounds when she says it— as if she believes it means anything— but Solo nods. "And your wood is aspen. A potent combination for martial magic. I'm eager to see how you fare in our dueling module."

 

It's like a sunbeam lancing through her soul, the fact that he'd noticed what her wand's made of, that he'd thought it important enough to file away for reference just like she's filing away every little thing she can learn about him. She just wants to keep this conversation going for as long as she can. "How did your old wand—"

 

"That's my own affair." He straightens up, his book bag snapping shut. "Until next week, then."

 

And it's not that Rey can't tell a dismissal for what it is when it's being hurled in her face, but she also can't bring herself to stop, to bid him a good day, to leave him. She plants her feet firmly on the floorboards. "Do you like it here so far? In Britain?"

 

At first, Solo kind of looks like she's giving him a headache. But, when he answers, it's with enough awkwardness that it makes her wonder if he has anyone at all to make small talk with. "It's fine. A little rainy."

 

"Oh? It— it doesn't rain a lot, where you're from?"

 

She bleats the question rather than simply asking it and, shit, she is such a mess, but that vague half-smile flickers at the corner of his mouth again. "I grew up in Nevada."

 

Nevada. Is that where the cowboys are? Rey pictures him in denim, with a Stetson hat and a bit of scruff. The image... leaves her more than a little dazed, takes her away from the physical realm for a bit, and it's not until he's suddenly so much closer than he was before that it hits her that he's on his way out of the room and she's blocking his path.

 

His shoulders are so wide that she can see practically only the edges of the burnished windows behind him. He's so tall that she has to lift her chin in order to peer into his eyes. He smells like parchment and oakmoss and sandalwood, with hints of copper and tobacco.

 

He is an assault on all her senses.

 

Solo cocks his head. "Is there something else I can help you with, Miss Niima?"

 

Yes, Rey wants to whimper, her thighs pressing together underneath her pleated skirt. God, yes, Professor.

 

"N-n-no," she stutters. "That's all. Thanks."

 

He gestures at the open doorway. "After you."

 

This time, she can't leave fast enough, desperate to get away before she combusts. "Bye," she rasps, turning tail for the exit, and she's got one foot in the corridor when those smoky, rumbling tones of his stop her once again.

 

"Not that I'm too much of a stickler for formality or anything," he says with a trace of amusement that she could almost have described as roguish, "but you really should be calling me sir. "

 

Rey stares out at the stone walls of the deserted corridor. It's painfully obvious that Solo's making fun of her again. To him, she's the silly girl who tripped over her own feet while walking, the girl who can barely string two sentences together when he's in the vicinity.

 

She thinks about her mother laughing in her face when Rey told her that she'd gotten a "prestigious scholarship." She thinks about her father saying it was good that she'd decided to spend last summer at home because they needed someone to keep the flat clean. She thinks about everyone in the Muggle world whose eyes ever slid away from her in her secondhand clothes and ratty shoes and those select bastards in the wizarding world who sniff at a surname not to be found on any pureblood family tree. She thinks about the schoolmates that can either take her or leave her and talk around her all the same, and the teachers who can never quite manage to hide their surprise when she comes up with a clever answer or nails a difficult spell.

 

She is so much more than what people think she is.

 

She can call anyone's bluff. She can play along with the very best of them.

 

Rey whirls around, meeting Professor Solo's gaze. She waits for his dark eyes to flicker before she lowers her own, peeking up at him through her lashes the way she's seen Tallie do around boys she likes.

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Rey's voice is a little huskier than it ought to have been. A little more breathless than the situation warranted.

 

Solo's hand— the one that's not clutching the strap of his book bag— clenches into a fist at his side.

 

That's all she'd needed to see.

 

Rey scurries out of the D.A.D.A. classroom without a second glance. She barrels down the stairs with her skin flushed, her heart blazing in triumph, and a telltale wetness between her legs.

Chapter Text

In hindsight, Rey can blame lack of sleep for her next encounter with Professor Solo.

 

The weekend, as it's usually understood, has been nonexistent. The past several days have gone by in a muddle of essay writing, Arithmancy equation solving, practice spellcasting, and Quidditch training. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, so the work goes on late into the night. Now Rey understands why the seventh years of school terms past had seemed so distant and crabby through her younger self's eyes.

 

Only three weeks into September, and she's already running on fumes.

 

After Transfiguration class, Rey begs off from her and Finn's Thursday afternoon agenda of bothering Rose during Care of Magical Creatures. She has Potions tomorrow and Professor Hux insists that his N.E.W.T. level students brew from memory, textbooks firmly out of sight; Rey's got twenty-four hours to master the steps for Elixir to Induce Euphoria and Draught of Living Death.

 

Quite positive that she'll cry if she spends any more time cooped up in the library or the Gryffindor common room or even her secret place on the seventh floor, she grabs a handful of treacle tarts from the kitchens and heads to the shores of the Black Lake. It's a rare sunny day and the grounds are dappled in gold. The Giant Squid is basking in the shallows, tentacles pulsing lazily.

 

Rey spreads her black outer robes on the grass and assumes a cross-legged sitting position, leaning against a tree trunk. She eats her tarts, scattering crumbs all over the pages of her copy of Advanced Potion-Making that's open on her lap.

 

The next thing she knows, she's dreaming.

 

It's one of those hazy, shapeless dreams, images bleeding together such that it's impossible to bring any single one into focus. But somebody is holding her, his arms strong and warm. Somebody loves her, in this dream. She's floating in his embrace, aimless and content.

 

He whispers, "Miss Niima."

 

Rey opens her eyes with a start.

 

She's sprawled on her back, legs tangled in the robes she'd shed, one hand laying flat on the open book beside her. Judging from the position of the sun in the sky, she hasn't been out that long, but the other students who'd been milling around the shore are gone.

 

It's just her.

 

And Professor Solo.

 

He's looming over her prone form in a navy blazer and a white button-up, hands shoved into the pockets of his slacks. He's not looking at her directly— in fact, there's a certain pointedness in how he's looking away from her, his jaw clenched.

 

It's the chill in the air more so than the glancing down that makes her realize that her pleated gray skirt has ridden up past her thighs while she slept.

 

Solo has the grace to not say anything while Rey pulls herself into a sitting position. However, once she's... decent, it appears that the temptation to be a prick becomes too great for him to ignore.

 

"Do they not provide beds in the student dormitories here in the UK?" he asks.

 

"Well, no, obviously, they make us sleep outside like animals," she snaps, too flustered to be tongue-tied.

 

His lips twitch. She suddenly wonders what he'll look like if he smiles for real. If he's even capable of it.

 

"Are you looking for a place to sleep, too, sir?"

 

She still hasn't forgotten the way his big, big hand drew into a fist when she called him that.

 

This time, however, he seems unaffected. The expression of elegant boredom on his pale face doesn't waver.

 

So it had been a coincidence, after all. The epiphany is more crushing than she cares to admit, although it shouldn't have come as a surprise. She's hardly the type of person who can incite anyone to those kinds of fantasies.

 

"Actually, I came out because Obi-Wan told me there was a Giant Squid in the lake and I wanted to see it," Solo drawls. "But it seems you've driven it away with your snoring."

 

Rey stares down at her lap, self-conscious. Her snoring is a thing of legend in the Gryffindor dorms. Back in fourth year, Jess— finally having had enough— cast a Silencing Charm on her in the middle of the night; now Rey does it herself before bed at the end of every long day, when she knows she's tired enough to rattle the windows.

 

Stupid, stupid, to think that someone like her could have ever made someone like Solo clench his fist.

 

She feels the weight of his gaze on the dejected slump of her shoulders for several long moments before he abruptly changes the topic. "Crush the sopophorous beans with a silver dagger instead of cutting them, that releases the juices more efficiently. And use thirteen beans, not twelve."

 

Her eyes fly up to meet his, confused. He nods at the open textbook on the ground. "For Draught of Living Death," he clarifies. "You could also do worse than stir clockwise once after stirring anticlockwise seven times."

 

"How do I know you're not trying to sabotage me?" It doesn't make any sense for him to want that, but few people ever help her when they don't need to and so that's her first reaction.

 

"You don't." Solo's voice is as soft as the gentle, sunlit waves. "You just have to trust me."

 

Despite herself, Rey cracks a wry smile. "Have you got any insider tips for Elixir to Induce Euphoria, too?"

 

It's a joke, but he takes it seriously, his lips pressing together as he sinks into thought.

 

"Add a sprig of peppermint," he finally says. "That will counterbalance the side effects of excessive singing and nose-tweaking."

 

"You do realize that if these potions blow up in my face tomorrow I'll be pinning the blame on you?"

 

He smirks and, oh, it isn't a nice smirk. It makes her toes curl. "And what will you give me if they work?"

 

"A ham sandwich," Rey says boldly.

 

She watches that smirk of his sharpen. Watches his brown eyes gleam. "I'll make sure to stay away from the hippogriff paddocks, then," he quips, already turning to walk away. "Have a good day, Miss Niima."

 

She continues to sit there, staring out at the lake, long after he is gone.

 

✨✨✨

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts passes without too much incident the following day. Professor Solo grills them on hexes, then announces that they'll launch into the dueling module next meeting after he's had the chance to look over their essays.

 

He takes the winding stairs up to his office located above the classroom two at a time, and has completely vanished even before the last student has set foot out the door.

 

Rey's Potions practical goes shockingly well. Crushing the sopophorous beans with the flat side of her dagger produces so much juice that she has to hurry to scoop it all up into her cauldron before it can drip to the floor, and adding a clockwise stir after every seventh anticlockwise stir soon turns her attempt at the Draught of Living Death a pale pink that gets lighter and lighter as the minutes pass.

 

"How are you doing that?" Finn hisses, the liquid in his cauldron still the color of blackcurrants.

 

"Add a clockwise stir," Rey tells him out of the side of her mouth.

 

"What? Could've sworn the book said—"

 

"No talking!" Hux's strident tones ring through the steamy air, all the way from the other end of the dungeon. "The next student to breathe a word will test the efficacy of their classmates' draughts for themselves."

 

It's a testament to how little faith the seventh years have in one another's potioneering abilities that every single one of them falls as silent as the grave.

 

When Hux calls the time, the liquid in Rey's cauldron is as clear as water. Hux pierces Rey with a suspicious glare but, after checking to make sure her textbook is nowhere near her person, he grudgingly concedes that she's brewed Draught of Living Death to perfection.

 

Making Elixir to Induce Euphoria also goes without a hitch. A sour-faced Hux doles out an extra point— "and not a fraction more, Miss Niima"— for the sprig of peppermint.

 

Rey leaves the dungeon in unusually high spirits. Solo's tips had helped, but she's the one who'd successfully memorized the complicated steps for both potions. As far as small triumphs go, it's a rush to the head, which is why she thinks nothing of sneaking into the kitchens during her free period and asking the elves for a ham sandwich, which she carefully wraps in a paper bag to bring to Professor Solo's office.

 

He'll appreciate the humor behind the gesture, if nothing else. Maybe he'll even laugh. At this point in time, she's really curious about what he looks like when he laughs.

 

She arrives at the D.A.D.A. classroom just as he's leaving it with Headmaster Kenobi. They spot Rey before she can duck out of sight.

 

"Ah, Eurydice!" Obi-Wan's blue eyes twinkle kindly at her before flitting to Solo. "Did you have a consultation? Forgive me if I've intruded—"

 

"We didn't." Solo looks confused— even somewhat dazed— as he blinks at Rey for a moment, and then that stern, impassive mask of his slides into place. "What are you doing here, Miss Niima?"

 

Rey is mortified.

 

She is, without a doubt, the world's biggest idiot. And she certainly feels like it as the two men regard her expectantly.

 

"Just wanted to eat someplace quiet," she manages to force out, holding up the brown paper bag as if in self-defense.

 

It's not like she can give her teacher a sandwich in front of the headmaster. It would put Solo in a very uncomfortable position.

 

She probably shouldn't even be giving him anything, period.

 

"We won't keep you long, then, we're just off to tea ourselves," Obi-Wan says jovially. "Ben, I do hope you're treating Miss Niima all right. She's one of our most exceptional students."

 

"I'm well aware," Professor Solo says as Rey desperately wills herself not to blush.

 

"The two of you should be getting on famously," Obi-Wan continues, "considering that your wands are siblings." Two pairs of eyes shoot to him, startled, and he chuckles as he begins to elaborate. "Lor San Tekka wrote to me after you acquired your blackthorn wand, Ben. He was most excited because the feather that is its core came from a phoenix who gave one other feather... the one that's in your wand, Miss Niima. It's never happened before, sibling wands in such close contact, operating in the same general vicinity. San Tekka wishes to be kept updated on any developments that might result."

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey decides not to tell anyone— not even Finn and Rose— about her and Solo's twin wand cores.

 

She's not even sure what to make of it herself, on top of the matching Patronuses and everything.

 

Stag and doe. Feathers from the same phoenix. It's too much of a coincidence. It... means something.

 

And she can't even discuss it with the other person concerned, because she'd have to admit that she'd broken curfew the night she saw his Patronus.

 

Not to mention that she's hopelessly attracted to him, and he's her professor.

 

It's an impossible situation. Rey just hadn't acknowledged how impossible it was until she was holding something for him while they were both in Headmaster Kenobi's presence.

 

Merlin, if anyone were to think that Ben Solo had encouraged her feelings— or, even worse, reciprocated them— he would be in very real danger of getting fired. And, with his mother being the MACUSA president, it would be worse than a scandal.

 

So, no more lame attempts at gift-giving. Even if she'd meant it as a joke. And she should probably learn how to get her hormones under control, too.

 

Rey eats the ham sandwich in the Room of Requirement, swallowing it all down even though it tastes like ash in her mouth. She'd learned very early on in her childhood not to waste food. She spends the afternoon revising nonverbal charms for Professor Erso-Andor's upcoming practical and doing the translations that her Ancient Runes instructor, Professor Yoda, had assigned as homework last Tuesday, and when she's done she looks up at the wall clock and discovers, much to her chagrin, that it's half past ten in the evening.

 

She'd missed dinner and curfew.

 

Rey pulls out the invisibility cloak from her bag and slips it on before leaving the room.

 

The halls of Hogwarts are quiet at this time of night, the portraits snoozing in their frames. She's on the approach to the one of the Fat Lady that covers the entrance of Gryffindor Tower when she hears it— the eerie sound that cuts through the stillness.

 

The song.

 

It's so faint that at first she thinks she's imagining it. But, no, something is crooning, guttural yet melodic. The still waves of night air carry it to her like distant thunder.

 

It sends chills down her spine.

 

Rey creeps over to a nearby window and peers out across the dark, starlit grounds. While she can't be completely sure, it seems like the song is coming from the Forbidden Forest. The image of Chewbacca wielding that huge crossbow flashes across the surface of her mind.

 

The sound shifts and vibrates and trills and echoes. Whatever's making it isn't human— at least, not entirely. It doesn't take long for Rey to decide that she can't bear to listen to it any longer, and she flees to the safety of the Gryffindor common room.

 

✨✨✨

 

The thing is, it's quite easy to forget about strange singing coming from the woods when one is a N.E.W.T. level student.

 

Another couple of weeks go by. Rey makes the Quidditch team and they start training in earnest for the match against Slytherin that will take place the first weekend of November. She aces several quizzes and passes others by a thread. Outside of meals and the few classes that they share, she rarely sees Finn and Rose— even though she and the former are housemates.

 

Who she does end up seeing a lot of is Seff Hellin, the blue-eyed boy from Ravenclaw with the curly blond hair. He's in all her classes— even Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes, both of which less than a quarter of seventh years are taking. Seff's nice enough, Rey supposes, and they take to sitting next to each other in class and revising together in the library.

 

Professor Solo continues to be... his usual self. After two sessions spent ensuring that his students have a repertoire of non-lethal curses and defensive spells at their disposal, he declares that they're ready to begin dueling properly.

 

It's a cold Friday morning in early October when the seventh years walk into the D.A.D.A. classroom to find all the desks gone and Hux and Solo standing in the middle of the room, facing each other across a distance of perhaps twenty feet. Both men are in their waistcoats, shirtsleeves rolled up to their elbows.

 

Nothing in the world could have prepared Rey for the sight of Professor Solo's bare forearms. They're long and leanly muscled, ridged with veins that her eyes can't help but run along the length of. She's so entranced that she almost misses it when he tells the class, "Keep to the walls and be ready to cast a Shield Charm just in case. Professor Armitage Hux has kindly agreed to assist in today's demonstration."

 

"'Kindly agreed' is a unique way to put 'was forced to by the headmaster,'" Hux sneers.

 

"You've been wanting to curse me since we were boys, Hux," Solo replies, unperturbed. "Now's your chance."

 

Before Rey can dwell on the revelation that her two professors knew each other before Hogwarts, the duel begins.

 

She is familiar with the rules for dueling. Hux and Solo follow exactly none of them. There are no bows to each other, no flourishes of the wrist. Instead— as soon as the students have glued themselves to the walls and the room has fallen silent—

 

— Hux's wand arm lashes out, the unmistakable fiery orange light of a Blasting Curse jetting towards Professor Solo.

 

It vanishes in an instant, swallowed up by the invisible aura of a nonverbal yet powerful Protego that Solo keeps up for less than half a heartbeat before firing off a Disarming Charm, which Hux physically dodges and counters with yet another spell.

 

"The most important thing to remember when battling a Dark wizard," Solo tells the class as he sidesteps Hux's attack, "is that the usual rules don't apply. Your opponent wants you dead, there's no room for being noble—" He brandishes his wand at the iron chandelier overhead and the flames come swirling down from the candlewicks in a searingly brilliant lasso that surrounds Hux— "only for being quick and inventive." Hux's sneer deepens at that last word, and the flames are transfigured into dozens of throwing knives that hurtle themselves at Solo; before any can reach him, however, his wrist slashes through the air and the knives freeze and shiver and melt together, and suddenly Rey is looking at a massive serpent, red-eyed and inky black, hissing as it slithers toward the redheaded Potions instructor with fangs bared.

 

"The Dark Arts," Solo continues in a languid drawl as Hux scrambles away from the beast, "are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Like the hydra of Ancient Greece, each time a neck is severed, a new head sprouts even fiercer and cleverer than before."

 

Hux manages to disintegrate the serpent and doesn't pause for breath before attacking with a curse that Rey doesn't recognize, something purple that seems to warp the air with its very wrongness.

 

Solo's eyes glint dangerously, a semblance of some strange, twisted joy wreathing his features. He casts a full-body Shield Charm on himself, but it's not Protego— or, at least, not the Protego that Rey knows. "When you fight the Dark Arts, you are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible," he says as a ring of crackling black shadows surround him. The instant Hux's spell collides with it, it's Hux who falls to the ground, his screams of pain rending the air. Solo is quick to cancel the curse, towering over his defeated opponent as he looks back at the class. "Your best defense," he concludes, his gaze locking onto Rey's, "is to be the same."

 

✨✨✨

 

Solo dismisses the class early so that he can bring Hux to the hospital wing.

 

The seventh years are in a subdued mood as they troop down the stairs to the Great Hall.

 

"I don't like Professor Solo anymore," Tallie blurts out. "That was... I don't know what that was, but that was really, really Dark."

 

A few heads bob in agreement. It's Rey's hand, this time, that balls into a fist at her side.

 

"Hux started it," she argues. "Didn't you all see that purple curse he used? He cast it powerfully enough that it would've ripped right through a normal Shield Charm."

 

"Hux may have started it, but Solo definitely ended it," Finn points out, and she blinks at him, feeling oddly betrayed.

 

"Rey's right." Seff speaks up. "D'you all remember there was some trouble in America last year? My dad was on the team the International Confederation sent to do post-assessment. He told me there were field reports of a spell indicated by purple light that ate its target from the inside out. I think that's what Hux used."

 

"And did your dad say anything about a shield literally woven out of Dark magic?" Jess asks dryly.

 

Rey suddenly can't bear to listen anymore. Can't bear to be there, among her stupid classmates who'd much rather that Solo be eaten from the inside out than defend himself. She'll end up getting into a real fight if she doesn't remove herself from the situation.

 

Muttering a half-hearted excuse about needing to retrieve something from her room, she tears away from the pack.

 

And sets out to find him.

Chapter Text

Solo's not in the hospital wing. According to Madame Kalonia, he'd brought his injured colleague in and then left.

 

"Will Professor Hux be all right?" Rey asks.

 

"Nothing that bed rest and ten potions a day for three days won't cure," Madame Kalonia replies dryly. "Both teachers said it was a miscast hex?"

 

Ah. Solo and Hux have decided to work together to cover their asses. Rey offers a cautious nod.

 

"Well, I'm sure it's not my place to tell Headmaster Kenobi how to run his school, even if hexes flying around the classroom is a recipe for disaster," the healer sniffs. "Run along now, Miss Niima. You may inform your friends that your esteemed Potions professor will live to dock House points another day."

 

Rey hadn't gone to the hospital wing so she could update the other seventh years on Hux's condition, but she lets Madame Kalonia continue thinking otherwise as she hastily makes her exit. A while later, she's poking her head into the D.A.D.A. classroom and, sure enough, there he is— Professor Solo has summoned the desks back from wherever he'd banished them and is levitating them to their proper places one by one, affording the task far more concentration than it requires.

 

Steeling herself, Rey walks in.

 

A muscle works along Solo's jaw at her approach. He hasn't rolled down his sleeves yet and his expression is sullen and intense and, somehow, still so strangely lonely— at least to her.

 

It's the loneliness, more than anything else, that makes her stand beside him, draw her own wand, and help arrange the desks, the silence that lays heavy between them punctuated only by the creak of wood as it takes flight, its scrape against stone floors.

 

Finally, he speaks. "I thought it would be a good idea to tap into some genuine animosity, so your class could have an inkling of what a real wizarding duel looks like. I wasn't expecting Hux to get carried away. If it scared you— my apologies."

 

"I wasn't scared," Rey says. She'd been shocked, yes. Worried that he or Hux might end up killing the other, definitely. But the magic itself? She hadn't been afraid at all.

 

"It takes," she remembers Professor Krennic lecturing back in second year, months before the freak accident that landed him at St. Mungo's, "a certain kind of person to gravitate to the Dark Arts. A certain wildness."

 

There are rumors that Dark magic had been Krennic's undoing. That the unicorn hair core of his wand hadn't been suited for the kind of spells he was dabbling in during his spare time, and so it had backfired on him that fateful day in this very same classroom. Now he's a permanent resident of the Janus Thickey ward, his memory resetting every five hours.

 

The desk that he'd been levitating settles onto the floor and Solo glances at Rey out of the corner of his eye. "No," he muses, "I suppose you weren't scared at all. You looked— fascinated. Like you were trying to figure out the mechanism behind each curse."

 

He'd noticed her. He'd been watching her in the same way that she'd watched him from the crowd. Her heart gives a traitorous leap inside her chest; however, barely a second goes by after the last word of the sentence leaves his mouth when he sort of— shuts down, his chiseled features tightening into stone.

 

Almost as if he thinks he admitted to something that he shouldn't have.

 

Rey instinctively knows that, if she pushes, he'll only send her away. So she changes the subject instead, not looking at him as another desk hovers into the air at a flick of her wand. "Why is there genuine animosity between you and Professor Hux?"

 

"He annoys me." Solo's blunt response shades close enough to petulant that Rey has to bite back a smirk. "And the feeling's mutual. His father and my mother used to work closely together back when they were both with the International Confederation. They weren't friends either."

 

All Rey knows about Hux's father is that he's the former Minister for Magic who'd been removed from office on charges of embezzlement long before an owl dropped a letter into an eleven-year-old girl's bowl of cereal. It's consensus among Hogwarts students that this disgrace is the reason their Potions master is so... so like that.

 

"So Professor Hux's got a chip on his shoulder because your mum's president while his dad's in exile in Corsica?" Rey holds her breath, wondering if Solo will give her any grief for knowing that he's Leia Organa's son.

 

But he just blinks, then looks vaguely amused as always. "Corsica? Is that where Brendol is hiding?"

 

"Last I heard."

 

"How cliché."

 

The last couple of desks slide into place. They lower their wands, turning to face each other with an uncertainty that plucks at the air. If she takes one more step, he'll be within arm's reach.

 

She won't, though.

 

She can't.

 

"My parentage isn't exactly a secret," he says slowly, "but I'm hoping to keep a low profile during my stay here. Obviously, word's gotten around some, but I would appreciate your discretion, Miss Niima."

 

"I won't tell anyone, sir," she promises.

 

This time, the title hadn't been meant to goad or challenge or test the waters or anything like that. It had just flown out automatically, an ingrained response to six years of Miss Niima from other teachers.

 

Do his eyes darken, or is it just a trick of the light?

 

"Thank you." The words come out a little husky. He clears his throat. "For that, and for your assistance with the furniture."

 

"You're welcome," she says.

 

They resume staring at each other again. Solo's hair is mussed from the duel, a few locks falling over his pale brow. They call to Rey to sweep them back as she runs her fingers through his soft, lush mane. She imagines it, imagines playing with his hair as those bare, muscled forearms encircle her waist. He's such a big man. He will engulf her. The pit of her stomach curls with the hollowness of an impossible yearning.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey doesn't even clearly remember how she leaves the D.A.D.A. classroom on that day. She can't pinpoint who made their excuses first. All she knows is that she turned and left and stumbled to the Great Hall to join her friends for lunch with knees like jelly and Professor Solo's face and wide shoulders and long legs and bare forearms burned into the insides of her eyelids.

 

Another weekend passes and she goes through the motions feeling like she's running a low-grade fever. He occupies every spare corner of her thoughts. She smells sandalwood and oakmoss and tobacco and copper everywhere she goes. Her dreams are a haze of disjointed fantasies that leave her uncomfortable and overheated when she wakes up.

 

Through it all runs a thread of curiosity as to where Solo had learned to fight like that, how he'd become so well-versed in Dark magic. And when she can't stand wondering anymore, Rey—

 

— goes to the library.

 

She doesn't know a lot about the trouble in America that Seff had mentioned. It had been a hot topic among Hogwarts students last year but, with the foreign affairs section of the Daily Prophet and their own teachers being so vague, there hadn't been a lot to go on aside from gossip and conjecture. The wizarding communities scattered throughout the globe tend to keep to themselves, each one having elevated magical secrecy to an art form. It had died down soon enough and the school had moved on to discussing whether Korr Sella and Doran Sarkin-Tainer were dating; a potential romance between a Slytherin and a Gryffindor had been far juicier than whatever strangers across the pond were getting themselves into.

 

But the mere fact that the International Confederation sent a post-assessment team speaks volumes about how bad it must have been...

 

Rey spends an entire free period poring over old issues of the American newspaper. Unfortunately, MACUSA officials seems to operate similarly to the British Ministry's policy of avoiding mass hysteria at all costs— most of the direct quotes the New York Ghost got out of them regarding the situation are fantastically dry. Rey doesn't end up learning much more than what she already knew— there had been a cabal of Dark wizards and witches styling themselves the First Order who'd tried to overthrow the government. It had been a small-scale revolt and, under the leadership of President Organa, MACUSA had nipped it in the bud in less than a year.

 

The cabal had been pureblood supremacists. They'd aimed to purge the wizarding world of half-bloods and Muggleborns. One of the more interesting direct quotes is from President Organa; she'd vowed early on in the conflict that they would be wiped out, that history would not remember their names.

 

Rey can't help but admire the woman whose photos grace the papers. Although slight of stature, Leia Organa radiates defiance and a fearsome spirit, her expression oftentimes as intense as that of her son's usual mien. Her dark hair is always braided in a different style from one picture to the next— each one so elaborate that Rey suspects they put the mysterious French twist to shame.

 

Her eyes are very much like Ben Solo's.

 

Towards the end of the conflict— a week before MACUSA announced that the First Order had been defeated, its leaders executed while the rest of its captured members awaited trial— there is an article stating that the President's husband had been attacked by Dark wizards, but he was expected to make a full recovery.

 

The Ghost gives precious few details, other than the fact that President Organa's husband is a Muggle.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey sees Professor Solo far earlier in the week than she thought she would, and it's all because she forgot to do her homework for Ancient Runes.

 

It had completely slipped her mind. The seventh years are drowning in a workload that's horribly disproportionate to the amount of classes they're taking and something was bound to slip through the cracks eventually— Rey can only be thankful that it wasn't Potions or Transfiguration. Instead of failing Rey on the homework and docking points from the House that she herself is head of as the rigorously fair Mon Mothma would have done— or failing Rey on the homework, docking House points, and assigning a detention, in Hux's case— Professor Yoda merely makes Rey stay behind after class and write I WILL NOT FORGET TO DO MY HOMEWORK AGAIN on the blackboard. Five times, in runic.

 

She has no fucking idea how to even begin to go about translating the word homework, but she gives it her best shot. Yoda is tiny and geriatric and eccentric, and it's not long before he gets bored and goes to sleep at the corner desk in the back. He'd enchanted the blackboard to wipe clean every time there's a mistake in the completed sentence and, as a result, Rey's been here thirty minutes now, stuck on the correct runes for homework.

 

This is worse than detention.

 

She's so focused on her task that she doesn't notice someone else has entered the room. Not until Solo's deep, smoky voice cuts through Professor Yoda's whistling snores and the scrape of chalk against slate.

 

"You won't forget to build a house...?"

 

Ugh.

 

Cheeks flaming, she passes the eraser over a couple of runes before the entire string can be wiped clean again. "First knowing the improvements to two advanced potion recipes from memory and now translating ancient runes on sight," she says to the blackboard. "I'm starting to think you were the child prodigy, sir."

 

She dares to sneak a glance at him. Dressed in a dark three-piece suit and a tie that's more wine than Gryffindor red, he's leaning insouciantly against one side of the doorway, arms crossed. She feels sorry for his shirt buttons still fighting the good fight. She wants to eat him up.

 

He doesn't bother to respond to her quip. "It's lunch break," he says instead, sounding the tiniest bit annoyed. "Why is this old man making you write lines?"

 

Scandalized, Rey glances over her shoulder at Professor Yoda. But he continues to snooze on, an oblivious lump of brown robes in the back row.

 

"I forgot to do my homework," she mumbles, refocusing her attention on the board. She feels Solo's measured gaze on her and she's suddenly so self-conscious. The Ancient Runes classroom is replete with warming spells out of deference to Yoda's old bones, so she'd chucked off her black school robes and is standing there in her white blouse with a mustard stain on the collar, her gray skirt that's an inch too short due to a growth spurt over the summer, and her frayed knee socks that have seen better days.

 

"That's no reason to force you to skip a meal."

 

"I can assure you that Professor Yoda had zero malicious intentions." Rey flicks to the next page of the book that she'd spread out on the teacher's table as she searches for another usable rune. "He's a hundred and five years old. He's barely tethered to our time stream as it is."

 

Disapproval radiates from Solo in waves. She wishes he'd go away— she can't concentrate with him looking at her like that. And, now that he'd mentioned it, she's starting to feel a little hungry.

 

"You're translating too literally," he says after a while. "There was no concept of homework back when the system of runic writing was in place. Try something else."

 

"I have been. Learning didn't work, neither did task—"

 

"I suspect you used the rune for doing, which, when combined with the rune for task, changes the meaning to the hunting and gathering catch-all."

 

Rey frowns at the board.

 

She's not looking Solo's way, but she hears the smirk in his voice when he says, "You know I'm right, Miss Niima."

 

"Sorry, I'm fresh out of medals," she stiffly retorts.

 

He chuckles. It's the loveliest, warmest, sexiest sound she's ever heard, and she has to press her thighs together against the spark that lights up her core. It's with such a piercing regret that she wishes she'd been looking at him, after all. So that she could have seen him smile.

 

After consulting her book, Rey scribbles the runic for attend to my tasks on the board. She completes the sentence, and... it stays where it is. She writes it down four more times, then hurriedly packs her things and drapes her robes haphazardly over one arm, leaving the classroom without bothering to wake Professor Yoda.

 

To her utmost surprise, Solo falls into step beside her.

 

"I'm on my way out to see Chewbacca," he explains.

 

Are you two going hunting again? she nearly asks, before she remembers that he's not supposed to know she'd been in the Entrance Hall that night— and she can't tell him about the strange singing she'd heard coming from the Forbidden Forest, either, because she'd been breaking curfew that night, too.

 

So she blurts out, "Is your father all right now?"

 

Bollocks.

 

This man has really done something to her brain.

 

Fried it, perhaps.

 

Solo stops walking. He turns to her, white-faced, his dark eyes flashing with anger.

 

Rey takes a step back— not because she's scared, but because she's... something else. This is the first time she's gotten a peek at any emotion of his that runs deeper than wry humor or disdain, and it's so raw. So captivating.

 

Her spine hits the wall. Everyone else is at lunch; they're alone in the corridor.

 

It's visible, the way he forces his temper back down upon seeing her widen the distance between them. He must think she's afraid of him. Before she can even figure out how to correct this assertion, his cool, neutral mask slides into place.

 

"When I asked for your discretion, that was hardly an invite to snoop," he drawls.

 

"I was curious," Rey admits. She doesn't have any cards left to play but brutal honesty. "It was in the papers—"

 

"Why were you curious?" Solo demands. His tone is soft, but dangerously so. "That happened last year, so you must have searched for old issues. Why go through all that trouble?"

 

"I..." Rey trails off, then shuts up. Like she should have done from the very beginning.

 

Professor Solo stalks toward her, his fiery gaze glued to her face with an intent that's almost predatory. Her eyes drop to the floor but all of a sudden he's in her space, one large palm flat against the wall beside her head as he hunches over her, leaving her no choice but to look up. He's not cornering her, exactly— there's plenty of room for her to duck under his arm and get away if she wants to, but—

 

— but she doesn't want to. He's achingly near, surrounding her with his scent, his broad frame...

 

His presence.

 

"Well?" he prompts brusquely. "Why do you care so much?"

 

He's challenging her again. He wants her to back down from this strange game they've somehow ended up playing with each other. He's trying to intimidate her with his sheer physicality.

 

And the thing is, she is intimidated— but in a tremulous, moth-to-a-flame way that makes her want to continue being so. He's been closer to her than this in her dreams. He dwarfs her exactly the way she thought he would, and more. How can she even begin to think of fleeing when his generous lips look so soft as they move in the shape of his questions, when the column of his throat is as finely carved as ivory, when his hand is beside her head and it's practically as big as her head, fuck, how is that even acceptable—

 

"Answer me, Miss Niima."

 

The quiet authority in his tone hits her like a drug. There's an instinct that kicks in, but she doesn't know where it comes from. All she knows is that it's shy and fragile and she has to protect it with her life.

 

It's the instinct to do as he says. To please him.

 

To be good.

 

"I care because you sometimes look like you need someone to care," she whispers.

 

He sucks in a sharp intake of breath. Like she'd punched him in the gut. He all but jumps back as if she's caught fire and if he's not careful he'll end up burning with her, too. She's rooted to the spot, watching his hands ball into fists, watching his stern expression falter. Watching the twitch in the pale hollow underneath his eye and the slight tremble of his bottom lip.

 

It takes her a while to realize that what she's looking at is a man losing control.

 

"You shouldn't say things like that." Solo's voice is raspy and harsh, with a bitter edge.

 

"Or else what, sir?"

 

Rey can hardly believe she said that. She's not acting like herself. She doesn't recognize the person that she is now, alone in a hallway with her teacher and skirting terribly close to the forbidden.

 

A certain wildness.

 

And that's when Solo shows her he's not one to be messed around with, either.

 

"Or you'll end up doing something far more difficult to handle than writing lines on a blackboard," he—

 

growls—

 

And Rey loses this fight.

 

She squeaks.

 

Out loud. Her fingers digging vainly into the stonework behind her for purchase.

 

Solo studies her flushed cheeks, her slowly scrabbling fingers, her ratty knee socks. His breathing is uneven at first but, eventually, it steadies. He retreats behind his walls.

 

Then he smirks at her, every inch a smug bastard. "He's fine, by the way."

 

"Wh— what?"

 

"My father? He's fully recovered now."

 

She gapes at him in disbelief, but it's not long before her eyes narrow in a glare. "Glad to hear it," she bites out.

 

For a brief moment, Solo's smirk threatens to widen into a full-fledged grin. He appears to catch himself at the last possible second, offering her a polite, perfectly composed nod instead. "See you on Friday," he says as he walks away.

 

Rey stares after him, dumbfounded. More than a little aroused. Her mind is a whirl but there is one sharp thought lodged into its center, blazing brighter and brighter as time ticks by in that quiet corridor, measured by the racing beat of her heart.

 

She vows revenge.

 

✨✨✨

 

"Tallie," Rey says later that night as she and the other girls are preparing for bed, "could you teach me how to do my hair?"

 

And Tallissan Lintra claps and squeals, like she's spent all her years at Hogwarts waiting for Rey to ask her that.

Chapter Text

Finn does a double take mid-yawn when Rey enters the Gryffindor common room on Friday morning. "Er—"

 

"Surprise!" Tallie and Jess chorus, gesturing at an extremely self-conscious Rey as if they're a pair of sculptors unveiling their latest joint masterpiece.

 

Finn stares, dumbstruck, as do his roommates who have filed in out of the boys' wing behind him.

 

Rey's already regretting this.

 

She doesn't even know how to begin describing what Tallie's done to her hair. It's loose, hanging a little past her shoulders, parted more to the right. Tousled— "for that just-got-out-of-bed-look," the other girl had proclaimed, although Rey's pretty sure that her natural just-got-out-of-bed-look leans toward "ravaged by angry chipmunk" rather than "woke up at six in the morning to carefully not style every strand into place." A few sections have been slightly curled, too, so that glossy brown waves frame her face.

 

Which— her face.

 

Jess had taken the reins here, poking and prodding with brushes and tubes and tiny sticks until Rey no longer recognized the person goggling back at her in the mirror. Her eyes have been dramatically accentuated with smoky black liner. Her lashes are an inch longer than they used to be. Her cheekbones are— sharper, somehow. And on her lips shimmers the barest touch of peach-pink gloss.

 

"Blimey, Rey," says Gandris Dyun, "you look like— like a girl."

 

"Gandris!" Tallie chides. "For your information, Eurydice has always been a girl. I'm just happy she's finally embracing it."

 

"Better you than me, mate," Jannah mutters to Rey, elbowing through the small crowd that's at a standstill by the portrait hole. Rey watches her leave with no small amount of envy.

 

The truth of the matter is, Rey no longer thinks this is a good idea. She'd just wanted to... catch Solo off-guard, or something. Not that Tallie and Jess know that— they hadn't needed any reason to fuss over her, the request for hair styling tips a slippery slope into the uncharted territory of makeup. Her face is heavy with the various liquids and powders that have been smeared all over it, her own hair an alien thing that she has to resist the urge to tuck behind her ears or push away from her neck.

 

"Who're you getting all fancy for, Niima?" hoots Elliver Olim, and Rey can only hope that Jess' CC cream— whatever that is— is thick enough to hide her blush.

 

"She doesn't need to look nice for anyone but herself!" Jess snaps at Elliver, outraged. "Now, if you're all done being children—" She and Tallie place themselves on either side of Rey, looping an arm through each of hers and escorting her in that manner out of the common room.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey receives a lot of stares all throughout breakfast. She hates it. She knows it's more out of novelty rather than her suddenly becoming drop-dead gorgeous, and she can't even retie her hair into its usual three buns or get rid of the cosmetics until the day is over because people will definitely laugh then— and Tallie and Jess would be pissed off after all their hard work.

 

She'll just have to power through. Get today over and done with and never attempt anything like this ever again.

 

To add insult to injury, Professor Solo barely even glances her way when she enters his classroom. He's in waistcoat again, a checked dark gray number, its matching jacket hanging off the rack by the windows. The floor has been cleared of desks once more and he's in the process of rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt.

 

Rey vows that she won't stare at his forearms as they're exposed bit by bit, but it's really hard going.

 

"Good morning. Pair up and find a spot where you can stand ten feet across from each other and five feet away from other pairs," the D.A.D.A. instructor says as soon as the clock on the wall marks the start of first period exactly. "You have thirty minutes to attempt to land a nonverbal Stunning Spell on your partner while they try to nonverbally shield against it. Then you'll switch roles for another thirty minutes."

 

Oh.

 

Rey hates it whenever this happens.

 

Finn and Rose pair up, of course, and all around her everyone does the same while she waits for another person to have no choice but to pick her. Seff Hellin probably might've, but according to the other Ravenclaws he's in the hospital wing with a bad case of the mumblemumps.

 

The waiting is worse this time, because Rey's becoming more and more convinced that she resembles a clown who got into a pub fight.

 

There are no words to describe her humiliation when Solo starts looking around from the middle of the chamber, where he's casting expansion charms to give the seventh years more space to spread. "There are nineteen students here today, so I'll be the one to partner— ah." His gaze lands on her. "Miss Niima."

 

His expression is totally inscrutable, totally disinterested. She wants to cry as she walks over to him. She's always been the odd one out, and today she's the odd one out and she looks like a fool with raccoon eyes.

 

"If you do manage to stun your partner," Solo addresses the class as he and Rey take their positions, "wake them up with the Reviving Spell that we covered last month, then try again."

 

Merlin, Rey can't help but think, imagining Madame Kalonia's thunderous expression if she ever hears about this.

 

Without further ado, the duels begin. Solo nods at Rey from across the distance between them, which she takes as her cue to be the one to go on the offense.

 

The incantation for the Stunning Spell is Stupefy. She silently wraps all of her focus around this word as her arm lashes out in the prescribed movement, and red light bursts from the tip of her aspen wand.

 

Professor Solo shields himself with an ease that carries over into the next several minutes. At the periphery of her vision, more than a few people are dropping to the floor. Are being revived by classmates who look pleased with themselves and then nervous as their partner vows revenge. Some spells miss their target, crackling as they're absorbed into the warded walls and floors.

 

So it's not like the room is completely quiet, which only makes how quiet Rey and Professor Solo are being stick out all the more.

 

It's like the two of them are alone together in their own silence. No matter which angle she attacks from, no matter how fast she is, he's always faster, he's always able to anticipate her next move. Her red light crashes into his invisible barrier again and again and again, until sweat is dripping into her eyes.

 

The makeup that Jess had so carefully applied is surely running by now. Rey can feel it melting off her face.

 

It was a bad idea. It always had been. It's not like he cares.

 

He's her teacher. She's just a kid.

 

"Time," Professor Solo calls out after half an hour has gone by with Rey utterly failing to hit him at all. "A couple of pointers— I noticed that most of you are being too predictable. Don't attack from the same position twice in a row. In a real fight, you'd be leaving yourself open to a counteroffensive. As for the ones who are supposed to shield— you get hit because you don't move. Implement the footwork we went over. Defending yourself is as much about the physical flow of combat as it is about your magic."

 

Rey must truly be a rubbish opponent if he'd been able to observe the other pairs while she was trying to stun him. Before her soul can leave her body from the abject mortification of it all, he announces that it's time to switch roles.

 

Wonderful.

 

It's a miracle that Rey doesn't visibly gulp when Solo's dark eyes narrow at her in concentration. Quick as a whip, the Stunning Spell streaks through the air, barreling towards her. Protego, she thinks, to protect— protect me— and her hand is moving and magic is coursing down her arm and out the tips of her fingers and—

 

and the red light freezes a hair's breadth from the tip of her wand, disappearing in a flash as it is repelled by an invisible force.

 

Wow. Rey blinks, surprised but rather happy with herself. I actually did it. I—

 

Another streak of red comes flying at her.

 

And everything goes black.

 

✨✨✨

 

She opens her eyes and believes for a moment that he's an angel. She's somewhat horizontal— she can see the ceiling over his shoulder— and he's peering down at her with the lights of the chandelier gilding the waves of his sable hair at the edges.

 

Then she remembers what happened, and she thinks that he must be a devil, after all.

 

Rey's not fully horizontal. Her legs are flat along the floor, yes, but the upper half of her body is at an incline; Solo's lifted her up slightly, his arm curved at her spine as he kneels beside her, his wand pointed at her chest. It's what's supposed to be done when performing the Reviving Spell, but the tip of the hard wood is grazing her breast and she absolutely cannot function.

 

Because it's his wand. And she feels like such a small, meek thing, draped over this giant of a man's arm. His broad shoulders are the roof of her world.

 

"Can you stand?" he asks.

 

No, she thinks. Carry me. Carry me around forever.

 

"I won't know until I try, sir," she replies out loud.

 

His lips twitch. His dark eyes flash. He gets to his feet, lifting her to hers so effortlessly that she could almost faint from it, could almost fall back down from how weak in the knees his strength makes her.

 

He steps back, and the moment shatters.

 

"Never let your guard down while your opponent still has their wand," Solo advises. "Also, perhaps you could tie your hair back. Keep it out of your face while you duel."

 

Anger boils up her throat, sudden and red-hot. The kind of anger that can only come from both frustration and embarrassment. She wishes she'd never met him.

 

He moves back into position and lets loose with another Stunning Spell. She shields, then implements the footwork, blocking his next attack. Rinse and repeat. Over and over again, the two of them locked in a strange, lethal dance. It's not long before she notices the glistening beads of perspiration dotting his brow.

 

No. She can't dwell on him working up a sweat. That way lies madness. That way lies her own downfall.

 

He gradually amplifies the power of his spells. They crash into her shields, obliterating them instead of getting absorbed. That's fine. She conjures new, stronger ones on instinct, moving counter to him. It is its own kind of meditation, this rhythm they've fallen into. There's the ghost of a smile on his face as he pushes her magic and her body to the limit.

 

Neither of them notice that they've edged into the space of the pair to Rey's right until she bumps into Korr Sella just as Korr's partner, Doran, fires off a Stunning Spell. Rey hurriedly shields against it, leaving her left flank open to Solo's attack that he'd inadvertently sent her way at the same time as Doran.

 

Rey sees Solo's face drain of color as they both realize that she's going to get hit. There's no time to dodge, no time for the prescribed wrist movement necessary to recast the Shield Charm. Rey can only point her wand at the oncoming spell and shout the first incantation that filters to the surface of her mind.

 

"Expelliarmus!"

 

The Disarming Charm jets out of Rey's wand, meeting Solo's Stunning Spell in a blaze of red light.

 

And the weirdest thing happens.

 

Rey's wand starts vibrating.

 

She couldn't have let go even if she'd tried. Her fingers have seized up around the carved aspen handle as it thrums like it's been injected with bolts of electricity. The scarlet collision of the two spells fades away and then her and Solo's wands are connected by a single thread of brilliant golden light.

 

Everywhere else in the classroom, duels grind to an unceremonious halt, the other seventh years gawking at the sight. More splinters of golden light shoot out from the connecting beam in every direction, forming a webbed dome around Rey and Solo and the space between them.

 

She doesn't know what's happening. She only knows what she has to do to stop it.

 

It's an instinct. It's what the magic is telling her to do.

 

In order to break the cage, she has to overcome.

 

Power surges from her fingertips. She pushes the connecting beam towards Solo, her nose scrunched up with the effort. Sparks run down the length of the golden thread until they envelop the tip of his blackthorn wand.

 

His eyes widen as he appears to realize what she's doing. And then he—

 

lets it happen, resignation drawing his features taut.

 

There is a flash. Followed by the echoes of old spells curling through the air. This kind of effect, Rey is familiar with. The Auror hopefuls learned the Prior Incantato charm in sixth year, as it's a useful analytical tool for gathering clues and determining the guilty. The targeted wand is forced to reproduce the signature of the last spell it cast; here and now, though, within this dome of light, the results are magnified, showing what must be all the magic that Solo had performed today.

 

The spiky red signature of the Stunning Spell dances amidst nets of gold. Beside it is the soft silver mist of the Shield Charm. There's also the viscous blue swirl of a Calming Spell and a cloud-like purple signature that takes Rey a little longer to place— the reverse of the Supersensory Charm, it's a spell for dulling the senses. Finally, an arrowhead composed of black static that bears the distinct crackle of some form of Occlumency, the branch of magic that deals with walling off the mind and containing one's emotions.

 

What on earth had Solo used these last three spells for?

 

Before Rey can ponder this question any further, the effect lifts. Her wand stops shaking and all traces of the golden light disappear.

 

Her classmates are frozen in place, staring. The room's gone so quiet that Solo's low, contemplative tones are perfectly audible when he muses, "So that's what happens when twin wand cores attempt to duel. Needless to say, Miss Niima, our brief partnership is at an end. I'll reassign you next Friday."

 

✨✨✨

 

He asks her to stay behind after class again. She waves Finn and Rose off, then turns to face Solo, who's still standing in the middle of the empty room, meticulously rolling down his sleeves.

 

Rey is the first to break the silence. "You didn't fight it."

 

He quirks an eyebrow but says nothing, waiting for her to elaborate.

 

"When I pushed the magic at you," she clarifies. "You didn't... try to push it back, or—"

 

"I was uncertain what would happen if I did," he says, fiddling with the button on his cuff. She's seized by some crazy urge to walk over to him, to do it for him, but she stays where she is. "If you'd ended up getting injured— that would have required a lot of paperwork."

 

"More than if I'd injured you?"

 

"It would not have been my first magical injury."

 

She shouldn't read too much into his flippant choice of words or the carefully bland manner in which he says them, but she can't stop thinking about the last three spell signatures forced out of his wand. Calming. Dulling the senses. Controlling the emotions. It's as if all these dots are being handed to her on a silver platter but she lacks the ability to connect them.

 

In the end, Rey decides that it had been, in a way, oddly sweet of Solo to spare her from an unknown fate. Although he'd most likely just been doing his duty as a teacher.

 

"What did happen, anyway?" she asks. "It was similar to Prior Incantato—"

 

"I'll have to look it up. The subtle laws of wands are not my field of expertise. In any case, that's not what I wanted to discuss with you." He finally meets her gaze head-on. "I'd like to apologize for last Tuesday."

 

It all comes back to her in a rush— his massive body caging hers against the wall, the way he'd growled. Her mind blanks. "Sir?"

 

The line of his mouth tightens for a split second. Then— "My father's injury is something of a sensitive issue. We didn't have the best of relationships in the past, so there's a lot of baggage there. I reacted inappropriately when you brought it up. It won't happen again."

 

A tiny voice in Rey's head whispers that she wouldn't mind overly much if it did. She determinedly quashes it. "I'm sorry, too. For snooping. It was none of my business."

 

Solo nods. They're back to simply looking at each other, the air charged with an unfinished heaviness.

 

After a while, he clears his throat. "Your—" He motions vaguely— "your, ah, eyeliner..."

 

He trails off as Rey stares at him just completely crippled by panic. Sighing, he conjures a hand mirror and holds it up to her so that she can see her reflection.

 

The sweat from the duel has smudged her eyeliner something fierce. She looks like she'd been punched in the left eye and like she's weeping black tears from the right. The CC cream is streaking, too. Her loose hair is a fright, damp and scraggly and sticking up at odd angles.

 

She's definitely never doing this again.

 

To Solo's credit, he doesn't say a word as Rey hastily combs her fingers through her hair and pats it down into some semblance of order. He continues holding the mirror for her as she conjures a handkerchief and frantically rubs until all the makeup is gone.

 

Her skin feels raw afterwards. A fresh wave of unshed tears threatens to emerge. This is the worst day of her life.

 

Solo banishes the mirror. He studies her scrubbed-clean face with that usual twitch at the corner of his lush mouth. She braces herself for another sarcastic quip.

 

"There they are, Miss Niima," he says.

 

She gazes up at him, confused.

 

There's a softness in his eyes when he explains. It's a softness that makes her wonder if that smile of his that's trying to break free might be genuine.

 

"Your freckles."

Chapter Text

The first time Rey Niima masturbates to thoughts of her Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, it's late afternoon of the next day and she's all warm from the copious amounts of butterbeer that she'd imbibed with Finn and Rose at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

 

Butterbeer has a low alcohol content so she's not exactly in a stupor, but she is edging very slightly into tipsy. Rey's a lightweight. She doesn't drink in the Muggle world. But butterbeer is magical, which means it can't hurt. The magical world doesn't hurt, and it never will.

 

Still, she always paces herself more cautiously than the other seventh years, and she's disavowed anything stronger since the glass of firewhisky she'd first tried at seventeen had smelled too much like the stains on the couch in her parents' living room.

 

Upon returning to Hogwarts, Finn and Rose cheerily reach a consensus that it would be a shame to not enjoy the remaining daylight hours by going for a walk along the shores of the Black Lake. Rey takes one look at the longing glances that her best friends are not so subtly casting in each other's direction and she just— hightails it out of there, saying that she has to go study and she'll see them at dinner.

 

To be perfectly honest, she's a little relieved to finally be alone. Ever since that fateful D.A.D.A. lesson yesterday morning, her classmates have been grilling her nonstop about her and Solo's twin wand cores. Finn and Rose, in particular, think it's a hoot, given the already matching Patronuses, and they keep wondering aloud what it means and Rey keeps snapping at them that she has no idea.

 

Because she really doesn't. And every time what happened in class gets brought up, her single brain cell immediately fixates on what happened after. Professor Solo's large fingers doing up the buttons on his cuffs. The droplets of sweat that trickled tantalizingly down his pale temples. The way his dark hair had been just the slightest bit mussed, and damp.

 

The soft look in his eyes when he mentioned that her freckles had reappeared.

 

He'd probably meant nothing by it. Teasing her as always.

 

But still— still— and it is the diabolical stroke of cruelest misfortune that she runs into him on her way back to the castle. He's with Headmaster Kenobi and two other teachers— Poe Dameron and Jyn Erso-Andor. They look like they're coming from Chewie's hut, but it could just as easily be the Forbidden Forest.

 

Rey hasn't had a class with the Flying instructor since first year, but she and Dameron have frequently been at odds throughout the entirety of her time at Hogwarts. He considers her the most problematic Quidditch player to ever cast a shadow on his pitch. She thinks he's the worst referee in the history of the sport.

 

"Miss Niima." He nods at her coolly.

 

"Professor Dameron," she grunts.

 

"I do so love the nurturing environment of mutual respect here at our fine institution," Obi-Wan says brightly. "Hello, Eurydice. Just got in from Hogsmeade, I take it?"

 

Rey nods. Professor Solo is hanging back from the rest of the group, as tall as a tower looming on the horizon as he stares fixedly at a point over her shoulder. His pale features seem to gradually become even more indecipherable as she watches, and she gets the oddest notion into her head— the notion that he has a mask that he keeps somewhere inside him, and he slips it on whenever the need arises.

 

But why would he have need of it now?

 

She's so busy studying him that it takes her a while to realize Obi-Wan is still talking.

 

"... kind enough to reply to my owl yesterday. After cracking the books, he has determined that it's apparently called the Reverse Spell effect."

 

Rey has no idea what the headmaster's on about at first. She frantically pieces context clues together. Solo must have told Obi-Wan what happened in class, and Obi-Wan must have written to San Tekka about it, keeping the wandmaker updated as per his request.

 

"So it is like the Prior Incantato charm, then?" Rey shoots a triumphant glance at Solo.

 

"Yes," Obi-Wan confirms. "Priori Incantatem. Among wandlore experts, it's currently being attributed to some kind of resonance between the two genetically alike cores."

 

"It's so interesting," Jyn says, and Rey wonders if the entire faculty knows. For a brief moment she's plunged into a waking nightmare where her teachers gossip about her and Solo's wands over cups of tea in the staff lounge. "But, of course," Jyn continues, turning to Solo, "it must put a damper on dueling sessions, I imagine."

 

"It does," he agrees. "Miss Niima and I will no longer be dueling each other for the remainder of the term." His lips curve into the faintest of wry smiles. "Which is probably a blessing for me, because she's good enough to be capable of dealing some serious damage."

 

The other teachers look at her, impressed, although Dameron does so with slightly more reluctance. Rey's eyes drop to the ground. She's as still as a statue, or perhaps she's assumed the shape of her doe Patronus and is poised to flee. Before Hogwarts, she'd been the nuisance at home, the poorest of the poor kids at school— she never learned how to deal with compliments.

 

Coming from him, it's almost too much to bear.

 

"She's quick on her feet and her spellwork is precise." Solo's tone is neutral. It's nothing more than a professional assessment. It makes the blood in Rey's veins thrum like crazy. "If she attains the required N.E.W.T.s, I believe she would be a credit to the Auror program."

 

"I'll put in a word with Cassian, then," says Jyn. "They're sending out recruitment feelers in a few months. Keep up the good work, Miss Niima."

 

Jyn's husband is the head of the British Auror Office. Rey's more than a little floored by the realization that Solo had talked her up just now. She can't figure out why he'd do something like that.

 

The teachers resume the walk to the castle— and Rey has no choice but to walk with them. She wouldn't have, but Jyn and Obi-Wan look at her expectantly because she is so very obviously heading inside as well, and as she falls into stride with them they chat about her classes and the weather and if she's excited for the first Quidditch game of the season. She answers as politely as she can, but the whole thing is... stilted. She can barely manage small talk with schoolmates who aren't Finn and Rose as it is— what more with her professors, and with her mind all floaty from Solo's presence and the butterbeer.

 

Eventually, Jyn and Obi-Wan give up on her, which— thank Merlin, but maybe not, because she allows herself to lag behind, her steps slowing—

 

and Solo, who's bringing up the rear, walks into her.

 

It's like being bumped into by fucking Treebeard.

 

Rey stumbles. A pair of strong hands catch her by the waist before she can hit the ground, hauling her up against a rock-solid, impossibly broad frame.

 

Professor Solo is so warm. He surrounds her completely, her own personal, sandalwood-scented furnace. The world doesn't fade away but it becomes less real, and there is only him and his racing heart as it thunders along her spine.

 

His fingers span the entirety of her waist. Rey can't help herself. She gasps at the realization. A sharp intake of breath that's soon mirrored by a frustrated hiss of air between her teacher's teeth that sounds so close— oh, so close— to her ear before he takes a step back.

 

He's probably annoyed that she got in his way.

 

His left hand slides down her hip as he lets go of her.

 

It's an accident. She knows it's an accident. But that doesn't stop her from melting at the fleeting sensation of that huge, burning hot palm curving over the jut of her hip. That doesn't stop her from sinking her teeth into her lower lip, both because it feels good and because she has to bite back a moan at just how good it feels.

 

It doesn't stop her from wanting to look back at him, from wanting to see his face...

 

But she can't. Quick as a flash, he's moving forward, his long, brisk strides carrying him past her. She's hurrying to catch up before she knows it, before she can think twice. "Professor Solo—" she calls out to him, her mind a whirl of scattered thoughts, her nerves abuzz— "wait—"

 

He stops and turns around. So slowly, so reluctantly, his hands shoved into his pockets. She's always bothering him— in truth, he must have the patience of a saint.

 

The other teachers are well ahead of them now, too preoccupied chatting with one another to notice what's going on. No one except Rey knows that she's tipsy, that she's wet between her legs, that Solo's scrutiny is making her feel like a butterfly pinned to a board as she comes to a stop in front of him.

 

No one can ever know.

 

"Thank you," she says, "for your help with—"

 

"You helped yourself," he firmly cuts across. "I didn't tell Jyn anything I failed to observe with my own eyes. There's no need to thank me. You deserved it. You are very good, Miss Niima."

 

Her soul glows at his praise. She nods, having forgotten how to speak, and then there's nothing left to do but walk with him as they catch up to Headmaster Kenobi and Professors Erso-Andor and Dameron.

 

Upon reaching the Entrance Hall, Rey opens her mouth to bid her teachers a good day, only to snap it shut when Obi-Wan speaks first. "By the way, Eurydice— I'll be making a formal announcement, but while I have you here... Please do kindly stress to your friends that the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds. We are currently dealing with a nasty erkling infestation. They can shoot darts at unsuspecting passersby, you know."

 

"Erklings," Rey echoes blankly.

 

That would explain the singing she'd heard that night. They're small creatures, but a chorus of an infestation's worth of them could probably carry all the way across the grounds.

 

What it doesn't explain is Chewbacca's gigantic crossbow on that other night, because erklings are three feet tall at most.

 

Then again, if she's remembering Chewie and Solo's conversation correctly, the staff hadn't determined what they were dealing with yet. And it's not too far-fetched that the centaurs' omens would speak of doom, since erklings are evil and they eat children.

 

Which is very sad and all, but Rey can't care less at the moment. She just wants to be alone with the storm of her thoughts, and if she spends another second standing near Professor Solo she's going to burst into flames.

 

Rey says goodbye to her teachers and scurries off to Gryffindor Tower. She's flushed all the way to the tips of her toes in a manner that has nothing to do with the butterbeer. Her entire body is overly sensitized; despite it being autumn, she's wearing a skirt today because her usual weekend jeans are in the wash and her bare thighs rub together with every step she takes and it's maddening. Her breasts feel almost swollen from how aware she is of them, each scrape of her nipples against her bra enough to coax a whimper higher and higher up her throat. A whimper that she doesn't release until she barrels into the thankfully deserted Gryffindor common room, the Fat Lady's portrait swinging shut behind her.

 

This is her comeuppance. It surely is. She's never been attracted to anyone before and has in fact often scoffed at her hormone-addled classmates over the years. And now it's all crashing down on her. A dam that's been unleashed.

 

Her dorm room is empty. She'd known it would be; Jannah, Tallie, and Jess always opt to take the last carriages back to school on Hogsmeade weekends. They'll be gone for at least another couple of hours.

 

Professor Solo's compliments have been on loop in Rey's head since she left the Entrance Hall, and now they're amplified in the silence. He thinks she's good enough. He thinks she's quick on her feet. Precise. Deserving.

 

You're very good, Miss Niima.

 

Rey unhooks her bra and slips it off without removing her shirt. It had been Rose who taught her how to do this. She kicks off her shoes and collapses into bed, sprawling out flat on her back. Everything about this is wrong, and wild. She doesn't care. She's burning up. Later, she'll blame the butterbeer for her lowered inhibitions. She'll blame her own hyperfocus on Solo's deep, rumbling voice telling the other teachers that she's worthy of the magic she'd been given, moments before his hands encircled her waist as if she were the daintiest, tiniest thing.

 

You deserved it.

 

With a complete and utter lack of ceremony, Rey slips a shaking but determined hand into her underwear. She stares up at the ceiling, her breath hitching as her fingertips run slick with arousal. Shit. She'd known she was wet earlier out on the grounds, but she hadn't realized just how much until her middle finger meets no resistance when she pushes it in.

 

She's heard other girls talk. A lot of them prefer to take it slow at first, prefer to tease themselves. Rey doesn't see the point. She gets too impatient when she tries, and the end goal is the same in any case. There's no use drawing it out.

 

She adds a second finger and sets about to finding her rhythm. This, she learned how to do herself, locked up in her room at the council flat to keep out of her parents' way and the inside of her skin blooming roses of heat that it took her a while to understand.

 

Her fantasies have always been nameless. Have always been shapeless, almost. Just someone touching her instead of her touching herself, just someone holding her gently like in that dream by the lake. Just someone, anyone, to be with.

 

This time, though, it's Ben Solo she's imagining. She remembers that hard, unyielding body meeting the back of hers not even an hour ago. Pure muscle. He would be pure muscle— he has to be, given how his shirt buttons strain against his chest. She would sit on his lap and feel so small and surrounded and safe and he would pick her up by the waist like she weighed nothing, then drop her down on his—

 

Rey blushes and shivers, her eyes fluttering shut as her thumb curls into her palm, the knuckle pressing against her clit. Her spine arches and her free hand frantically rucks her shirt up over her breasts, fingers fumbling with her nipples in a graceless, unthinking bid for more stimulation. He would be big down there, too. It would be a very tight fit, but she'd take all of it, and he would be hot and hard and thick inside her as he pants harshly in her ear.

 

Very good, Miss Niima.

 

She already knows what he'd sound like saying this. He'd told her earlier. She doesn't have to imagine it at all. She's quick on her feet and she's precise and she's deserving. She's a good girl. She can be such a good girl for him.

 

Rey moans. Her fingers work faster. She's so close.

 

She pictures his strong forearms encircling her slight frame while he fucks her. Would he be gentle or rough? She thinks that she might like it a little rough. She thinks that his brown eyes might light up when she shows him that she can take it, she thinks that the ghost of a slight smile might soften the line of his mouth the way it had during their duel when he'd seen what she was capable of. Her questing fingers graze that sensitive spot inside her that she only ever manages to find by accident sometimes and stars begin to explode in the darkness behind her closed lids.

 

She's sweating. Her wrist aches. Her nipples are sore from being pinched and tugged at. But she's almost there and she deserves this. Professor Solo had told her so. She's deserving. Good girls deserve to come.

 

Come for me, Miss Niima.

 

Rey's so caught up in her fantasy that she practically hears him say it. As if he's there in the room with her.

 

"Yes, sir," she whimpers out loud.

 

And her orgasm hits her like a tidal wave.

 

She gasps as the world shatters into a million pieces, her hips spasming against her hand. She writhes in obeisance to the bright, white-hot pleasure that rolls all over her body. She soaks her underwear through.

 

She thinks about Ben Solo kissing her neck as she slumps against him, all worn out and thoroughly used. So good, he would murmur. Such a good girl. So pretty when you come.

 

Rey falls back against the mattress, her breathing slow and ragged like she's run a mile. The aftermath of such an intense physical experience guts her like it always does. She needs to be held. She needs someone to say they love her.

 

But there isn't anyone she can turn to for that sort of thing. That's why she's alone in her dorm, why she'd hurriedly rubbed one out to a weird daydream about her bloody professor before her roommates come back.

 

She winces as she slips her fingers out, wiping them dry on the sheets. She'll have to cast some cleansing charms. Wash herself, then change into a fresh pair of knickers. But first she takes some time to turn onto her side, burying her face in the pillow as she sniffles into it, a few tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.

 

I'm so lonely, Rey thinks. Her mind is no longer racing. It's oddly calm, and bleak. So, so lonely.

 

✨✨✨

 

The end of October draws near, bringing with it the chill and the damp. The Gryffindor team throws itself into Quidditch practice with renewed fervor. The homework and the quizzes pile up. The pumpkins outside Chewie's hut grow and grow to impossible sizes as he tends them in preparation for the annual Halloween feast. The students speculate about the erkling infestation in the Forbidden Forest.

 

Professor Solo is polite, yet distant. He no longer duels in class— he'd paired Rey up with Seff Hellin once the latter recovered from the mumblemumps and he now sticks to simply observing the seventh years, walking around deflecting stray spells and doling out critique while he's at it.

 

By the time the thirty-first of October rolls around, Rey's masturbated while thinking about him four more times.

 

It's getting to be a problem. She can hardly look at him in class anymore. Which seems to suit him just fine, because he apparently has no problem only barely acknowledging her existence.

 

Halloween this year falls on a Thursday. Chewie dismisses his Care of Magical Creatures class early so that he can start lugging the pumpkins up to the castle for the feast.

 

"We've got a couple of hours to kill before dinner— want to explore the Room of Hidden Things some more?" Finn asks Rey as they wait for Rose to pack up her things and join them by the fence.

 

Rey's about to say yes— it does sound like fun— but right at that moment Rose skips over and Finn immediately takes his girlfriend's book bag for her, slinging it over his own shoulder.

 

It's such a simple thing that Rey has watched him do dozens of times before, but today, for some reason, it stabs at her heart.

 

"You lot go on ahead," she says. "I think I might take a quick walk before heading up for a nap."

 

"All right, see you at the feast, then," Rose says amiably. Her dark eyes twinkle. "Maybe you'll meet a tall, dark, brooding figure coming up out of the fog."

 

"You never should have let her watch those Muggle movies at your house the summer before sixth year," Rey grumbles to Finn. "She's obsessed."

 

"Oi, you were the one who put on Pride and Prejudice, not me," Finn retorts with a laugh.

 

Rey snorts and waves Finn and Rose off, turning away before she can see them hold hands. It is quite a bit foggy this afternoon, the sky overcast, and she performs a warming charm on herself to keep out the worst of the cold as she skirts around the borders of the Forbidden Forest, its shadowy tangle of trees wreathed silver at the edges by curls of smoke-like mist.

 

She pauses to take stock of the eerie scene, thinking about the erklings lurking deep within the branches. She wonders if she'll hear them sing again. Most of the student populace have taken to avoiding going near the woods and the more paranoid ones wear ear plugs when they're out on the grounds, but, at eighteen, Rey's no longer considered a child under magical law. She should be immune.

 

Theoretically.

 

She decides to start moving away, just in case.

 

Before she can take so much as a single step, though, something furry brushes against her leg.

 

Rey starts. It's automatic, how she kicks the thing away from her before she can see what it is.

 

An outraged yowl pierces the air, more annoying than nails scraping on a chalkboard. A pair of yellow eyes glare at her through the fog.

 

"Oh, bother— you were the one getting underfoot," Rey snaps at Unkar Plutt's cat.

 

Mr. Pancakes hisses at her.

 

"Shoo!"

 

The obese feline yowls again and then— to Rey's complete disbelief— he scampers off into the woods, his broad, fluffy tail the last she sees of him as he's swallowed up by the undergrowth.

 

Oh, bother.

 

No matter how much she hates this stupid cat, Rey decides that she cannot in good conscience allow him to get eaten by erklings or hippogriffs or giant spiders— especially since it would be kind of her fault, because she'd kicked him and shooed him away.

 

Not to mention that Plutt would take it out on the students if his cat goes missing.

 

She'll be quick about it. Mr. Pancakes can't have gotten very far and he's too fat to climb up a tree. She'll just dart in and either stun or immobilize him and bring him back to the castle with no one the wiser.

 

Her mind made up, Rey gives chase. The mists part before her as she vanishes into the Forbidden Forest.

Chapter Text

The Forbidden Forest is old and vast. It had been around even before Hogwarts castle was built in the tenth century, and its trees are considered ancient. A tangle of beech and oak and pine and sycamore and yew, growing closely enough together to block out what’s left of the daylight. The cool, damp darkness swallows Rey whole.

 

Lumos, she thinks, and her wand produces a tiny orb of bluish white light. It’s barely enough to see by, but she can’t risk enlarging it— it’s conspicuous enough as it is, and the forest is home to creatures far bigger and more dangerous than erklings. In their second year, she and Finn and Rose had gone exploring and they’d run into an acromantula; that had been one for the books.

 

There’s a path, though— if Rey had just stuck to it, she wouldn’t be overly worried.

 

Unfortunately, Mr. Pancakes’d had other ideas. The little gremlin had proven surprisingly and frustratingly adept at dodging her stunners as he ventured further inward. As a result, it’s been roughly an hour since she’d given chase and she has no idea where she is. The path is a distant memory.

 

The one saving grace is that Mr. Pancakes is so fat that he makes a lot of noise. Thus, it’s easy for Rey to keep track of him even when he vanishes from sight. All she has to do is follow the sound of rustling leaves and twigs being crunched underfoot.

 

When she finally catches up to him, it’s because he’s gone still. His white-socked paws are tucked under him, haunches curled up, ears laying back and flat against his head. His yellow eyes are as wide as dinner plates, shining in the wandlight.

 

“There you are, you stupid cat,” Rey mutters, picking him up. He is unresisting but tense, as if prepared to leap at any moment. “Merlin’s beard, you’re heavier than—”

 

Something crashes through the trees up ahead.

 

Rey freezes.

 

Nox, she thinks, and the orb of light vanishes. She's completely in the dark now, Mr. Pancakes all but dead weight in her arms.

 

Something roars softly, then starts to sing as it roots around in the undergrowth. It's a grotesque parody of a human voice, and it is most definitely not an erkling. Professor Veers had taught the words to the erkling chant for identification purposes last year— "Into darkness, taking flight, whispers on the wings of night, follow us, our lovely tune, as above the smiling moon..."— but this one isn't in any language that Rey recognizes.

 

She’s not doing Gryffindor House any credit, being as scared as she is, but the song is like a blade trailing down her spine, sharp and arctic.

 

The thing is several feet away. Even if it can see in the dark like so many other forest creatures, she’s obscured from its sight by tree trunks and vegetation the same way it’s obscured from hers. She can probably inch away, right? She just has to be very quiet…

 

The song stops, replaced by gusty, rumbling sniffs.

 

The thing is scenting the air.

 

Rey breaks into a run.

 

There’s a roar behind her, and she immediately understands that the hunt is on.

 

She stumbles through the woods, thorns scratching at her legs. Mr. Pancakes is clinging to her shoulder, his claws gouging at her skin as he emits the most horrific, piteous wails, but they’re nothing compared to the noises of the massive, unknown beast trampling after them. A stitch blossoms in Rey’s side and her heart is bursting out of her chest, but she has no choice, she has to keep running—

 

The labyrinth of trees opens up into a clearing. The sun has already set, the cloudy sky dotted with the first stars. The mists shift in the twilight.

 

A branch snaps behind her. Mr. Pancakes hisses, his every hair standing on end.

 

Rey turns around slowly.

 

That’s when she sees the manticore.

 

It’s one of the wizarding world’s most dangerous creatures. She’s only ever encountered illustrations in books up until now. It’s the size of Chewie’s hut, with the tawny, muscular body of a lion and the segmented tail of a scorpion curved high to reveal the wickedly sharp stinger at the end, glistening with beads of lethal venom.

 

It bears a human face, masculine and bulbous, set amidst a mane of shaggy fur. It stares at her with hungry eyes, lips stretching into a fanged smile.

 

Manticores don’t speak as such, although they possess the apparatus to do so. They roar and they growl, and they sing when they stalk and eat their prey.

 

It leaps at her.

 

Rey points her wand at the beast in a rush of pure instinct, shouting the first incantation that comes to mind. “Stupefy!”

 

The stunner bounces harmlessly off the manticore’s flank.

 

Its skin is impervious to most magic— she’d forgotten.

 

There’s really nothing left to do but run some more.

 

Rey tears off, back into the trees, Mr. Pancakes screaming and clawing at her in panic. She’s bleeding, but the pain is secondary to the adrenaline. She fires off spell after spell behind her, sawing large branches off of trees to block the way, transfiguring the earth into mud and quicksand, bewitching shrubs and vines to grow and ensnare. Anything to slow down her pursuer, anything to buy her more time.

 

It starts to rain.

 

Just a drizzle at first, droplets of water spattering through the minuscule gaps in the forest canopy. But it gradually turns into a full-blown deluge.

 

Rey makes it to a grove of trees that’s all yew, their silhouettes twisting up to the sky in a frieze of gnarled shadows. She flattens herself against one of the thick, scaly trunks. Mr. Pancakes yowls again and she casts a Levitation Charm, boosting him up onto the nearest branch. At least he has the good sense to make himself scarce, squeezing into the tangle of leaves and vanishing from sight. The manticore won’t bother with a cat while a human— its preferred food— is around.

 

She strains her ears, listening for any sign of the creature’s approach over the howl of wind and rain. She needs help. She has no idea where the path is, has no idea how to get back to the castle.

 

No one knows she’s in the forest. Being hunted by a manticore.

 

She grips her wand tightly with shaking fingers. She concentrates, summoning the happiest thoughts she can manage. Professor Solo telling Jyn she’ll be a good Auror. Jyn promising to put a word in with Cassian Andor himself.

 

I’m going to get my N.E.W.T.s and then I’m going to work for the Ministry, Rey tells herself, squeezing her eyes shut as rainwater mixes with tears on her cheeks. I’ll have my very own little house, my very own bank account. I’m going to be an Auror. There is a life waiting for me after Hogwarts. There is a life waiting for me after tonight.

 

Expecto Patronum.

 

Her silver doe materializes, gleaming in the wet dark as brightly as if it’s spun from moonlight.

 

“Find Ben Solo,” Rey commands, through the lump in her throat, through the chattering of her teeth. “Tell him I’m in the Forbidden Forest. In a yew grove.”

 

The doe’s velvety ears twitch and then it springs away, bounding up high over the treetops and leaving a starry trail in its wake. She watches until there’s nothing left of it to see.

 

Rey crouches down, making herself as small as possible. She sorely regrets discarding her outer robes after class; the rain is falling so hard that it almost cuts her exposed skin like glass and she’s cold and miserable, her legs and arms scratched to hell and back by thorns and Mr. Pancakes’ claws.

 

The good thing is that she appears to have given the manticore the slip for now. The sheer number of yew, concentrated in about an acre of land, will offer some measure of protection. “It’s a common misconception that yew trees are symbols of death, because they’re found in graveyards,” the Herbology professor Larma D’Acy had told Rey’s class back in their first year. “But what they actually stand for is rebirth. They are neither good nor evil; they keep the balance. They can be used to ward. These are very powerful trees.”

 

Rey conjures a silver dagger. It’s slippery in her grasp due to the rain, but she’s able to carve a single rune into the trunk— two spread wings centered on a star. The symbol of the phoenix, the glyph of protection against the evil eye. As a class, Study of Ancient Runes leans more toward the theoretical, but it’s not as though she’s overflowing with a wealth of ideas as to how to get out of this predicament. Even if carving a warding rune on a yew tree doesn’t work, it’s better than doing nothing.

 

She banishes the dagger and she waits. The rain falls in sheets. It gets darker and chillier still.

 

Her heart skips a beat when she hears the manticore again. It’s unable to scent her right away due to the storm, but it’s prowling around. Its song threads softly through the cacophony of the elements.

 

It’s getting nearer. Rey chokes back a sob even as she runs through defensive spells in her head, preparing them. Magic won’t penetrate its skin but if she can hit its eyes, or the inside of its open mouth…

 

She feels so small. So small and so cold and so alone. Her head is filled with the fear that she will die this way.

 

Suddenly— footsteps. The sound of running. A brief scuffle, followed by the unmistakable whoosh of a spell flying through the air.

 

The manticore screams in pain. It could almost pass for human, but it’s a bit too raspy and echoing at the edges to actually be so.

 

The next voice to cry out into the night and the rain and the wind is definitely human, though, and she places its owner at once.

 

Rey!”

 

She hadn’t even known that he knew her nickname. She hadn’t even considered that he’d paid attention when other students called her that in class.

 

Rey scrambles out from behind the tree, firing off a a shower of red sparks from the tip of her aspen wand that will point Solo to her location. In response, an orb of light blazes into existence several feet away and then she sees him, caught in its bluish white glow as he runs toward her. He's in a white shirt and a black tie and suit trousers, but no jacket or robes. She thinks that he must have been in the middle of dressing for the feast when her Patronus found him.

 

He reaches her just as the snarling face of the manticore looms up from the gloom beyond his shoulder.

 

Rey acts fast, shooting off the Conjunctivitis Curse. The manticore stumbles back, its eyes swelling shut. Its side is mangled, a mess of boils and singed fur. Some kind of acid spell— and Dark, by the looks of it. Rey grabs Solo’s arm and tugs him into the shade of the yew tree where she’d carved the phoenix glyph.

 

They make it just as the manticore’s healing abilities kick in. The skin on its side starts to smoothen out as it blinks at them with eyes as good as new. And then it lunges—

 

And stops.

 

“What the...” Solo glances around the yew tree in confusion as the beast takes to circling it, unwilling or unable to come closer. Rey watches her teacher’s dark eyes land on the rune in the trunk, then flicker to her. “You need a silver dagger to achieve a warding of this potency.”

 

“I know,” Rey says. “I conjured one.”

 

He stares at her.

 

It’s actually a little ridiculous how gobsmacked he appears, given the situation. He shakes his head as if to clear it.

 

Rey gestures at the manticore. “That is not an erkling.”

 

“Perhaps we can discuss Obi-Wan’s fear mitigation techniques another time,” Solo retorts. “This ward won’t hold for long— and once we fire an offense spell from within its perimeter, it will break. Rey, listen to me.”

 

She does, turning away from the beast to gaze up at him. Drenched with rainwater, his dark hair is plastered to his pale, narrow face. His eyes are burning, intent, but right now he’s the safest thing she knows.

 

“I’ll teach you a curse. We have to cast it at the same time— according to my research, our twin wand cores will increase its power tenfold and we should be able to kill this thing, but we have only one shot at it. You have to get it right on the first try. Can you do that for me?”

 

She nods. He’d come barging into the Forbidden Forest to save her. She won’t fail him.

 

Solo talks her through the spell. She practices the incantation first, followed by the wand movement. All the while the manticore surrounds them, prowling back and forth, scorpion tail flicking, human face sneering. Humming softly.

 

“Ready?” Solo asks.

 

“Yes.”

 

They move in unison, mirrors of each other, aiming their wands at the lumbering shape in the dark. The incantation is Sectumsempra, it rolls off of Rey’s tongue as her wrist slashes through the air in tandem with Professor Solo’s.

 

The magic courses through her veins and flows out her fingers, into feather and aspen, and then into the air, where it emerges as a burst of blinding white light, side by side with the one from Solo's wand, the two beams merging.

 

Rey feels the exact moment that the ward disintegrates, and the manticore notices, too. It lunges at them, swift as lightning. The combined curse hits it square in the chest.

 

The magic is so powerful that it slams the creature to the ground. The effect is terrifying, and immediate. Multiple lacerations knit through the leonine form, opening wider and wider until the creature's fur is awash in so much inky blood that even the heavy downpour fails to wash all of it away. The manticore moans and writhes on the grass. More blood pours out of its wounds. Those all too human eyes go glassy and unseeing, a slimy tongue lolling out of a fanged mouth.

 

It's dead. Rey is transfixed by the corpse. She'd done it.

 

She'd killed a manticore.

 

Well— with Solo's help.

 

And speaking of Solo…

 

“You’re bleeding.”

 

She hears rather than sees him say it. She’s still looking at the dead creature, its limp form being battered by the rain in the meager wandlight.

 

“The cat,” she murmurs, dazed as the exhaustion of the last few hours sets in. “Plutt’s cat, I mean— he ran into the woods so I went after him. He scratched me.”

 

Solo makes no response. Rey tears her gaze away from the fallen manticore to peer up into the shadowy branches of the yew. “He should still be up there, we need to find a way to get him down—”

 

Her sentence cuts off on a sharp intake of breath as Solo abruptly steps into her personal space. Again. He really likes doing that, it seems.

 

He also really likes scowling down at her. Only this time the mask is nowhere to be found. His face is drained of all color, the features tense with some barely contained fury. His dark glare cuts sharper than any knife.

 

Rey lifts her chin in defiance, although she doesn’t know why.

 

“Am I given to understand,” Solo bites out, “that a girl who could use the Patronus Charm to send a message, who knew that a ward could be constructed from silver and yew and the phoenix rune—” His every syllable is dangerously soft, but easy to hear over the pouring rain because he’s standing so close to her— “a girl who pulled off an esoteric Dark curse on her first try— are you telling me that this same girl was somehow also so lacking in common sense and self-preservation instinct that she went into the Forbidden Forest to chase after a cat?”

 

Rey’s own temper starts to spike. “First of all, Obi-Wan said it was an erkling infestation. We were taught how to deal with those Dark creatures in sixth year, and since I’m of age I assumed I’d be immune from their lure. If the faculty had just been honest from the start—”

 

“We didn’t want to cause a panic,” Solo interrupts. “We’ve been hunting the manticore since the first week of term, and on our third encounter with it Obi-Wan was able to obtain the blood necessary for a containment hex. It could not leave the forest. You would have been safe if you’d just followed the rules and stayed out.”

 

“Suppose I should’ve just let Mr. Pancakes get eaten, then—”

 

“It’s a cat! Furthermore, its name is Mr. Pancakes, which— don’t even get me started on how stupid that is— it’s a fucking cat!” Solo’s raised his voice only the slightest bit, and it’s somehow even all the more menacing for that. As if his rage is simmering, coiled, waiting to pounce. “It’s a fucking cat, and you could have died—”

 

“But I didn’t!” Rey shouts back.

 

“Only because you were able to get word to me. And why is that, Miss Niima?” With one long-legged stride he’s suddenly even closer, backing her up against the tree trunk. “You could have called for Obi-Wan. Or Mothma, your Head of House. But you sent your Patronus to me instead. Why?”

 

Rey swallows. The yew’s ridged, scaly bark digs into her back. “I don’t know—”

 

Solo’s mask is off. His eyes are wild. “I think you do,” he growls.

 

And Rey only has the space of a heartbeat to realize that she’s in trouble— to realize that none of the dangers the manticore had posed can compare to what Ben Solo can wreak— before his hands are slamming into the tree trunk on either side of her head, caging her in, and his lips are crashing into hers in a hard, fierce kiss that tastes like rainwater and Dark magic. A kiss that is every bit as tumultuous as the roaring, windswept night that surrounds them both.

Chapter Text

It's Rey's first kiss.

 

There are so many things wrong with it.

 

The fact that it's her professor she's kissing. The fact that they're caught in a storm in the middle of the woods.

 

The fact that there's a Class XXXXX beast lying dead only a few feet away, ripped apart by the Dark spell that they'd both cast.

 

Everything about this is wrong.

 

And yet—

 

She can't stop. Can't bring herself to pull away from him. Solo's lips are the softest thing she's ever felt but how they bruise, taking and taking, the warmest spot in all this rain.

 

No, more than warm— he is an inferno, devouring her whole.

 

It's such an angry kiss, too. It's almost like he's punishing her, and that in itself makes her squirm. She'd have toppled over without the yew tree at her back. He licks at the seam of her lips and they part in surprise and he gives her no quarter, advancing ruthlessly, and just like that Professor Solo's tongue is in her mouth. Doing absolutely filthy things inside it that she doesn't have the words to describe.

 

Rolling, pulsing, flicking motions.

 

He's tasting her.

 

Rey doesn't know what to do with her hands, so she clutches at those sinewy forearms of his that are bracketing her throat, her blunt nails digging into wet sleeves and the rock-solid muscle underneath. She doesn't know what to do with her lips and her tongue, so she tries, desperately, to mimic his actions. And it's when she starts to respond that she hears his strangled groan.

 

Feels him push closer.

 

God, he's so tall. And big.

 

Maybe she'll get over it one day, but the chances are slim.

 

His tongue slides against hers in a rough caress at the same time that he wedges his knee between her thighs. The friction is— shocking. A rush to the head. She whines, grinding down in response to some age-old instinct. Her arms wind around his neck and he sinks his teeth into her bottom lip and, oh, she hadn't known that people could bite when they kiss, it's so sad that she's gone so long without knowing. His knee presses up harder against her and she's full-on gyrating now, her breath emerging in short, ragged bursts that he swallows up with his mouth, greedily, over and over again—

 

Rey comes.

 

It's a small orgasm. Fleeting. A tremor before an earthquake. A ripple of white heat blossoming in the depths of this stormy night. Professor Solo freezes as she writhes with it, slumping against the yew trunk, a sound caught between a whimper and a sigh bubbling up from her parted mouth.

 

He pulls away to stare at her. His jaw slack as a bead of rainwater drips off its sharp edge, his eyes dark and glittering. "Did you just..."

 

She nods, biting her lip. A slow flush heats her cheeks even as she holds his gaze with a touch of defiance. She wonders if he's going to laugh. Make fun of the sound she'd made, make fun of her shamelessness—

 

But then his control breaks further. It's fascinating to watch, the lingering stern bent to his shadow-stained features collapsing like a dislodged pile of bricks. He looks just as awed as when he found out she'd successfully warded the tree.

 

"Fuck," he mutters, raspy and low, and it's not long before he's leaning in close again, hiding his face in her neck. "Dirty girl." He rocks against her, something hard and thick rubbing at her abdomen— her mind blanks as she realizes he has an erection. Her knees all but give way. "Dirty, dirty girl."

 

Although the words are muffled into her skin, it's not difficult to tell that he sounds just as dazed as she feels. Just as drugged. His every syllable resonates down her nerve endings. Her eyes flutter shut as he starts kissing her neck, the sensation akin to a gliding sort of static shock at each point of contact. The tiny release he'd elicited has left her far from sated— she needs more, she needs to burst, to lose herself—

 

Solo's hands slip between their bodies. His large fingers fumble blindly with the buttons of her wet white blouse. Rey tugs at his drenched hair, urging him to make quicker work of it, shuddering every time he grazes the outline of her nipples that have hardened into little peaks. The rain has slowed to a drizzle, it's no longer beating on their forms like drums, no longer drowning out all the other more far-off noises...

 

That's why the pitiful feline cry that emanates from the yew branches overhead is so loud and jarring. It pierces the moment like a needle popping a balloon.

 

They stop.

 

Reality doesn't come back in bits and pieces. Instead, it hits with all the forcefulness of an icepick, the world growing cold.

 

I'm going to kill that sodding cat, is the first coherent thought that Rey can muster.

 

Solo's gone as still as a statue, his breath shallow against her neck, his fingers frozen around the third button of her blouse.

 

There's another cry from up the tree. More insistent, this time. Something inside Rey's chest shatters into a million splinters as Solo wrenches himself away from her, not meeting her eyes.

 

His voice, when he finally speaks, is gravelly, but also too loud in the sudden calm that rings through the forest in the wake of the storm. "Fix your..." He clears his throat, waving vaguely in her general direction. "Your blouse."

 

Rey's in autopilot mode. Her brain has switched to that in order for her to preserve what dignity she has left. She redoes her buttons clumsily, numb and hollow all the way to the tips of her fingers.

 

Solo squints up at the branches, then shoots off a nonverbal spell with unerring precision.

 

It's the Full Body-Bind. Limbs locked together, every single strand of fur frozen in place, yellow eyes narrowed in an unblinking, murderous glare, Mr. Pancakes drops down from the yew tree. He would have hit the ground with a thud if Solo hadn't caught him in a cloth sack conjured at the last possible second.

 

"We should head back to the castle," he tells Rey, slinging the sack none too gently over one shoulder.

 

He is distant, detached. His mask back on. She is ruined, inwardly reeling from having been so vulnerable one moment and then so inexorably pushed away the next.

 

She lets him lead the way to the path. She says nothing, and neither does he. The moon has emerged from behind the clouds and it spills down in nets of silver as they leave the yew grove and the manticore's corpse behind.

 

✨✨✨

 

It's the oddest thing, but she very nearly doesn't recognize Hogwarts castle when she sees it. The towering structure that looms in the distance, torchlight shining gold from its many windows beneath a dusting of stars, is at once alien and familiar. Like she's seeing it through new eyes.

 

The world has changed. She has changed— and the thing is, she can't tell whether she hates or welcomes it. Her stomach is all twisted up into knots as she and Professor Solo traipse across the grounds.

 

Without the trees to act as a buffer, the autumn wind rakes icy claws through her damp clothes. Her teeth start chattering.

 

Solo doesn't so much as glance at her even as his blackthorn wand flicks in her direction. A gray coat appears from out of nowhere, settling over her shoulders, and she hurriedly slips her arms into the sleeves.

 

It's his cloak, teleported from his wardrobe instead of simply being conjured. It's too big for her, she's practically swimming in it, but she clutches it tightly around her body, grateful for the warmth it provides.

 

It smells like him.

 

They stop walking and he turns to face her just outside the main doors of the castle. He takes in the sight of her and she knows she looks like a mess, her hair wet and disheveled, her lips bruised, his coat hanging all the way down to her bare shins, the cuffs of it dangling well past her wrists. His jaw clenches and his eyes dart to a point above her shoulder.

 

"Miss Niima." His tone is perfectly cool and composed, giving not even the faintest indication that he'd been calling her Rey earlier, that he'd muttered that she was a dirty girl as he kissed her neck while pinning her up against a tree. "Dark magic is very— it overwhelms the senses. The use of it clouds the mind. I am sure we can agree that what transpired in the forest was an aberration. It was severely inappropriate and unethical, and it was entirely my fault. I apologize. I promise you that it won't happen again. But..." He pauses long enough for her to glimpse the trace of resignation dancing beneath the surface of the mask. "Should you wish to report it to the headmaster, I will understand. We can go to him now and I'll accept the consequences."

 

Rey's dumbstruck. She hasn't even fully processed the whole thing yet and he's telling her to get him fired.

 

Solo mistakes her hesitation for something else. "You are blameless in this. I was the one who took advantage of your stress and your fear and your untrained response to the Dark Arts. There will be no sanctions for you, I will ensure that. There's no need to be afraid—"

 

"What if I want it to happen again?" she blurts out.

 

Putting her foot in her mouth as always.

 

His eyes flash. She holds her breath, thighs pressing together beneath his coat, beneath her skirt. Dangerous. He is so dangerous.

 

Then his full mouth presses into a hard line. "It cannot happen again, Miss Niima," he declares firmly. "It will not. You are my student."

 

And it's either the sudden flare of resentment makes her bold or she really must have a death wish, because—

 

"Thought I was your dirty girl," she grumbles, staring at her feet.

 

It's because her gaze is trained low that she sees his hand start to jerk towards her. Before he catches himself and balls it into a fist at his side.

 

She thinks about the echoes of spells that had shimmered to life in the D.A.D.A. classroom. Calming. Dulling the senses. Occlumency. She thinks about the way he sometimes falters when he's around her. The way he'd kissed her.

 

A man losing control.

 

There's a rich, sinuous thrill coursing through her system. He's using Occlumency to keep her out of his thoughts. He's using magic to stop himself from being affected by her.

 

Whatever she feels for him, he feels it, too.

 

He must not have had the time to build up his walls before rushing to her aid. Which would explain that angry, heated kiss. She's hardly the type to inspire a man to frenzies of lust, but if he's... attracted to her, suppressing it with magic would cause that feeling to pour out in a rush once the magic was no longer in place.

 

It must have been like a dam breaking.

 

Guilt is swift to follow Rey's delight. It's relatively harmless to be a student crushing on a teacher. But for a teacher to reciprocate, to act on it...

 

He's friends with Obi-Wan. He's the son of the MACUSA president.

 

She's quite capable of destroying his life, Muggleborn nobody that she is.

 

"I'm sorry." Rey lifts her chin so he can see her face. So he can see that she means it. "I shouldn't have said that."

 

"You shouldn't have," Solo agrees. He looks away again. The flickering torches cast strange shadows on his face. He seems... tired. Almost haunted.

 

"We don't have to tell anyone," she says. "We can just pretend it never happened." Her heart sinks at her own words, but she knows it's the right thing to do.

 

Brow wrinkling, he opens his mouth as if to protest, but she wastes no time in cutting him off. "Truth is, I don't really need the drama. I just want to get through seventh year in one piece. And you did save my life— I don't think you should be punished for that."

 

And I don't want you to have to go away.

 

The additional, unspoken sentiment pierces her with such bittersweet clarity. If he leaves now, he'll return to America and she'll never see him again. The prospect is unbearable.

 

Solo mulls it over for what seems like ages. At last, he offers a stiff nod. "If you're sure."

 

"I am."

 

"Very well." He pushes the door open, the ancient wood creaking. "After you, Miss Niima."

 

✨✨✨

 

They go to the hospital wing.

 

First things first, though, he drops the sack onto the stone tiles of the Entrance Hall and cancels the Full Body-Bind Curse on Mr. Pancakes, who immediately scurries off, unleashing a litany of complaints in the form of disgruntled meows all the while. Rey can still hear him even after he's vanished down the corridor.

 

"Stupid cat," Solo says under his breath.

 

Had the circumstances been any different, Rey would have smirked at this. As it is, however, her features seem to have frozen in on themselves. She's putting on a show of being okay.

 

Solo takes her to Madame Kalonia. Ever the workaholic, the healer's doing inventory at her desk while snacking on a plateful of carrot cake, pumpkin pasties, and caramel-coated apple slices that she must have brought back from the Great Hall. At the sight of the food, Rey's stomach grumbles.

 

She's missing the feast.

 

Her last ever Halloween at school, and she'd spent it pursued by a manticore and snogging her teacher in the Forbidden Forest.

 

"Professor Solo!" Madame Kalonia looks up from rolls of parchment. "You weren't at dinner—" Her eyes widen at the sight of the soaked-through and bedraggled new arrivals. "Miss Niima! Morgana's veil, what has happened?"

 

"We had a run-in with the manticore," Solo bluntly replies. "It's dead."

 

Madame Kalonia could not have looked more shocked had someone told her that Armitage Hux volunteered at soup kitchens in his spare time. "You killed the manticore? Just— just you two?"

 

"There was no time to call for reinforcements." Solo's head jerks in Rey's direction. "Miss Niima requires patching up. She was scratched."

 

"By the manticore?" Madame Kalonia leaps to her feet. "How is she not dripping blood everywhere—"

 

"No." Solo's lips twist in the mildest acknowledgement of the grim humor of the situation. "By Unkar Plutt's cat."

 

Tutting and shaking her head, Madame Kalonia summons a house-elf to send word to Obi-Wan. She then ushers Rey to a vacant bed and draws the curtains shut around them. Hidden from Solo's view, Rey perches on the edge of the mattress and is stripped of the coat and her blouse; she spends the next few minutes trying not to cry out loud from the sting of the dittany tincture that Madame Kalonia applies to the wounds on her arms and shoulders.

 

Professor Solo serves as a useful distraction in this regard. The fact that he's on the other side of the curtain renders the pain secondary; Rey can't help but stare at the shadow he casts on the white sheet of fabric, turned to her in profile, crisp in the bright golden light. She's practically half-naked and he's only a few feet away...

 

"Eurydice, dear, you're awfully flushed," Madame Kalonia remarks, pressing the back of her hand to Rey's forehead. "If the scratches are infected, the dittany will take care of that, but I should give you something for fever, just in case. You're so very red."

 

The Adam's apple of Solo's silhouette bobs in his throat. Rey sucks in a slow, shuddering hiss of breath, and it's not because of the dittany.

 

Obi-Wan, Mothma, and Hux arrive on the scene once Rey's been bandaged and redressed, and right as Madame Kalonia is pulling back the curtains.

 

"You just left it there?" Hux rounds on Solo. It's quite possibly the saddest that Rey's ever seen the Potions master look. "Manticore venom needs to be extracted within thirty minutes after death. Do you have any idea how valuable that ingredient is, how rare—"

 

"I do have some idea," Solo retorts, "given that you seem to be more concerned about it compared to a student's well-being."

 

"Miss Niima's fine." Hux's arctic gaze flickers to Rey with all the significance of an afterthought. "Aren't you fine?"

 

"Peachy keen, sir," Rey deadpans. "Thanks for asking."

 

Mothma's not the sort to fuss, but she goes over to Rey and inspects her closely before nodding, satisfied that her charge is apparently not missing any limbs or internal organs. "Start from the beginning, Eurydice," the head of Gryffindor House instructs, and Rey takes that as her cue to launch into a recap of the night's events.

 

Omitting certain parts, of course.

 

Solo finds the far wall to be of great interest while Madame Kalonia and the other teachers listen to Rey's tale with varying degrees of amazement. She explains that Solo had been the teacher she thought to call because they'd had a lesson on the Patronus Charm— a lie she comes up with on the spot, so plausible that she inwardly congratulates herself.

 

"And then we went back to the castle," she finishes, doing her utmost to make sure that her gaze doesn't stray to Professor Solo in the slightest. They've done something illicit together and they're keeping it a secret from everyone else.

 

They're conspirators now.

 

"I don't believe I'm familiar with the spell you used," Obi-Wan remarks. His tone is casual but his eyes are searching.

 

"You wouldn't be," Solo says tersely. "I invented it."

 

Rey gives a start in the chill that ensues. That curse had inflicted lacerations and hemorrhages on a powerful creature highly resistant to most forms of magic. What could it do to a human being?

 

What does it say about the person who'd made it?

 

"Well." Mothma sniffs, breaking the silence. "This has been enough excitement for one night, and poor Miss Niima hasn't been able to attend the feast. Come with me, Eurydice, we'll get you sorted with some leftovers and then it's off to bed with you."

 

It's not as though Rey can refuse. She follows Mothma out of the hospital wing, and it takes every ounce of her willpower to not look back at Professor Solo.

 

To stay with him, somehow.

 

✨✨✨

 

The solemn, white-robed Transfiguration instructor seems to have a lot on her mind as she sits across from Rey while the latter tackles heaping slices of roast beef, baked pumpkin, fried sausages, and jacket potatoes. The house-elves bustle around them, washing dishes and magically preserving and storing what's left of the food.

 

"Professor Solo... he's all right?" Mothma suddenly asks. "He treats all of you well? No— no funny business?"

 

Rey chokes on a potato.

 

Mothma levitates a goblet of pumpkin juice over to her and Rey hurriedly gulps it down.

 

"No," she manages to gasp out at last. "No funny business. Why do you ask, professor?"

 

Although Mothma hesitates for only the briefest of seconds, hers is still a carefully considered answer nonetheless. "There was some discussion regarding his suitability for the job. It's his first teaching post, and he is rather young."

 

"He's brilliant," Rey says before she can help it, offended on Solo's behalf. Furiously kissing her up against a tree and all that aside, he's— "He pushes us to be at our best and he's taught us loads of useful spells..." She trails off, belatedly noticing that Mothma's eying her with some surprise.

 

Rey supposes she might've sounded overly passionate. She ducks her head and shovels more food into her mouth before she ends up embarrassing herself further.

 

"As I told Headmaster Kenobi before the start of term, I trust his judgment," Mothma says. "And if Ben Solo is as good an instructor as you have avowed, then I suppose there's no reason to worry." She changes the subject, shooting Rey one of her rare looks of approval. "Well done with the manticore, by the way. You kept your head and held your own long before a more experienced wizard arrived. You really transfigured earth into quicksand?"

 

Rey nods. "I think that's what slowed it down long enough for me to hide in the yew grove."

 

She's so startled by the sight of Mon Mothma outrightly beaming that she almost chokes on her food again.

 

"I look forward to what you'll be up to after graduation, Miss Niima," the older woman says proudly. "I shall be following your career with great interest. Encountering a Dark creature hasn't turned you off from being an Auror, has it?"

 

Rey mulls it over. Back when she and her classmates had been consulting with their advisors regarding post-Hogwarts trajectories, joining the Ministry's Auror program had been at the top of a good number of lists. It's one of the most glamorous jobs in the wizarding world. However, the entry requirements are steep, the training rigorous, and the risk of injury or worse easily the highest. Even if they managed to qualify, a lot of young hopefuls would be disillusioned once they were out on the field, the professors had warned.

 

But now Rey has had firsthand experience with combat. She remembers how her mind had been quick to focus and do what was needed. She remembers the thrill she got every time one of her strategies worked.

 

"No, it hasn't turned me off at all," she says, answering Mothma's question. Her heart racing slightly with the rush that only a sudden certainty— a feeling of absolute rightness— can bring. "I want to be an Auror."

 

✨✨✨

 

Mothma escorts Rey to Gryffindor Tower, stopping at the portrait of the Fat Lady. "Oh, I nearly forgot," she says when Rey has one foot inside the entrance. "Naturally I'll have to dock ten points from Gryffindor because you wandered out of bounds. But," she adds just as Rey starts to deflate, "you did kill the manticore that's been plaguing our campus, so take fifty points, Miss Niima. Forty in all."

 

Rey's smiling a little as she bids Mothma good night. She steps into the common room, the portrait swinging shut behind her.

 

And she is met by the wide-eyed stares of Finn, Tallie, Jannah, and Jess who have frozen in the middle of a late-night game of Exploding Snap.

 

"You killed a manticore?" Finn bellows at about the same time that Rey realizes she's still wearing Professor Solo's coat.

Chapter Text

It's all over school the next morning.

 

Those who might have wondered about the overnight surge of points in Gryffindor's hourglass— displayed along with the hourglasses of the other houses in the Entrance Hall for everyone to see— aren't left wondering for long.

 

Tallie knows, Rey had been forced to tell her and Finn and Jannah and Jess the details, and since the girl is Hogwarts' own personal one-woman gossip column that means it's not long before everyone knows about Rey and Professor Solo killing a manticore.

 

At least they're left in the dark about other things that had happened.

 

Professor Solo storms into the D.A.D.A. classroom looking like Obi-Wan had suddenly retired and installed Hux as the new headmaster.

 

"Turn to page 417," he snaps without preamble.

 

They don't have practical today; instead, it's a lecture on countermeasures for stealth and concealment magic.

 

Rey can't concentrate at all.

 

It's not that her attention is on something other than her teacher. It's that she's too busy staring at his lips— the shape of them the way they move— to hear a single word he's saying.

 

Merlin, she'd kissed those lips.

 

In the cold light of day, it doesn't seem like a real thing that had actually occurred.

 

But her body remembers. Her body is a traitor, balanced on the knife's edge of desire.

 

Rey fidgets in her seat.

 

She might have felt better about the whole thing if Solo made it a point to not look in her direction. At least that way she knows he's just as affected by her presence and they're both suffering. But, as it is, his gaze slides onto her and then just as smoothly slides onto another one of her classmates as he talks.

 

It's like she's just another student.

 

It's like he hadn't made her come last night. His knee wedged between her thighs.

 

It's the longest lecture of Rey's life. She all but heaves a sigh of relief when Solo concludes it.

 

"Any questions?"

 

He slouches against the teacher's desk with one hand shoved into the pocket of his trousers. So casual and yet so elegant.

 

Tallie's the first to pipe up. "Sir, just how did a manticore wind up in the Forbidden Forest? Aren't they native only to Iran?"

 

Rey can hardly believe Tallie's daring. She glances over her shoulder and the other girl looks giddy and starstruck— as do a lot of other students as they wait for Solo's response. It's a stark contrast to the wariness they'd displayed around him following his duel with Hux.

 

Apparently, coming to Rey's rescue and slaying a dangerous beast is more than enough to redeem Ben Solo in the eyes of the other seventh years.

 

He doesn't seem pleased by Tallie's line of inquiry, but he does his best to be forthcoming. "We have determined that it was most probably smuggled into Britain and traded on the black market as an exotic pet. Given the impossibility of handling a full-grown manticore, this would have occurred when the creature was a pup. As it grew larger and more dangerous, its owner likely realized that they were in over their head and set it loose. The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures is aware of the situation and all efforts are being made to track down the complicit parties." He looks toward another corner of the room. "Yes, Miss Connix?"

 

"How were you and Rey able to kill the manticore, sir?" asks Kaydel, one of the Slytherins.

 

"The final blow was dealt using a curse I do not have the authority to teach in a classroom setting. Should you succeed in your application to the Auror program and other similar careers, you will be trained in magic of an equivalent caliber." Solo's reply is startlingly diplomatic. He's apparently learned a thing or two from being a politician's son. "Prior to that, however, Miss Niima was able to incapacitate the beast with a fine example of the Conjunctivitis Curse, which we will be covering later on."

 

Rey swallows as she finds herself on the receiving end of a classroom's worth of impressed looks and murmurs. She doesn't know whether to sink down in her seat and try to become invisible or to— well, to preen, and in all honesty it's the feeling of wanting to do the latter that's horrible.

 

More hands rise into the air. An annoyed expression crosses Solo's face. "Are there any questions related to today's lecture?" Silence, the hands dropping back down. "Good. Class dismissed."

 

For the second time that term, Rey tells Finn and Rose to go on ahead as they filter out into the corridor. "Are you going to thank Professor Solo for saving your life?" Rose chirps with the most shit-eating grin Rey has ever seen. "Are you going to swoon into his muscular arms?"

 

"Go away," Rey shoos her, and if it comes out more pointed than the joke had warranted, Rose doesn't seem to notice, laughing and waving goodbye as she and Finn head to the Great Hall for lunch.

 

"He's not that muscular," Rey hears a slightly peeved Finn tell his girlfriend.

 

"Oh, you know my heart belongs to your muscles, babe," Rose says airily.

 

If only they knew... It feels odd and wrong to Rey to be keeping a secret from her two best friends, but it's not like she has any other choice. She trusts Finn and Rose to not tell anyone else if she were to swear them to silence, but she wouldn't like for them to think less of Professor Solo, either.

 

She marches back into the classroom, pulling his coat out of her bag. She'd shrunk it earlier so there would be space amidst her books and quills and ink pots, and it expands back to its original size as she cancels the charm. He's in the middle of erasing his calligraphic scrawl from the blackboard, but he freezes in place when he hears her footsteps, her carefully cleared throat.

 

He doesn't turn around right away. It's slow, almost cautious. The look on his face is sullen and resigned. Their eyes don't meet when she gives him back his coat, but their fingers accidentally brush. Even just that light contact is something like an electric shock to Rey's system.

 

They're alone together in an empty room in a nigh empty wing of the castle. The air is rife with static. Rich with forbidden possibility.

 

"Thank you." It's gotten so quiet that her hushed tones fall like a stone dropping into water.

 

"Don't mention it." Solo folds the coat over the back of his chair. "You're playing tomorrow, yes?"

 

"Yes." Tomorrow is the first Quidditch match of the season. "Seeker."

 

"I know." His features soften infinitesimally. "Break a leg, then. Not in the literal sense."

 

"Thank you," Rey says again, feeling a little bit like an inane parrot.

 

He hesitates, as if he's about to say something more, then he appears to think better of it and gestures to the doorway. "If there's nothing else, Miss Niima..."

 

"Actually—" What do you mean "actually," screams Rey's common sense, just go, fucking hell— "Why did you invent that curse? What were the circumstances?"

 

Solo abruptly whirls back to the blackboard and resumes erasing the day's notes. He's doing it manually, which is on par with loads of Muggleborns and half-bloods— there are some things that this group, Rey included, simply doesn't think to use magic for.

 

If she were to go nearer to him now, he would smell like chalk. If he were to hold her, his fingers would leave white smears on her skin.

 

She's starting to think that he won't indulge her nosiness— and she's almost grateful for that— when he says, in a hollow voice, "Well, if you really want to know, now you're going to."

 

It sounds like a warning. Rey's every instinct is telling her that she won't like what she's about to hear, that she should leave while she can. But she doesn't.

 

She stays right where she is.

 

"I assume you're familiar with the First Order."

 

Rey nods, and instantly feels stupid for nodding. He has his back to her. "Yes," she says out loud.

 

"I was one of them."

 

No.

 

She initially can't do anything but stare at him with utter blankness as reality is pulled out from under her feet. She's overcome by dizziness, plowing through her in gray-lit waves. It's impossible, she can't have heard him right.

 

The First Order are murderers. Pureblood supremacists. How could he even have been allowed to come to the United Kingdom, to teach at Hogwarts—

 

"I've always had an aptitude for Dark magic," Solo continues. He is placid and might even be deemed conversational, oblivious to the fact that, for Rey, the safe, secure world she knows is crashing down all around her. "I told you the core of my previous wand was rougarou hair— a material that's highly conducive to the sort of spells that few morally upright individuals would even dream of using. The wand chooses the wizard, doesn't it? That wand chose me when I was eleven." He sets the eraser down, the blackboard wiped clean, and turns around again to methodically pack away his things one by one. His face is devoid of all expression. "Of course, this predilection was not encouraged. I learned some things in secret, did some independent reading that would have raised eyebrows if anyone had known, but eventually I focused my interests on defending against the type of magic that had fascinated me in the first place. Upon graduating from Ilvermorny, I applied for and was accepted into MACUSA's Auror program."

 

It makes sense, Rey thinks. His skill in dueling, his encyclopedic and instinctive knowledge of attack spells and their counters— it is suddenly the rightest thing in the universe that Ben Solo would be a former Auror. She clings to that like it's a life raft, because everything else has gone horribly wrong.

 

"My mother was well on her way to becoming president at that point. I didn't want special treatment and she in turn didn't want me singled out in such a high-risk job on account of being her son. So I dropped Organa from my surname and joined the ranks as Ben Solo. Under the International Statute of Secrecy and also for safety reasons, the names of Muggle spouses are not to be mentioned in the wizarding press—"

 

"I mean, I know that," Rey mumbles despite her better judgment. She's not totally clueless.

 

A tiny half-smile glints at the corner of Solo's mouth but he's quick to duck his head, intent on rolling up his myriad scrolls of parchment neatly. "It was smooth sailing for the first few years. The public knew that I worked for MACUSA in some capacity, but I was assigned to enough sensitive cases that there was good reason for journalists to be obstructed from nosing around." The last scroll disappears into his bag and he starts on the books, shrinking them to a more convenient size before tucking them inside. "Then the First Order rose, growing bolder and more organized as time passed. Their leader— Snoke— was the most accomplished Dark wizard I've ever encountered on the battlefield. It was last year, during my third skirmish with him and his men, that he hit me with the Imperius Curse."

 

Solo does smile, then. It's twisted and humorless, and Rey hates it. "Do you know what that is, Miss Niima?"

 

"We discussed the Unforgivable Curses in fifth year," Rey says tautly. Imperio, Crucio, and Avada Kedavra. In Britain, any witch or wizard found guilty of casting any of these three is automatically sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban.

 

"The Imperius Curse was Snoke's specialty. He'd honed it to an art form. In an instant, I became a slave to his will." Done with the books, Solo is putting away his writing supplies now. His tone still excruciatingly nonchalant. "I turned on my fellow Aurors that night. Afterwards, I left with the First Order when Snoke sounded the retreat. He'd gotten what he came for— me. He had spies everywhere and he knew that I was the president's son. For the next few months, he put me to work both on the front lines and in his research division, inventing new curses. It was all a haze. There were voices in my head, feeding my own darkness."

 

Rey wants to stop listening, but she can't. She'd asked for this and now here it is, the ugly truth, laid out before her. Her heart aches as she imagines a numb, confused Ben Solo, his usually vibrant eyes glazed over and dull.

 

"My father went looking for me, because he is an idiot," he dispassionately continues. His fingers have stilled at an ink pot, curled around the black sheen of it. "To this day, I still don't know how he managed— although he was something of a con man in his youth. Tricks of the trade, I suppose. He zeroed in on the general area in the Adirondacks where the First Order base was located, but of course he couldn't actually find it, because it was Unplottable. So he wandered around the forest calling my name because he is— and I cannot state this enough— an idiot." Solo's features knit together in a bitter scowl. "Snoke found it amusing. Obviously, he didn't have a very high regard for Muggles in the first place, and this just seemed to prove his point. He fortified his Imperio on me and sent me out to kill my father with the latest spell I'd created."

 

"But you didn't," Rey bursts out desperately. "You said it yourself, your father's alive—"

 

"He is." Solo shoves the ink pot into his bag. "I cast Sectumsempra on him. Aimed it right at his heart. The moment his chest split open, I realized what I'd done and Snoke's hold on me broke. I took Dad and I Apparated to the nearest hospital. Then I snapped my wand in half and turned myself in." He closes his bag and hoists it up by the strap onto one broad shoulder. "The First Order was defeated not long after that. My mother worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep my name out of official reports and to grant me a full pardon. Her most trusted advisors thought it would be best if I were to get out of the States for a while, so she met with Obi-Wan and secured the Defense Against the Dark Arts post for me, which I still consider highly ironic." He finally looks at Rey straight on, and whatever he sees written all over her face elicits yet another one of those faint, self-deprecating, thoroughly unhappy smiles. "And so now you know, Miss Niima. I'm here because I'm not a good man. A good man would have fought harder against an Imperius Curse, wouldn't have almost murdered his own father. A good man wouldn't have taken advantage of you in the woods. You'll do well to stay away from me," he concludes as he walks past her and up the stairs to his office.

 

Leaving her alone in his classroom, with nothing for company except the silence.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey is hardly given any time to process Solo's revelations. Potions class in the afternoon is nothing short of trial by fire, Hux even more of a terror than usual due to the manticore venom having been snatched from his grasp. Afterwards, she spends the remaining daylight hours on the Quidditch pitch with the rest of her teammates, squeezing in one last practice before tomorrow's game.

 

At dinner time, Obi-Wan addresses the elephant— or, well, the dead manticore— in the room, his spiel similar to that of Professor Solo's. The DRCMC is on the case, there's nothing to worry about, everyone please give a hand to Miss Niima for her bravery and quick thinking.

 

Rey has to resist the urge to dive under the table as the Great Hall bursts into applause.

 

She falls into a deep, exhausted slumber later that night. She dreams of a man in a green forest, doomed to wander forever, calling out for his lost son.

 

Game day dawns bright and clear, rare for November but absolutely welcome.

 

"All right, lads, this is it." Jannah launches into her customary pep talk. "Pava, Dyun, and Fry, we want a really tight formation, just like we practiced." The Chasers nod. "Ollim and Tharandon, if you accidentally swing a Bludger at any single one of your teammates again, I swear to Merlin, I'll kill you." The Beaters look abashed. "Niima, we need a big lead over Slytherin to demoralize all the other houses— start strong, you know— so waffle about for a bit before catching the Snitch, yeah?"

 

"Got it," Rey says.

 

"Crush their bones to dust!" Jannah yells, pumping a fist in the air as she leads her team out onto the pitch, more than a few of them shaking their heads at their captain's fervor.

 

"Can you imagine when she goes pro after Hogwarts," Jess stage-whispers to Rey. "It'll be a bloodbath."

 

Rey doesn't bother to respond. Whatever she might have said would have been swallowed up by the roar of the crowd, anyway.

 

The stands are packed. On one side, people are wearing scarves and waving streamers of red and gold, while on the other green and silver dominate. Finn and Rose are sitting together, holding a huge sign with Rey's picture plastered above the words MANTICORE SLAYER in block letters.

 

There are a lot of teachers present— even Professor Yoda had come out. Rumor has it that he enjoys watching Jannah's games because of the inevitable carnage.

 

Squinting against the sun, Rey searches the part of the stands where the faculty usually huddle together. It takes her a long while to admit, even to just herself, that she's looking for a familiar head of lush dark hair and piercing features.

 

It takes her an even longer while to come to terms with the fact that she can't find him.

 

Well, it's not like anyone who isn't a player is required to go to the matches, but...

 

Maybe he's not sitting with the other teachers.

 

She's still darting furtive glances towards the crowd as Jannah shakes hands with the Slytherin captain. By the time Poe Dameron blows his whistle and the team takes to the air, Rey's heart has never felt heavier. She soars above the pitch on her trusty old school-issued broomstick and can't stop scanning the audience every once in a while, long after the Quaffle and the Bludgers have started whizzing about among the players. Reality grows harder and harder to deny with every second that ticks past.

 

Professor Solo isn't here.

 

He didn't come to watch her game.

Chapter Text

There are seven hundred known fouls in Quidditch. Professor Dameron had once accused Rey of making it her personal mission in life to commit all of them.

 

This had hardly been fair. There have always been extenuating circumstances— for example, in third year, Rey had only punched that Slytherin Chaser out of the sky because he'd called her a Mudblood. Dameron had banned that Chaser from playing on the Hogwarts pitch ever again, but he'd still also called foul because, well, Rey had punched someone out of the sky.

 

In the present time, the extenuating circumstance is that she can't stop scanning the crowd for Professor Solo. It's not like she wants to jeopardize Gryffindor's chances at winning the Quidditch Cup, but— oh, her traitorous heart. She's so distracted that she's barely looking where she's going, which results in her crashing into Kaydel Ko Connix hard enough to knock the other girl off of her broom.

 

It's Jess who saves Kaydel, hauling her onto her own broomstick before she can hit the ground as Rey shouts a hasty apology from up on high.

 

"Damn." Elliver Ollim is laughing. "Niima won't rest until she's murdered every single one of Slytherin's Chasers."

 

"It was an accident," Rey protests for all the good it will do; to the other players and the spectators, it would have definitely looked like she'd done it on purpose.

 

Sure enough, an indignant Dameron blows his whistle and fouls Rey for blatching— flying with the intent to collide. A disgruntled, vengeful Kaydel scores the penalty, and just like that Slytherin's in the lead.

 

Rey grits her teeth. She and her teammates have worked hard to defend their championship title these past several years— she can't let it all go to waste just because the teacher she has a crush on didn't come to the match. It takes a lot of willpower, but she's eventually able to tear her eyes away from the stands, pushing Professor Solo out of her mind as she focuses on avoiding Bludgers and looking for the Snitch.

 

Gryffindor rallies under Jannah's capable leadership. The team captain and Keeper is in fine form as always, blocking several would-be goals in quick succession— and with such ferocity that it prompts Dameron to finally yell out his usual warning for her. "A Quaffle is not a Bludger, Miss Ackie!"

 

The two houses are tied when Rey spots a telltale glimmer of gold far below. The other team's Seeker, Rosh Penin, immediately plunges into a dive, and Rey has no choice but to do the same.

 

So much for Gryffindor's big lead. If Penin gets his hands on the Snitch now, it'll be game over and Slytherin will have won.

 

The ground rushes up to meet her. The wind whips at her face. She leans forward, building speed until she and Penin are neck and neck. The crowd is going wild, a distant roar in her ears.

 

The Golden Snitch's tiny wings flutter over the grass.

 

Penin chickens out when they're six feet from the ground, pulling up on his broom to avoid what would be a grievous, possibly even fatal crash.

 

Rey doesn't.

 

People are screaming now. Someone— Jess, she thinks— calls out to her that it's not worth it.

 

I can do this, Rey thinks, her eyes narrowing in concentration, her teeth digging into her bottom lip. I just have to time it right...

 

Less than a foot from the ground, she swerves hard to the left, so low that the grass brushes against her arm as it shoots out.

 

Her fingers closing around the Snitch.

 

At first, there's only a stunned, collective silence. It's not until Rey has skidded to a halt, holding the Snitch up in triumph, that the stadium explodes into a deafening medley of raucous cheers and despairing groans.

 

Rey's smile is not as wide as it has been the other times she's won a match for Gryffindor. Her victory feels oddly incomplete and hollow.

 

Her teammates swoop down upon her in a flurry of hugs and high-fives. The Golden Snitch's wings beat in vain against the curl of her fingers. Her eyes dart to the crowd again even though she already knows she won't find him there.

 

✨✨✨

 

After the match, Rey slips away as everyone is heading back inside the castle. There's going to be the customary party in the Gryffindor common room but she doesn't think she can bear to attend. Doesn't think she can drink butterbeer and laugh and play the part of conquering hero with the rest of her teammates and act like everything's okay.

 

Because everything's not okay.

 

She'd theorized that it had been like a dam breaking for Professor Solo when he was no longer suppressed by magic. Rey's not an Occlumens, but so much has happened over the last three days and she hasn't been able to process any of it— and now it's all crashing through her, catalyzed by the punch to the gut that is Solo not coming to her game.

 

One of the few things that she's proud of is her skill at Quidditch, and he hadn't even been there to see.

 

Rey's dam breaks. She wanders the grounds aimlessly, blinking away tears every few minutes. Her chest hurts, it feels like it's going to be ripped apart at any moment by a mess of conflicting emotions. Her thoughts are both storm and wildfire.

 

Her first kiss— her first orgasm with someone else— it had been with her teacher.

 

And he was a former Dark wizard. Coerced into being one.

 

And he'd told her to stay away from him.

 

And he hadn't come to her game.

 

In truth, Rey feels kind of stupid crying about that last bit. Maybe she really is just a kid.

 

She doesn't mean for her steps to take her to Greenhouse Three, but it's where she ends up in her desperate bid to keep moving until she calms down. The site of many a Herbology class, Greenhouse Three is a massive structure consisting of transparent crystalline panels set into a wooden frame, with dragon statues running along its peaked roof. Visible from the outside is a profusion of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vines occupying most of the interior space.

 

Rey's heart catches in her throat when she sees a tall, broad, and familiar figure through the glass.

 

She shouldn't... She should just keep walking. Perhaps even go back to the castle and join her friends. There's nothing for her here except all that is bad and forbidden.

 

She bursts into the greenhouse, anyway.

 

The doors open with a clang and Rey just as gracelessly kicks them shut behind her. Solo is over by the potted mandrakes, a cautious distance away from the spiky, toothsome Venomous Tentacula in the corner, which he'd been eying with his usual show of intense academic fascination. Now that she's arrived on the scene, though, his gaze darts to her in surprise.

 

Rey's still in Quidditch gear, sweat-soaked and grass-stained, her hair a rumpled bird's nest. It's a weekend so Solo's dressed in more casual attire— a sweater and dark jeans— but his hair is as immaculate as usual, and he looks as fresh as though he'd just stepped out of the shower.

 

Feeling more and more like a gremlin with every second that ticks by, Rey gradually closes the distance between her and Solo, approaching him beneath a ceiling hung with giant, umbrella-shaped blossoms oozing honey-sweet perfume. The air inside the greenhouse is humid, containing a whiff of damp earth and fertilizer, and occasionally flickering with the glossy wings of tiny insects in flight.

 

Solo watches her draw near with an expression that for some reason brings to Rey's mind a caged animal, before it is slowly shuttered away behind blankness.

 

She panics— she can't let him put his mask back on. Not yet. "You didn't come to the match," she blurts out.

 

He arches a brow. "I didn't know it was required." His tone is polite but so, so distant.

 

"It's— it's not required, but..." She trails off as he looks away.

 

If she weren't utterly exhausted, Rey thinks that this might've made her furious. But, as it is, she's all wrung out. In this state, she seizes the simple truths. Clings to them like they're all she knows.

 

"I don't want a good man." Her voice catches on a strangled sob, there in the hazy, emerald-tinted light. "I want a man who can love somebody hard enough to break the Imperius Curse."

 

Solo blinks, and there it is, an outpouring of loneliness and vulnerability shining through the cracks in the walls he's built around himself, and that's all the impetus Rey needs to sew up the last of the space between them, her hands fisting into his sweater to tug him down as she surges onto the tips of her toes, pressing her lips to his in a clumsy, desperate kiss.

 

She realizes it's the wrong move to make right from the moment she makes it. Anyone could look into the greenhouse and see them— Eurydice Niima snogging Professor Solo amidst the mandrakes. It is the worst possible situation to be in for a man who has already almost lost everything.

 

He recoils. She stares at him through blurry eyes, her mouth still pursed, her world shattering. He looks... crazed, for lack of a better word, his dark eyes glittering fiercely. In this moment it's truly a coin toss whether he'll bring up his hand to wipe her kiss from his lips on the back of it— or reach for her again.

 

But he does neither. Instead, he simply tells her, "We can't."

 

And he leaves, careful not to brush past her as he walks by. And she is left, stewing in humiliation and defeat.

 

✨✨✨

 

"Are you all right?"

 

Rey looks up from the Arithmancy worksheets that she's spread on the floor of the Room of Hidden Things. Rose is curled up on the battered old couch with her Herbology textbook, but she's studying Rey, Flesh-Eating Trees of the World forgotten on her lap.

 

It's Sunday afternoon. Finn's off with his gobstones clubmates, doing... whatever it was the Hogwarts Gobstones Club did, so it's just the two girls trying to get a headstart on the upcoming school week.

 

"I'm fine," Rey lies.

 

"It's just that..." Rose hesitates. "You haven't seemed like yourself lately."

 

"It's the stress. I wasn't prepared for how hectic seventh year would be." At least this contains an element of truth.

 

Rose abruptly slams her book shut and sits up straight. There's a nervous but determined look in her eye, the look of someone about to broach a less than palatable subject, and Rey tenses. Shit, she knows, Rose knows—

 

"It's not me and Finn, is it?" the other girl asks, with that same tendency to blurt out what's been pent up, with that same bluntness that had led her and Rey to gravitate to each other like two socially awkward ducks in a pond full of extroverts. "You don't hang out with us as much anymore and I've been so worried that we're making you uncomfortable. I knew things would change when he asked me out, but, please, Rey, if there's any way I can fix it— I love Finn but I love you, too—"

 

"Rose. Wait." Rey holds up a hand. Relief and guilt are flooding through her in equal measure; relief because her secret is safe, after all, and guilt because Rose isn't entirely off-base. "You and Finn— it's taken some getting used to, but I'm happy for you both. I really am. I'm so sorry if there've been times when I made it seem otherwise. When I don't hang out, it's so you can be alone for— for all that couple stuff." Rey offers as reassuring a smile as she can muster. "There's no need to worry about me, I promise."

 

"I can't help worrying, Rey," Rose frets. "You're always so— so strong, y'know, and I admire you for that, but I don't think you realize that you don't have to be. Even if it's just for a little while, you can lean on other people— especially on me." It's Rose's turn to flash a smile that is more genuinely reassuring than whatever Rey had attempted. "If you want to talk about anything, I'm here."

 

Rose means well, but Rey can't talk to anyone else about Professor Solo. It's what makes her situation even more frustrating. Still, she wastes no time in sitting beside the other girl on the couch and giving her a hug. It had been Finn who'd taught Rey how to hug, back in first year— how to draw comfort and strength from physical touch, from togetherness.

 

Screw Ben Solo. She has her friends.

 

"Love you, too," Rey sniffles into Rose's hair. "But you're making me cry. Bloody Hufflepuff."

 

Rose giggles, and everything's all right again for a while.

 

✨✨✨

 

Life goes on, much to Rey's bemusement. It feels like it shouldn't, but it does. In a way, she's grateful for the mountains of homework heaped upon her and her classmates— it means that she has scant opportunity to wallow.

 

She doesn't look at Professor Solo in class, busying herself with taking the neatest, most meticulously detailed notes of her academic career. She stays far away from him during practical, always turning away whenever there's the slightest chance that their eyes might meet.

 

Most of November passes like this. Dreary, gray, and sane. After Study of Ancient Runes one day, Seff Hellin asks her if she'd like to have lunch in the courtyard while they go over Yoda's lecture in preparation for the quiz next week.

 

Rey accepts. They grab sandwiches, crisps, and tiny cups of trifle from their respective house tables and head outdoors, where they sit on a bench beneath an oak tree and compare notes as they eat. They're amiably arguing over whether ehwaz means "partnership" or "defense" when a shadow falls over Rey's chicken scratch handwriting and Seff sits up a little bit straighter.

 

"Afternoon, sir," he says politely.

 

Rey knows who it is. Feels the electric heat of dark eyes rake down the back of her neck even before she hears the rumbled greeting emanate from somewhere behind her and over her.

 

"Mr. Hellin. Miss Niima."

 

She wills herself not to turn around. Up until now, she's been doing a relatively good job of pretending that Solo doesn't exist, considering that she has to see him in class once a week. But she knows that if she looks back now— if she sees him gazing down at her against the gray and red and gold of autumn— she will break. The scent of oakmoss and sandalwood and copper envelops her senses like a fugue. Her spine is riddled with the static of his nearness.

 

She doesn't breathe again until his scent fades away and Seff relaxes.

 

"Dour sort of fellow, isn't he?" muses the Ravenclaw boy. "His mum's the MACUSA president, did you know?"

 

"Yeah," Rey forces out. "Yeah, I did."

 

"Wonder why he decided to move to Britain."

 

"Our lovely weather, of course."

 

Seff bursts out laughing. It's not very often that people do that in response to her quips, and it's so warm and joyous that Rey's lips can't help but twitch in a slight smile before she steers the conversation back to Ancient Runes.

 

On Friday morning later that same week, Seff comes up to her as the seventh years file into the D.A.D.A. classroom.

 

"Rey— d'you want to sit together?"

 

A hush falls over the Gryffindor contingent. It seems like every Ravenclaw within the vicinity is staring, too.

 

"Um... oww!" Rey yelps, because Tallisan Lintra has very deliberately stepped on her toes.

 

"Eurydice would love to sit with you," Tallie tells Seff, and she and Jess all but bodily haul Rey into the empty chair beside Seff's usual spot. The blond boy trails after them and takes his seat, his face as red as a tomato.

 

Rey's face might be a little on the pink side as well. She looks around for help, but Finn and Rose— now on the opposite end of the classroom— merely grin and wave. Pamich Nerro Goode, who's been Seff's seatmate since the beginning of term, has taken Rey's place beside Korr Sella.

 

Professor Solo emerges from his office a few minutes later, his footsteps heavy on the spiral staircase. Since this is the first time he's made his entrance after everyone's already settled down, Rey gets the proper look at him that she hasn't since that day in the greenhouse; there are dark circles under his eyes and his hair is a little less immaculately groomed.

 

"Professor Solo looks stressed again," whispers one of the nearby Ravenclaws.

 

"He would be, after grading your essay," another retorts.

 

Solo slowly begins to unpack his bag at the teacher's desk. Today, for some reason, Rey's not as quick to avert her eyes, reluctantly concerned by his pallid appearance. She wonders if something's happened back in America— if his father has taken a turn for the worse, or—

 

He looks up. Their gazes collide.

 

Solo's already blank expression proves to be capable of somehow shutting down even further. "Miss Niima, please return to your seat." His tone is as cold as ice.

 

There's a collective groan from Tallie and Jess and some of Seff's housemates, and the hollow beneath Solo's right eye twitches. "There is a prescribed seating arrangement that you yourselves determined at the start of term," he snaps. "I will have order in my classroom. Now, Miss Niima."

 

Rey's more than a little offended. With the exception of Potions class, they've always been free to sit wherever they please. She'd had no idea that Solo was such a Hux.

 

And it's more scrutiny, scrutiny that she doesn't want, the whole class looking at her as she and Pamich quietly exchange seats, her cheeks flaming, Finn and Rose shooting her sympathetic glances over their shoulders.

 

"If you're all done playing around, let us return to your education," Solo bites out with one last scornful look at Rey, and she is possessed by the absolute certainty that she's going to end up hexing him before the school year is over.

 

Solo continues to be in a bad mood all throughout the class. An hour in, when Finn writes something down on a scrap of parchment and surreptitiously hands it to Rose, Solo snatches it from his grasp and tosses it onto the teacher's desk without so much as a pause in his lecture. He shoves this scrap of parchment into his bag with the rest of his things at the end of first period, then storms back up to his office like an angry, overly large thundercloud.

 

"Rey," Finn whimpers as the seventh years leave the room. "Rey, what am I going to do? That note..." He gulps, as if he's about to vomit.

 

Rey frowns in confusion. "It's not the first time you've been caught passing notes and, anyway, at least he didn't give you detention like Mothma does—"

 

"You don't understand," Finn hisses, lowering his voice even further. "There was some pretty explicit stuff on there—"

 

"Finn!" Rey and Rose chorus, the latter sounding like she wants to jump off a cliff from sheer mortification.

 

"I was bored, okay?" Finn wrings his hands. "It's charmed to look like a drawing, but the spell will wear off at the end of the day and if he reads it then he's going to see that I think Rose is really good at—"

 

"Please don't finish that sentence," Rey interrupts at the same time that Rose wails, "I'll never be able to look Professor Solo in the eye ever again! And if he tells the other teachers— Finn, you're going to get us expelled—"

 

"All right, both of you, calm down," Rey says. "No one's getting expelled." She quickly puts together a plan. "The fourth years have Defense Against the Dark Arts later in the afternoon, don't they? That's my free period after Potions, so I can sneak up the stairs while he's lecturing and erase the hidden message on the note."

 

"How are you going to do all of that without anyone seeing..." Finn's face lights up. "Oh! Right. The invisibility cloak."

 

"Right." Rey nods at him. If she's being honest, there's a part of her that's looking forward to getting back at Professor Solo in this manner, even if he'll never know about it. "Also, I'll have to cancel the charm before I can erase the note, which means I'm going to have to read what you wrote with my own eyes."

 

"You're a good friend, Rey," Finn solemnly declares while Rose nods in fervent agreement.

 

✨✨✨

 

The first stage of the plan doesn't go as well as Rey had hoped. She gets caught on one of the temperamental moving staircases and then another, which means she ends up all the way across the castle from the Serpentine Corridor and has to double back. She hadn't thought to already don the cloak, so Professor Erso-Andor catches sight of her and pulls her into the Charms classroom along with a couple of nearby sixth years to help round up some pixies that Mr. Pancakes had freed from their cage so he could hunt them.

 

It's not like Rey can refuse, particularly when it's a teacher whom she respects asking for assistance, but she does fantasize about Transfiguring Mr. Pancakes into a fur coat while she and Jyn and the other students hurl Freezing Charms at the rioting pixies.

 

By the time Rey slips into the D.A.D.A. classroom, Professor Solo is almost done with his lecture. He and the fourth years are oblivious as Rey scurries past them and up the stairs to his office, although his deep voice carries and still sends shivers down her spine as she fiddles with the door that is locked because— of course it's locked.

 

A simple, nonverbal Alohomora doesn't work. Rey tries a few more variants, but it would seem that there's an anti-unlocking enchantment on the door.

 

Roughly five minutes have gone by before she thinks to cast Offero, a counter-spell designed to return the target to its previous state.

 

The door swings open.

 

Wow, Rey can't help but congratulate herself as she scurries inside, maybe I'm not an idiot, after all.

 

Professor Solo's office is sparsely furnished, nearly sterile. A good thing, too, because otherwise Rey's natural curiosity would have gotten the better of her. She really doesn't have time to snoop. Finn's parchment is on the desk, atop a pile of essays that all seem to be practically covered in red-inked corrections and withering remarks, and Rey has to shake her head.

 

She taps her aspen wand to the drawing of a hippogriff on the note. Finite Incantatem. The charm wears off, Finn's scrawl blossoming across the parchment, and Rey finds out exactly what Finn thinks Rose is really good at, and she contemplates Obliviating herself when all of this is over.

 

She banishes the message, waiting only until the note has permanently reverted to the hippogriff drawing before she makes a hasty exit.

 

Her hand is inches away from the knob when the door it's attached to flies open.

 

Every swear word known to both human and wizardkind runs through her head as she backs away from the door. As Solo closes and locks it behind him.

 

She's trapped.

 

Despite being safe underneath the invisibility cloak, Rey hardly dares to take anything but the shallowest of breaths as she pads toward the far wall and leans against it, trying to make herself as small as possible.

 

Solo sits at his desk, tossing his bag carelessly onto the floor. He then proceeds to do nothing but stare into the distance for several long minutes.

 

It's hardly the time to be fascinated by his sharply handsome profile— but, then again, it's not like Rey can do much of anything else until he leaves his office. He does look very stressed, she thinks. His features are tense, his pale brow knitted. As she watches, he leans forward with a sigh, placing his elbows on the desk and running frustrated hands through his hair.

 

Rey's heart begrudgingly goes out to him. It's hard to stay mad when he looks so defeated.

 

Several more minutes go by before Solo moves again, shifting in his seat. "Fuck it," he mutters, and the American accent does something to Rey, couched as it is in that husky rasp. "I'm going to hell, anyway."

 

And slowly, methodically, he unbuckles his belt and tugs down the zipper of his pants.

 

Oh, God. The inside of Rey's chest slams against her ribcage. Oh God oh God oh God—

 

She whirls to face the wall, affording Solo what privacy she can. She has to sit down on the floor because her knees have turned into jelly. She's pushed into that strange state of mentally blacking out without actually blacking out.

 

This can't be happening. She can't possibly be here in her professor's office, huddled under an invisibility cloak while he has a nice little afternoon wank.

 

Behind her, his breath hitches. There is the rustle of clothing being moved aside. The faint slap of skin.

 

Rey claps a hand over her mouth, staring blindly at the wall. She still has it in her to be mildly surprised that blood hasn't started gushing out of her nose. She is scared and embarrassed and— and curious. Shamefully, disgustingly so.

 

She wants to turn around. To see if he is as big as she'd imagined. To see what his face looks like when he—

 

Rey squeezes her eyes shut, biting down into her cupped hand as her thighs press together under her skirt. It's so messed up that she's getting wet because of this— and, somehow, she understands that the fact that it's messed up is making her even wetter.

 

"Dirty girl," she remembers Professor Solo saying as he nipped at her bare neck. Remembers how his hot mouth had traced the words into her skin. "Dirty, dirty girl."

 

The pattern of his breathing escalates into something harsh and ragged. He's obviously going faster now. Her teeth sink into the mound of her palm.

 

"Rey," he whispers hoarsely.

 

She gasps.

 

Out loud.

 

It reverberates through the quiet air like a shockwave.

 

Solo has the reflexes of a former Auror. Chair legs scrape against the floor as he bolts to his feet, mingling with the grate of a zipper being pulled up.

 

"Finite Incantatem," he growls.

 

Nothing happens. There is no concealment spell to lift. Rey cranes her neck to look back at him even as the rest of her remains frozen in place. He's clutching his blackthorn wand in a shaking fist, his belt still unfastened, his shirt untucked, his hair mussed. His eyes narrowed as he surveys the room.

 

She frantically rifles through escape scenarios in her head, but it's too late. Because of course someone who'd trained as an Auror would be quick to account for every possibility.

 

"Accio, cloak," he intones.

 

And, just like that, the invisibility cloak is lifted off of Rey by the Summoning Charm and sent flying into Solo's waiting hand.

Chapter Text

Rey scrambles to her feet, and she and Professor Solo stare at each other.

 

There is a clock on the wall. Each tick reverberates like a clap of thunder in the charged silence, over the blood that pounds in her ears in slow, fluid beats. Over every ragged breath that he takes, his wide chest heaving.

 

The fury in his dark eyes cuts her to the quick.

 

"I— I'm sorry," Rey stammers. "The note you confiscated from Finn— there was a hidden message and it could've gotten him and Rose into trouble—"

 

"Get. Out. Of my office." The words are shaky at the edges, uttered through Solo's clenched teeth.

 

Rey should heed the command. She should run away and never speak of this to anyone. But she can't move, something sharp and stubborn lodging in the pit of her very soul, blooming through her veins until it is all she is made of.

 

She can't let this be taken away from her. The sight of Ben Solo unraveled.

 

Her gaze drifts lower, drawn like a magnet to the telltale bulge in his hastily zipped-up trousers.

 

A quite considerable bulge.

 

She swallows.

 

"Perhaps you didn't hear me." His tone is virulent, but it isn't cold— in fact, it's easy to discern how rattled he is behind the virulence. He's not wearing his mask. "I said get out. Now."

 

"But you're still— still—"

 

Although Rey clams up, physically unable to finish that sentence, it's pretty obvious what she's referring to. Her eyes are glued to his erection, outlined in expensive charcoal fabric.

 

Solo turns his back to her. He doesn't move fast enough; she catches the look of pure humiliation on his face.

 

It breaks her heart.

 

Don't be ashamed, she wants to tell him. I feel it, too.

 

"Miss Niima," he tries again, says it to the empty air in front of him, "please leave."

 

The desolate anguish in his tone is palpable. She thinks about the Forbidden Forest. About the plethora of spells he uses to stay away from her. She thinks about every fantasy she's ever had of him. About how lonely he always seems, about how much she herself yearns.

 

And she makes up her mind.

 

"Professor Solo." Rey approaches cautiously, watching the lines of his broad shoulders tense as he realizes she's drawing near instead of heading to the door. "I can—"

 

What can she do? She literally has no idea. Or, rather, she has tons of ideas, but not a single clue how to even begin shaping them into language.

 

"I can help," she finally says, fighting back a cringe at her awkwardness.

 

He whirls to face her, knuckles of one hand clenched around the delicate gossamer material of the invisibility cloak. The rage has drained from his features; now he looks as though she'd slapped him, his jaw slack, his eyes wild and desperate and so, so dark in the gloomy light of his office, with the curtains drawn against the afternoon sun.

 

"You don't know what you're saying," he tells her flatly.

 

"Of course I do— I said it, didn't I?" she retorts, her cheeks heating up. "Look, I— I think about you, too, when I— you know," she rushes to add, and he makes a noise like a dying animal, low and stifled in the back of his throat. "Most nights I can't sleep, remembering what happened on Halloween. I know we agreed that we should pretend it never happened, but I'm graduating this summer and I'll probably never see you again after that and I want— I want to know what it's like, to be with you, so—" She forces herself to stop, to take a deep breath before she drowns him in word vomit. In her self-imposed silence she sees that he's studying her face intently, in a way that makes her think of hunger and fire and shadow-spun enchantments.

 

"I'm tired of pretending." Rey hates how plaintive she sounds. "Just— just be with me. Please."

 

More seconds tick by with no discernible reaction from him. Her bravado slowly trickles away until all that is left is a girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and has nothing to show for it.

 

Sanity returns. Comes slashing back in like a knife.

 

Merlin. She'd just propositioned her teacher.

 

For the second time this month.

 

Rey suddenly can't get out of that room fast enough.

 

She turns to make a beeline for the exit, already wondering if Mon Mothma will allow her to drop Defense Against the Dark Arts. So much for being an Auror— maybe she can take up accounting or something—

 

Large, callused fingers close around her wrist. She's barely registered such a touch before Solo tugs her back toward him, sending her crashing into the massive brick wall that is his chest. The invisibility cloak flutters gently to the floor at the periphery of her vision, and then—

 

and then Solo, with his burning eyes, with his messy hair, with his frustrated snarl—

 

is all she sees, until his mouth slants over hers and her eyes drift shut.

 

It had always bewildered Rey, why people close their eyes when they kiss. And now she understands.

 

It's the fireworks going off inside your head. It's the feel of warm, silky soft lips sliding against your own. It's the woodsy, spice-tinged scent of a man that you breathe in like air. It's the giddiness, the rush, the tangle of emotions too immense for your heart to hold.

 

All of these beg to be savored.

 

Rey gasps into Solo's mouth when his hands clamp around her waist and he lifts her off her feet. He does so with no effort. She's as light as a feather when she's with him, she's such a small thing. Her thighs instinctively lock around his waist and he carries her to his desk without once breaking their kiss, his left hand cupping her bottom so he can boost her up higher and, oh, it's criminal, how that one hand of his practically spans both her cheeks. A dark thrill rushes through her at this. Her skirt has ridden up so that half of his palm meets bare skin, and she knows that she will feel the burning imprint of his hand on her ass long after this is over.

 

She's trembling with anticipation when he sets her down on the edge of his desk. He leans forward, hands flat on the glossy wooden surface on either side of her as he licks into her mouth, as she lets him, as she clutches at the front of his shirt for support. As she had in the Forbidden Forest, she copies his technique studiously, stroke for stroke, their tongues sliding together, each caress stoking the fire building in her core until she's emboldened enough to nibble on his bottom lip. Biting down gently the way he did, beneath the yew tree.

 

Solo smiles against her lips. "Quick learner, aren't you," he breathes, and Rey's not prepared for how her cunt throbs at the compliment. Neither is she prepared for how he deepens the kiss, her spine dipping even lower over the desk, and her hands are graceless things, tugging at his collar, running down his chest, scrabbling at his bicep, desperate to explore the firmly muscled expanse of him.

 

To sear the way he feels into her memory.

 

Solo kisses her again and again and again. Her toes curl at all the things he's doing to her mouth. Inside it. She can barely keep track of what's going on, so it's with some surprise that she realizes his hands have wedged between their bodies to loosen her Gryffindor tie and to fiddle with the buttons of her school-issued white blouse. He pulls away once her tie has drifted to the floor and the last button has come undone and then he eagerly parts her blouse, those chocolate-and-olive eyes of his raking over her exposed torso.

 

It's only then that Rey remembers she's wearing one of her oldest, homeliest bras. A pale blue color, faded and frayed from so many washings. It's got an army of little pink Fanged Puffskeins stitched onto the cups.

 

And the pattern must be what Solo's staring at, because Lord knows Rey doesn't have much in the way of cleavage that would be considered particularly stare-worthy.

 

She starts to cross her arms over her chest. It's almost an instinct, she's so conscious of her small breasts and her ugly bra, but he stops her.

 

Not by grabbing her wrists or anything like that— instead, he leans in again and kisses her hard on the mouth. So hard that she sees stars as her arms fall away from her chest, her fingers digging into the sleeves of his blazer.

 

"Cute bra," he huffs against the corner of her lips.

 

"Oi, you don't have to make fun," Rey snaps, breaking away to glare at him. "It was a three-for-one sale in Diagon Alley—"

 

But the rest of what she's about to say dissolves into an undignified squeak when his large hand slides up to boldly palm her right breast. His expression suddenly stern.

 

"I was not—" He tweaks her nipple through the thin, worn padding, and a whimper escapes from her throat— "making fun of you, Miss Niima."

 

Oh, fuck...

 

To be called Miss Niima while she's half-dressed and squirming on his desk...

 

To be spoken to so firmly while she's being touched like this...

 

Rey's grateful she's already sitting down. She would have fallen over otherwise.

 

She'd had no idea it could be this way.

 

Solo holds her gaze, nigh unblinking, as he continues playing idly with her breast. "I was not making fun of you," he repeats in no-nonsense tones. "I am, as a matter of fact, very turned on by you. As you must have witnessed for yourself earlier, when you caught me." With one deft gesture, he tugs down the cups of her bra, exposing her breasts to air that carries a hint of late autumn chill, and he doesn't miss a beat in rolling her bare nipple between thumb and forefinger as it pebbles at his touch.

 

The pleasure is so sharply intense that it almost hurts. Rey's mind is spinning. She makes a stab at coherence— "What, ah, what were you thinking about? Earlier?"

 

He doesn't answer right away. Had it been a stupid thing to ask? She's just curious about the specifics, that's all...

 

She watches a not-so-nice smirk bloom on his pale face.

 

"Wouldn't you like to know," he murmurs.

 

Rey narrows her eyes at Solo, reflecting that she might actually dislike him a little— even if she is currently letting him feel her up in his office. Before she can say anything, though, he bows his head, as quick as a flash, and he's sealing his mouth over her other nipple, and he—

 

sucks—

 

All rational thought vanishes. She cries out— well, actually, she yelps, and it's far from the sexiest sound in the world but he doesn't seem to mind one bit, his tongue flicking and swirling in tandem with the fingers that are gently strumming at her other breast and, shit, Rey's going up in flames, pulling him closer, as close as possible, burying her hand in the lush waves of his dark hair.

 

"Sir," she whispers hoarsely, and calling him that, too, is instinct. He's her teacher. She's his student. And it's a school day and he's standing between her legs and making a mess of her with his hot mouth. His clever fingers. Her mind has blanked and at the same time retreated into a very specific kind of headspace that she doesn't want to examine too closely just yet, because it would speak volumes about the kind of person she is. A certain wildness. "Professor Solo, please, I..."

 

"What do you want?" His words are muffled against her skin. "You have to tell me what you want."

 

She hesitates, oddly shy even though the animal inside her is howling at the walls. He is maddeningly content to wait, taking his sweet time covering her sensitive breasts in wet kisses and deliciously sharp pinches until she can't bear it anymore, bursting out, "Your fingers— put them in me— please, I need—"

 

Rey stops again, embarrassed by the comical whine in her tone and the clumsy way she'd phrased her request. She must sound so bloody ridiculous.

 

But Solo pauses, a shudder rippling through his powerful frame. When he lifts his head to peer at her, it's with a half-smile that is self-deprecating and yet tinged with a hint of the dark flames that are threatening to swallow her whole.

 

"If you only knew," he says thickly, "how long I've dreamed about you asking me to do that."

 

She's never been one to let things go. "Is that what you were thinking about earlier?"

 

He, in turn, has never been one to offer her the easy way out. "Maybe. Maybe not."

 

And he bends down again, this time to press nibbling little kisses along her neck. His hand creeps up her thigh, so slowly that it's torturous, so slowly that, when it finally disappears underneath her pleated skirt, she's all flushed and panting, clawing at his blazer.

 

Her impatience startles a chuckle out of him— a rich firewhiskey sound that vibrates against the delicate skin of her neck. That she feels all the way to the tips of her toes. "Feral little thing, aren't you?" he quips, his palm warm and heavy on the inside of her thigh.

 

"I'm tall for my age," Rey says primly. "You're just a sequoia."

 

"And if I were to make the wood-related joke that your comment practically demands?"

 

"I'd kick you off of me, sir," she declares with mock seriousness. "Swear to Merlin."

 

"Brat." He nips at her collarbone. A fresh wave of arousal surges through her, dizzying in its fierceness. There's a part of her that still can't believe this is happening, it's like they're both under some sort of spell. One that blocks out the rest of the world and its repercussions.

 

But she's not complaining in the slightest. And she's especially not complaining when Solo's wandering fingertips graze the outline of her sex through her drenched knickers.

 

It's something akin to an electric shock, the sensation. She jolts in his arms, her heart leaping in its cage, and suddenly his mouth has captured hers again and their tongues are tangling together as he strokes her between her legs. He keeps it light and teasing, never giving her the pressure she craves. Never making direct contact with the flushed wetness that's aching for more. Even when she cants her hips toward him, he pulls his hand back slightly, never affording her more than these skimming, ghostly, barely-there touches.

 

Rey's being driven out of her mind. "You're a bad, bad man," she mumbles against his lips, no longer caring what she's saying.

 

He laughs. Bastard.

 

She's not at all inclined to forgive him, but then he's coaxing her to lay back on the desk, propped up on her elbows, and he's leaning over her with one hand cupping the small of her back while the other continues its ministrations under her skirt. They're still kissing when his fingers finally, finally slip into her underwear.

 

"Fuck," he hisses through clenched teeth, "you're soaked."

 

Rey can't do anything but moan in agreement, turning to hide her furiously blushing face in the crook where Solo's neck meets his shoulder. It seems to her that his fingers are trembling as he glides them along her entrance, coating them in her wetness. It seems to her that she's going to die from pleasure before this is over.

 

And then he pushes one finger inside and—

 

and it hurts—

 

Not in a nice way, either. He'd gone in with his middle finger and it's nearly twice the size of hers. It's a sting that's almost close to burning. She'd known there would be pain, but she winces, anyway, and his hand immediately retreats.

 

"Miss Niima." Solo appears to be at a loss, even as he murmurs the words softly into her hair. "Are— are you a virgin?"

 

"Yes," Rey sniffs into his shirtfront.

 

There is a long, drawn-out silence.

 

When she finally dares to take a peek, he's staring down at her like he can't believe she's real. Devoid of his usual mask, his face is a wonder to behold— fascination is written all over it, as well as a trace of guilt because of the fascination, the emotions flickering like sun-dappled currents amidst which are anchored the beauty marks that dot his pale complexion.

 

She begins to suspect that he is a little like her, and the guilt is starting to feel like a bonus. An added thrill to a situation that is already so, so wrong.

 

"Jesus Christ." The swear is yet another reminder that he's half-blood. "I really am going to hell."

 

The next kiss that he presses to her lips is gentle, as is the manner with which he resumes playing with her exposed breasts. And it's— it's so different from what Rey had been expecting. To hear the other girls talk about it, the first few times getting fingered always bring some discomfort. Boys go straight for the kill, clumsy and fumbling, and it's something to be endured until it starts to feel good.

 

"Oh, what I'd give for a bloke who'll play my lady bits like a violin," Tallie had sighed in the dorms one night, while Jess had nodded in sympathy and Rey and Jannah had just furtively rolled their eyes as they did their homework.

 

But after that first quickly nixed attempt, Solo isn't going straight for the kill.

 

Then again, he isn't a schoolboy.

 

He builds Rey up again with sweet kisses and lingering caresses, waiting until she's squirming on top of his desk and gasping into his mouth before his hand retreats under her skirt once more.

 

"Want to try again?" he ventures, and she nods, and he transfers his lips to her left breast, sucking tenderly as his finger is gradually eased into her with slow rocking motions.

 

She whimpers.

 

This time, it's not from pain.

 

His hot tongue swirls over her flushed little nipple. His thick finger delves inside her, going deeper and deeper with each second that passes.

 

He plays her like a violin.

 

"Do you think you can take another, Miss Niima?" he asks, lifting his head from her chest to study her face.

 

"Y—yes, sir," she pants. She wants to try. Wants to be good for him.

 

Another not-so-nice smile crosses his face. She's not so naive that she can't tell it does something to him, being called that in the middle of— this. She'd been right when she told him he was a bad, bad man.

 

As he switches the attentions of his mouth to her right breast, the second digit is carefully worked into her to join the first. She's so wet now that there's only mild discomfort despite how big his fingers are, stretching her out as they slide along her inner walls. It's not long before her hips have a mind of their own, shamelessly meeting his thrusts.

 

It's not long before Solo pulls off of her nipple with a slick pop, the lewd sound of which makes her blush even harder— but not as hard as when he draws back to simply stare at her, his pupils blown wide with arousal as she grinds against his hand.

 

"God, look at you." His tone is feverish. As is the glint his eyes. These as well as his next words are her only indication that he's no longer in control of himself. "Taking my fingers in that tight, hot cunt—"

 

"Professor," Rey groans. It's partly in protest, because she hadn't been prepared for the way her vision flashed white at the edges to hear him say that. And it's partly a plea for him to keep going.

 

He says nothing, lifting a brow at her in challenge instead. Right. She has to tell him what she wants.

 

"Don't— don't stop," she chokes out. Bother, her face is probably as red as a tomato.

 

It's all the permission Solo needs. He leans in close, his lips grazing the edge of her cheekbone as his wrist quickens its pace. "Look at you," he repeats in a low growl speaking more freely now that it's understood that she'll let him, "your tits hanging out of that cute little bra, wet with my spit, bouncing as you fuck my hand—"

 

Rey's head lolls back, her eyes fluttering shut. Who knew that language could heighten sensation like this— who knew that a man's deep voice rasping filth in her ear could make her feel so weightless—

 

Merlin, she's close. She just needs a little more...

 

"Do you want to know what I was thinking about earlier?" he asks. "When I had my hand on my cock as I said your name?"

 

His cock. Shit. She nods again, pathetically eager.

 

"I was thinking about you on your knees, sucking me off in my classroom after lecture." Solo crooks his fingers inside her and she cries out. "I was thinking about that smart little mouth of yours wrapped around my cock, taking all of it so prettily." She keens, writhing from the combined onslaught of physical sensation and mental images. "I was thinking," he concludes, sounding almost furious as his thumb hones in on her clit, "about you letting me fuck your face like a good girl—"

 

And Rey's orgasm hits her with all the force of a tidal wave. Her spine arches and a pleasure that's nigh unbearable rolls through her system, she falls apart on a sob as she feels herself gush all over Solo's hand, all over her knickers. With how wet she is, it's possible that some of it even gets on his desk.

 

The same desk that she collapses on as he eases his fingers out of her. She barely hears him pull down his zipper over the ringing in her ears.

 

When she looks down her body, Solo is a man unmade through the haze of her afterglow. He's palming her thigh as he stands between her spread legs, his other hand fisted around his erection. She's not been rendered so insensible by her climax that her eyes don't practically bug out of her head at the sheer size of him.

 

He's not as big as she imagined.

 

He's bigger.

 

So much bigger.

 

Just the thought of him cramming that thing into her elicits a fresh trickle of arousal from her aching cunt. She props herself up on her elbows again to get a better view.

 

Solo's jaw is slack, his kiss-bruised lips parted slightly as his breathing emerges all tattered and rough like he's running a marathon. "Rey," he grits out, "can— may I come on you?"

 

The conscientious grammatical correction— in mid-sentence, in the middle of this— almost makes her laugh. It's so him. But she doesn't feel like laughing. He looks as though he'll die if she says no.

 

She's never had this kind of power over anyone before.

 

"Yes," she whispers, mesmerized by the sight of him tugging on his cock, which is long and thick and flushed an angry red, a bead of clear fluid leaking from the tip. "Come on me." A rush of daring makes her add, "Cover me with it, sir."

 

"Fuck." His eyes squeeze shut, teeth bared in a snarl. "You impertinent little witch—"

 

His back bowing, one large hand slamming into the table surface beside her waist, Solo comes, painting Rey's bare abdomen in thick splatters of white, causing her breath to hitch in her throat at how surprisingly warm it is. She wonders what she must look like, laid out on her teacher's desk with her blouse unbuttoned and her breasts exposed and his come pooling on her stomach. She must look like such a wild thing.

 

Solo remains hunched above her, although he's gone still and some of the tension has drained from his shoulders. He'd needed this, Rey thinks, watching the lines of his face soften.

 

And then his eyes meet hers and she swallows, knowing that they've just done the unthinkable. The forbidden. They've taken each other past the point of no return and, from this moment on, things are never going to be the same.

Chapter Text

Solo reaches for his blackthorn wand and flicks it in the air a few centimeters above Rey's stomach. "Scourgify," he mutters.

 

The puddles of cooling spend on her exposed skin disappear as neatly as if they were never there in the first place. She'd known that this particular cleaning charm was all-purpose, but until today she'd had no cause to consider its usage in mopping up... bodily fluids.

 

This is as good an explanation as any for the pink that spreads across her face. And Solo has to be rattled, too, if he'd been unable to muster sufficient focus to cast the spell nonverbally, but his expression gives nothing away even as he tucks himself back into his trousers.

 

His cock still looks heavy and thick despite no longer being erect. She's more than a little sad when it has been decorously hidden from view once more.

 

His large hands dart to her torso, tugging her bra back up and then fastening the buttons of her blouse with clinical precision. He looks so stern as he does this, while she is still all fluttery from the lingering glow of orgasm. The contrast makes her heart skip a beat. Her buttons seem so small between his fingertips.

 

They don't speak as he fixes her uniform for her. Not a single word is uttered until after she's sat up straight on the edge of his desk and he takes a step back, breathing in deep when she peers at him with a vague sort of expectation.

 

In the end, he picks up the invisibility cloak and hands it to her in a bundle of silver. "Miss Niima," he says flatly, "items such as these are highly regulated on school grounds—"

 

"I found it in—"

 

"I don't want to know," he cuts across. "I would prefer to not be an accessory to what I'm beginning to suspect is only one of your many crimes."

 

She scowls, all trace of post-orgasm bliss vanishing. "Bit late for that, isn't it?"

 

There is a spasm in the hollow beneath his eye. She can't understand how they got here when he'd been kissing her and coming all over her just a few minutes ago. Fury mixes with humiliation in the pit of her stomach.

 

This is the second time that this man has seen her at her most vulnerable and pushed her away.

 

She is tired.

 

"We shouldn't have done this," he finally says.

 

Rey hops off the desk. "Look, maybe it's the guilt that gets you off, I don't know, but you can't keep reaching for me and then pushing me away, sir," she chastises him, clutching the wadded-up invisibility cloak to her chest like it's the world's flimsiest shield. "I have a lot of homework, I don't have the time to keep getting twisted into knots because of you. It's not fun." Her eyes blaze as she warms to her topic. She has her pride, damn it, she is more than just a body to serve as both amusement and emotional punching bag. "If this is how it would end up all along, you shouldn't have kissed me in the Forbidden Forest. I've never done this sort of thing with anyone before and I don't believe I want to keep doing it if you're just going to treat me like I've got the plague until the next time you can't control yourself. So, if you can't make up your mind, I'm out. Bollocks to this."

 

Solo doesn't stop her as she leaves his office. He doesn't do anything at all, aside from letting her go. She can only reflect, as she stumbles down the winding flight of stairs, that she would have liked to be held.

 

Even just for a little while.

 

Just to see how it feels.

 

✨✨✨

 

A good majority of her righteous indignation has evaporated by the time night falls over Hogwarts. Now she's second-guessing herself. Had she been too pushy? It's like she's lost some sort of game because she hadn't known the rules.

 

Maybe Professor Solo had been relieved that she left before he had to be the one to let her down in no uncertain terms. He'd been attracted to her, no doubt, but maybe he'd decided that fantasy was better than reality. Maybe she's utter rubbish at kissing, or her bra is that hideous, or the sounds she makes had been too weird.

 

All of this is difficult to swallow but, then again, Rey's been swallowing hard truths all her life.

 

It's Friday evening and the scene in the dorm room is so normal that it makes her grit her teeth. Tallie and Jess are experimenting with hairstyling charms on the latter's bed while Jannah's idly playing with a Screaming Yo-yo purchased from a joke shop in Hogsmeade. The yo-yo lives up to its moniker at random intervals, which makes Jess laugh while Tallie shoots a supremely unbothered Jannah dirty looks.

 

Rey's at her desk, writing an essay on the theoretical basis for the limits of Transfiguration. Mothma is a notorious perfectionist when it comes to grading her students' essays, and Rey knows she needs to give this her best shot. But her brain is shot; every few minutes she finds herself staring into space for so long that ink dribbles from her quill and onto the parchment in unsightly dots, which she has to banish with the Scouring Charm, which of course makes her think of the way Professor Solo had used it earlier.

 

Cleaning up the come on her skin.

 

His come.

 

Rey groans, crossing her legs.

 

"You all right, Niima?" Jannah calls from across the room.

 

Shit, I was too loud. "Fine," Rey says, thinking quickly. "Bit of a funny stomach, that's all."

 

"It was the blancmange, wasn't it?" Tallie's blue eyes are wide and sympathetic. "Knew it tasted suspect— didn't I tell you, Jess—"

 

"You did," Jess confirms, "but you need to not move your head because this part's complicated..." Her wand sweeps through the air in an intricate twirl, and Tallie's copper locks are instantly manipulated into a gorgeously messy bun, a few strands loosened to curl softly around her face.

 

Preening, Tallie gazes adoringly at her reflection in a hand-held mirror. "You're an artist, Jessika."

 

"I really am. Now, let's see if we can add some highlights..."

 

Rey studies the two girls with something like envy. She's willing to bet that they never have guy trouble— they're both too beautiful and too sophisticated for that. They surely know all the right things to do and say in any situation, and it's a given that they don't have cheap bras with silly patterns or a penchant for sounding like a wounded cow during sex.

 

Maybe if I looked like Tallie or Jess— maybe if I were as glamorous— maybe he wouldn't have let me go.

 

Rey is shocked to feel tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. Before she can decide whether to blink them away or hide her face from her roommates, Jannah's yo-yo lets out another bloodcurdling shriek as it spins around her wrist.

 

The sound startles Jess, who's in the middle of performing another complex-looking spell on Tallie's hair. She all but jumps out of her skin, the magic warping—

 

— and every single strand of Tallie's hair stands on end. Colored neon green.

 

Jannah bursts into uproarious guffaws, and Jess quickly follows suit while Tallie yells at them both.

 

Rey joins in the merriment. Not only does Tallie look extremely hilarious right now, but, this way, it's also easy to pretend that her tears are borne from laughing too hard.

 

✨✨✨

 

Headmaster Kenobi has an important announcement to make at dinner on Sunday night.

 

"A very good evening to you all, and happy December," he says when the Great Hall has quieted down in the wake of him getting to his feet. "This year marks the one thousand and twenty-ninth anniversary of our school's founding and, after talking it over, the faculty and myself have decided to do something special to celebrate. On the sixteenth, a week before your winter break, we will be having a little event— a party, if you will." Excited whispers ripple through the captive audience, and Obi-Wan smiles happily. "It is my great pleasure to invite everyone of you to join us at the Hogwarts Celestial Ball!"

 

The students cheer.

 

It is, indeed, a welcome spot of good news. Something to break the monotony of classes and homework.

 

"Formal dress is required and, of course, you may conscript a dance partner. The Shag Kava Band will be playing," Obi-Wan continues to even more enthusiastic applause. "The festivities will commence at six in the evening and curfew will be extended until..." He pauses for dramatic effect. "Half past eleven."

 

The applause immediately grows lukewarm.

 

Obi-Wan chuckles. "Now, now, it is going to be held on a school night, after all..."

 

As the headmaster drones on, Finn turns to his housemates. "Why commemorate the one thousand and twenty-ninth anniversary, though? Bit random, innit?"

 

"Nine's magically auspicious," says Doran Sarkin-Tainer. "There're nine deities in the Ennead of Heliopolis, nine Muses, nine worlds connected by Yggdrasil, nine Lords of the Night in the Aztec calendar— you get the picture."

 

"Who cares?" Tallie sniffs. Her hair had gone back to normal over the weekend. "A ball! Oh, this is going to be so fun— Jessika, we need to discuss our outfits so we don't clash in photo ops— our dates' colors must complement as well—"

 

Rey zones out, shoveling food into her mouth. She's markedly less excited than her peers; in fact, she's dreading the upcoming celebration. It's not like she has anything to wear, and she'd rather face a manticore again than spend her financial assistance on clothes.

 

Maybe it would be possible to sit this one out. Obi-Wan had invited rather than required them, after all, and Finn and Rose will obviously be each other's date so Rey won't have anyone to go with, anyway...

 

Unthinkingly, her gaze strays to the empty chair at the staff table. Professor Solo hasn't joined them for dinner, as usual.

 

She should probably stop caring about that.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey tackles the first week of December with a heavy heart, going through the motions of everyday routine in an autopilot state and throwing herself into her coursework with a renewed frenzy.

 

On the upside, all her quizzes and essays come back spectacular.

 

On the downside, she kind of always feels like she's on the verge of tears.

 

There seem to be a lot more complaints about Professor Solo during this time. The seventh years won't have Defense Against the Dark Arts until Friday morning, but as early as Tuesday Rey overhears the younger students bemoaning about how something must have crawled up Solo's ass and died over the weekend. He's almost as bad as Hux now, apparently.

 

Rey wonders why this might be but she knows that she can't allow herself to hope. She'd given him an ultimatum; his silence and inaction had been answer enough. She wishes that she can stop thinking about him but he's always at the back of her mind, ready to surface whenever she's not plunged into the distraction that studying affords her.

 

Late Thursday afternoon, she's solving Arithmancy problems in the library, using a heavy old tome from the numerology section as her guide. She catches a familiar whiff of sandalwood over the musty smells of papyrus and vellum just as a shadow falls on her hastily inked equations.

 

She wills herself to obtain some measure of control over her racing pulse. "You're in my light, sir," she mumbles without looking up.

 

Professor Solo slowly moves away, but not as far as she'd have expected. Instead, she hears chair legs scrape across the floor, hears him taking a seat at the nearest table behind her so that they're back to back.

 

Even if the library weren't deserted at this hour, they're still hidden from view by rows of towering shelves. That doesn't stop Rey from darting furtive glances around the place, even though it would be a totally innocuous scene to an outsider who has no idea what she and her teacher had done with each other just last week.

 

Solo clears his throat. "Miss Niima," he says softly, before correcting himself. "Rey."

 

"Yes, what is it?" she asks in the breeziest tone she can muster.

 

It takes him a very long time to respond. "How— how have you been?"

 

She frowns down at her equations. The scratch of her quill fills up the silence. She imagines him sitting behind her with his customary tense, rigid posture. Has he cracked open a book or taken out some scrolls to give the pretense of working, or is he merely staring straight ahead? Rey grits her teeth against the temptation to look over her shoulder. To check.

 

"I'm busy." She has no idea where she's drawing this reservoir of coolness from, but she rather likes it. "As I said, I have a lot of homework."

 

"Yes." A hint of what could almost be fondness leaches into his tone. "I remember."

 

Then why are you bothering me? she almost demands, her temper flaring, but she desists because that wouldn't be cool and she is being cool. So she says nothing. Her quill scratches on, even if she's too inwardly rattled to actually understand what she's writing down.

 

She's pretty sure she's inventing a new branch of Arithmancy at this rate.

 

"Aren't you going to ask how I've been?" Solo has the nerve to quip, like the insufferable prick that he is.

 

Rey's eyes narrow, unseen by him. "How rude of me. How have you been, professor?"

 

She braces for a smarmy retort. Something sarcastic and flippant that will cut her down to size and remind her that, to him, she will always be just a kid.

 

"Not well," comes his somber response. "I've been miserable, as a matter of fact."

 

She blinks. Her quill continues moving across the parchment spread out in front of her, detailing what are bound to be incomprehensible proofs.

 

"Rey. For so long—" Solo clears his throat again. "For so long I tried to convince myself that I could stay away. Ever since the second meeting— when you produced a corporal Patronus nonverbally— I've been using Occlumency and all manner of spells to remain distant. Impartial. But you are..."

 

Rey gives him, like, five seconds to complete the sentence— which is already a generous amount of time given how she's practically about to float away on the clouds of both suspense and disbelief. "I'm what?" she demands.

 

"You're a fever," Solo says quietly. "One that I can't shake, even with all the magic at my disposal."

 

Rey finally stops writing, but she doesn't turn around to face him yet. There is a spark of hope lighting up her chest, but she's afraid of it.

 

Afraid of him, and of all the ways that he can destroy her.

 

"The last several days have been torture," he continues. His deep, smoky voice is cracked at the edges, as if he's forcing each word out. "I can't stop thinking about you. The way you kiss. The sounds you make. How beautiful you look when you..." He trails off, self-conscious, probably having no clue what he's doing to her with all this praise. She's sweating. She's clenching her thighs together. The quill is about to snap in her hand.

 

"I know it's a bad idea," he rasps. She can't see his face, she has nothing to go on but his speech, in this place of ancient books and golden lamplight. "Hell, it's probably the stupidest thing you and I could do. But you took me to task for not making up my mind, so here I am. I've made up my mind. If— if you'll still have me."

 

A lone tear of relief slides down Rey's cheek, splattering onto her equations. The ink hasn't fully dried yet and it runs, arcane symbols dissolving into smudges of soot and saltwater.

 

"You don't have to decide now," Solo tells her gently. "Sleep on it. I know at your age it's easy to think you've got the world all figured out, but this won't be easy. If you have even a shred of doubt, we don't have to. You are under no obligation. I just—" He stops again, and then sighs. "After the way I've treated you, I owe it to you to let you know where I stand. We can talk tomorrow, after class."

 

She hears him get to his feet. Hears him walk away, the slow pad of his retreat gradually fading, swallowed up by the oppressive quiet of the library.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey spends the night tossing and turning in bed and, for once, it's not because she's a horny mess.

 

Or— well— that, too, but tonight there's also confusion and trepidation swirling around in her gut.

 

A trepidation that's dangerously close to excitement.

 

What will she say to him tomorrow? What will he say to her?

 

Could she really do it? Could she really have an affair with her professor?

 

An affair. Merlin. Even the word itself seems so delicious.

 

Like forbidden fruit.

 

She shifts again, restless. The bedsprings creak.

 

"Rey!" An annoyed hiss, coming up from out of the gloom. To her left, Tallie is sitting up, silhouetted in a patch of moonlight, nearly every single inch of her features caked with some kind of mud mask. "I can hear you thinking."

 

"Sorry," Rey tells her, abashed. "Can't sleep."

 

"Why not? Is something the matter?"

 

Rey hesitates. Even if she weren't the type of person who, with very few exceptions, kept to herself, she can't exactly take Tallie into confidence regarding this issue.

 

But there is something about a dark night, a quiet hour, and a person you've essentially grown up with. There is something about a lonely heart bursting with news too big for it to contain, and the instinctive, esoteric language of teenage girls.

 

"Tallie," Rey says in hushed tones, "have you ever wanted something but you were too scared to reach for it?"

 

"Yes, of course," Tallie immediately responds. "Like, you know I'm on the healer track, yeah? Well, loads of people were of the opinion that I'd never make it. You should've seen the look on Mothma's face at our career talk back in fifth year. Everyone thought I was too flighty to be a healer, so I had an— I guess you could call it a bit of a crisis? Jess knows all about that. But I really want to be a healer. Although a little voice whispers everyday that I'm just fooling myself, it doesn't mean I'll stop trying."

 

"You're still reaching for it," Rey concludes, "even though you're scared."

 

Tallie nods, a slight smile on her face. "That's what it means to be a Gryffindor."

Chapter Text

The next day, Thanh— the Ticos' plump, enormous, absolute unit of a fish owl— soars into the Great Hall during breakfast, dropping a parcel into Rose's lap. Rose pulls out a tiny scarlet box, cancels the Shrinking Charm that had been placed on it, and levitates it over to the Gryffindor table in its original size before inspecting the rest of her goodies.

 

Finn eagerly grabs the box with both hands. It's a package of sweets and there's a brief but cheerful note taped onto it that's addressed to him and Rey, from Rose's parents. There are sugar quills and exploding bonbons and pepper imps, and chocolate frogs and blood-flavored lollipops and fizzing whizbees and—

 

"Kẹo sìu châu!" Finn cries happily, pocketing the bag of cube-shaped candies made from sesame seeds, peanuts, and malt. "Love my in-laws." He hands the slim bundle of sugar quills to Rey without her having to ask; they're her tooth-rotting favorite.

 

All in all, it's shaping up to be a good day.

 

"Mum and Dad sent you something else," Rose says to Rey as they head to Defense Against the Dark Arts. "I'll give it to you later, after Potions."

 

"What is it?" Rey asks, intrigued.

 

Rose's dark eyes twinkle. "Later," she stresses. "It's a surprise."

 

While Rey is both curious and excited to find out what else had arrived by owl post, all of her attention is immediately focused on Professor Solo when he enters the classroom a few minutes after the students have settled down. She is shocked by his appearance; his hair is actually unkempt, the bruises under his eyes more pronounced.

 

Had he looked like this yesterday, in the library?

 

His bleak gaze flickers over to her. Even as her heart thunders in an equine gallop, she doesn't look away.

 

And, for a short while, neither does he.

 

It lasts only three seconds— maybe four— before he has to start the class, but that brief moment in time wherein his eyes hold hers is so charged that her breathing turns shallow. Perspiration dampens her palms.

 

He wants her.

 

All she has to do is say yes.

 

Today's lecture is on curse identification. Various methods to diagnose the injured who aren't familiar with the spell that hit them or who otherwise can't speak. Rey does her best to listen as Solo launches into a rundown of the most commonly used Dark curses and the effects to watch out for, but the sugar quills in her book bag are haunting her. After an hour has passed, she can no longer resist their siren song.

 

Most of her teachers frown on eating during class; she has no reason to suspect that Solo would be any different. But that's where the beauty of the sugar quill resides; it looks like a perfectly normal quill and one can even write with it— there have been times in the past when Rey had forgotten she'd done so and ended up chewing on the ink-dipped nib.

 

But she'll take care not to do that today. She can't talk to Solo after class with black stains on her teeth.

 

Rey waits until her professor has called on one of her classmates seated on the opposite side of the room. Once his attention is elsewhere, she surreptitiously swpas out her regular quill for one of the candies from the slim bundle. When he resumes lecturing, it's not long before she's putting the tip of the crystallized sugar feather into her mouth, giving off the impression that she's merely sucking on her quill as she assesses what to note down on her scrap of parchment.

 

It's an age-old trick among Hogwarts students. But, of course, Rey can never truly restrain herself when it comes to sugar quills. Her tongue swirls across the tapered end, licking at the sweet, grainy surface, flecks of it melting smoothly into her mouth. Her lips wrap around as much of the feather as they can take, drawing in more of that irresistibly saccharine flavor, bit by bit...

 

She's so swept up that it takes her a while to register that a dead silence has fallen over the classroom. When she looks up from her notes, it's to find that Professor Solo has stopped talking.

 

And he's staring directly at her as he leans against the front of his desk, one hand in his pocket, his jaw slack.

 

The other seventh years are already starting to glance around to see what's caused their instructor to lose his trail of thought. Rey quickly pops the sugar quill out of her mouth, hoping against hope that she won't be chastised for eating in class. Everyone already makes fun of her insatiable appetite as it is.

 

Thankfully, Solo gives her a pass, swiftly looking away from her. "As I was saying..."

 

Not wanting to push her luck, Rey abstains from sucking on the sugar quill again. At the end of the class, she tells Finn and Rose that she has some questions about the homework they've been assigned; once they've gone ahead— once she's made sure that the hallway is deserted— she turns to face Professor Solo, her eyes fixed on him as she closes the door and locks it behind her with a clicking sound that seems so irrevocable, that seems to echo in the stillness.

 

He's standing by his desk, shoulders stooped, packing away his things. As slowly and as methodically as always, like he's delaying the inevitable. She walks over to him, waits quietly beside him, her hands behind her back.

 

Studying his sharp profile, she notices that his characteristic pallor is absent. In fact, he's a little red in the face. The castle's automated heating charms have kicked in, in earnest, now that it's winter, but it usually takes a week for all the magic to adjust to a suitable temperature. As such, the D.A.D.A. classroom borders on uncomfortably warm territory, which is why Rey had discarded her outer robes before lecture began. Solo, meanwhile, had elected to keep his suit jacket on— no wonder he appears to be overheated.

 

"Sir?" she prompts after the silence has stretched on for far too long. "I've made my decision."

 

His dark brown eyes dart to her, then back to his task. His lips press together, a muscle working at his jaw. And, as big as he is, he seems to hunch in on himself even further, like he's trying to be as small as possible.

 

Ludicrously, she's reminded of a little boy waiting to be scolded. The thought almost makes her laugh, but she sobers up as soon as it occurs to her that he's nervous.

 

That she is making him nervous, for once.

 

It's... oddly satisfying. She's tempted to draw it out, but she's immediately repulsed at herself for even contemplating such a thing.

 

This isn't a game. The earnest way he'd spoken in the library, the way she feels when she's around him— none of these things make it feasible to play around the way her schoolmates do with one another.

 

But neither does she have any idea what to actually say to him.

 

Yes, I would like to have an affair with you is ridiculously formal.

 

Yes, I'll let you shag me six ways to Sunday is less formal, but somehow infinitely worse.

 

After mulling it over for a few more seconds while he continues to very unhelpfully pack his bag—

 

"I know a place," Rey blurts out. "It's top secret— one of the hidden rooms in the castle. I can meet you there after curfew most nights, except when I'm swamped with homework—"

 

Solo moves so fast that Rey very nearly doesn't even realize he's grabbed her— one hand at the small of her back, the other at the back of her neck— until he's pressed his lips to hers.

 

It's a kiss that steals the breath from her lungs as usual, that makes her see stars as usual, but it ends as abruptly as it had begun, with him pulling away to narrow his eyes at her.

 

His eyes right now— bloody hell, she could gasp from the way they burn.

 

"I've made a decision, too," he snarls. "You're no longer allowed to fucking suck on sugar quills while I'm lecturing."

 

Her mouth drops open as she puts two and two together. All this time she'd assumed that he simply didn't like students eating in class, but now... well...

 

She can't believe she'd managed to rattle him like that.

 

But still—

 

"I'm not sorry," Rey says with a boldness she hadn't known she was capable of, and Solo's eyes darken and he kisses her again.

 

A fierce and altogether too delicious kind of punishment, so dizzying that her knees give way.

 

He holds her up effortlessly, curving an arm behind her waist and then shuffling them around so that the edge of the desk digs into her rump. He plies her with even more of those intoxicating kisses, pushing her down until she's practically laying on the surface of the large wooden table, with him standing between her spread legs, bending over her and feasting on her mouth. She wraps her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips, and his hands are everywhere— squeezing her breasts through her blouse, palming her bare thighs above her faded old knee socks.

 

It goes on forever and, at the same time, not for long enough.

 

"Have you got somewhere to be?" he asks after one last peck, his breath hot against her cheek. His cock hard against her stomach.

 

"Just— just lunch, and then Potions," she answers in a faltering rush, trying to catch her breath.

 

"Right." Solo mouths at the pulse point on her neck. "Give me thirty minutes."

 

"What for?"

 

He nips at the column of her throat, eliciting a squeak from her. "You'll see."

 

And he slowly works his way down.

 

Their frantic movements just a few moments ago had caused her blouse to ride up almost to her chest. Without missing a beat, he places damp, lingering kisses all over her exposed stomach; her abdominal muscles quiver at every touch of his lips, and she feels him smile against her skin.

 

And then he's— oh— he's drifting lower, kissing the inside of her thigh as his large fingers hike up the folds of her pleated skirt...

 

"Wait!" Rey props herself up on her elbows, staring at him in something like horror. She doesn't shave or trim or any of that— there's never been a reason to— and she's heard more than a few male schoolmates hoot that girls smell funny down there.

 

Solo stops at once, blinking. "You don't like it when—"

 

"It's not that," she interrupts, blushing furiously. "I just—" She doesn't want to get into a discussion about personal grooming and... odors right now; in her haste to cover up she unearths another truth. "I don't know if I'll like it, I've never..."

 

She trails off, because he looks angry.

 

"No one ever did this for you?" he demands.

 

It's her turn to blink. "I already told you I don't do this sort of thing. In the forest, that was— that was my first kiss—"

 

It's so fascinating, how incredibly readable his face is without the benefit of Occlumency.

 

It's so thrilling, the guilt-tinged, wolfish kind of excitement that shadows his features at her confession.

 

He turns his head slightly in order to gently suck a bruise into her inner thigh, maintaining eye contact with her all the while. A fresh surge of arousal trickles into her already damp underwear and she doesn't think she'll ever be able to get it out of her mind, the contrast of his kiss-swollen red lips against her delicate, freckled skin.

 

Rey's head falls back against the desk as Solo gradually peppers more of those violently tender kisses up her thigh. She's so lost in the sensation that she doesn't protest when he starts to roll her knickers down her hips; despite her insecurities, she whines when he stops mere inches from where she suddenly needs that sinful mouth to be— but it's only so that he can slide her underwear all the way down and he's quick to return where he left off, nibbling and licking as he slips her soaked, white cotton knickers into his pocket.

 

"So wet," he murmurs. Those great big hands of his coaxing her thighs apart. One long, thick finger skimming her entrance lightly. "Always so wet for me."

 

She moans— whether in agreement or in embarrassment or at his touch or a combination of all three, she can't quite tell, and when he speaks again his voice all but cracks with yearning. "Look at this pretty little pussy. So pink and soft, and dripping all over my desk."

 

The words are hushed, their timbre hypnotic. Rey has a bad case of the full-body shivers now. It only gets worse when Solo adds, "And to think that no one's ever kissed it—"

 

The tip of his finger nudges inside. Just barely. Not enough. Never enough. Her hips cant in a vain attempt to take it deeper.

 

She's frustrated enough to goad him. To play on what she's starting to realize is his weakness. "No one," she affirms, throwing all shyness to the wind. "Not until you, sir."

 

Professor Solo's eyes blazing with a dark possessiveness are the last thing that Rey sees of his face before he buries it between her thighs.

 

At the first touch of those pillowy lips on her sex, a hoarse shout is torn loose from her throat. She can't help it, the sensation is of such electrifying pleasure that if she doesn't vocalize she'll die.

 

It's very, very loud.

 

She claps a hand over her mouth.

 

Solo is... unperturbed, for the most part. He doesn't stop what he's doing, but he does fish his blackthorn wand out of the inner lining of his suit jacket, waving it languidly in the direction of the walls. "Silencio totalis," he rumbles against her cunt, and each syllable of the incantation vibrates through her core at the same time that she feels the air resonate with magic, wrapping the classroom in an invisible field that traps all sound within.

 

It makes her blood sing.

 

Her eyes flutter shut and her spine arches off of the table surface as Solo kisses her cunt the way he kisses her mouth. His tongue lapping at and rolling against. His lips gliding slickly. With the containment spell in place, she's free to be as loud as she likes, each moan and gasp so foreignly wanton to her own ears. It feels so good that it's almost painful. It feels like she's being worshiped, like she's actually beautiful. She grinds her hips against his clever mouth and twists her fingers into his lush black hair and she's alive with it, there could be nothing else but this.

 

It's a good thing that there are no windows facing the corridor. If there were, and if someone were to look inside, they'd see her getting eaten out by her professor on his desk.

 

The thought shouldn't intrigue her as much as it does. There shouldn't be a part of her that's enjoying how wrong this is.

 

Maybe she's not such a good girl, after all.

 

His hands slide under her buttocks, lifting them a little ways off the desk, maneuvering her so he can get a better angle— and she almost wishes that he hadn't, because his tongue delves inside her and the tip of his nose nuzzles at her clit and this shouldn't be allowed, how do people get anything done when sex can be like this, she's in heaven and it terrifies her, she's babbling nonsense, carrying on with yes and there and feels so good, sir, you're going to make me come, professor, her hips bucking and her legs flailing as they dangle over his broad shoulders, her right hand flying up to tug at her nipples through her blouse in a mindless bid for more sensation, more, more, more—

 

"That's it, baby," Ben Solo growls, and what's left of Rey's synapses misfire all at once and, fucking hell, maybe she does have an American accent kink. "Play with your pretty tits while you fuck my mouth— want you to come with my tongue on your clit— think you can do that for me, Miss Niima?"

 

Each gloriously filthy word echoes through her like the silencing incantation had earlier. There it is again, the desire— the instinct to please. "Yes, sir," she moans, both hands now frantically clawing at her own breasts, each sharp pinprick of sensation running in fine counterpoint to the steady rhythm of his mouth between her legs. "I'll be good, sir, I'll come any way you want me to—"

 

"God, Rey," he groans, a hitch in his throat. Glancing down at him, she can see that he's closed his eyes even as he nuzzles deeper against her, into her. "You'll be the end of me."

 

When Solo's tongue hones in on her clit at the same time that he slides two fingers into her— two that she's wet enough to take in a single stroke, with only minimal resistance— Rey immediately knows that she's not going to last much longer. Several deft, velvety flicks that make her sob out loud as he stretches her out, and then he's taking the little bundle of nerves between his lips, sucking gently and pumping his fingers inside her until her vision whites out at the edges, and with one final swirl of his tongue over her clit—

 

she breaks.

 

Harder than she's ever had in the past.

 

Perhaps harder than she ever will again, although she hopes not, hopes that these heights will continue to be reached.

 

She comes with something that's very nearly a scream, her toes curling. Her body writhing. It builds and it builds, like tremors and then earthquake. Like event horizon.

 

He's ruined her for anyone else.

 

Although he has for sure felt and heard her orgasm— although she has for sure drenched his fingers and the lower half of his face— he doesn't stop licking away at her, guiding her firmly through each rolling wave until she winces from overstimulation.

 

It's only then that he surfaces, moving upward again and sliding his tongue into her already parted mouth.

 

Letting her taste herself.

 

Sharing this with her.

 

She can do nothing but return his kiss weakly. Her brain has turned to mush. She's floating.

 

In a daze, she slowly starts to lift her arms, planning to wrap them around him in an embrace that will hopefully be reciprocated, but he straightens up just as her fingers are about to touch his sleeve.

 

Ugh.

 

Well, she'll get him another time.

 

"I'm keeping these, by the way," he announces. At her confused expression, he pats the pocket he'd shoved her underwear into. There's a wicked glint in his dark eyes. "I'll give them back later tonight. When we meet at the room you mentioned."

 

Rey slides off the desk and onto her feet, although her knees are so wobbly that she has to clutch the edge of the table for support. She grasps for coherence, her mind still mostly fogged up by afterglow. "You... you want me to go about the rest of the day without my knickers?"

 

A hint of a smile twitches at the corner of Solo's lips as he tucks her blouse back into the waistband of her skirt. "Say knickers again."

 

Infuriating man.

Chapter Text

Potions isn't Rey's favorite class by a long shot. The subject itself is interesting, but listening to Hux drone on and on had always been akin to fighting the effects of a mild sleeping draught while at the same time listening to nails grate on a chalkboard.

 

Today, it's so much worse.

 

Because she's not wearing any underwear.

 

And she can't stop thinking about why she's not wearing any underwear.

 

Rey is crushing a bezoar into fine powder with mortar and pestle. Finn is beside her and he's working far more efficiently than she is, due to the fact that her hands are shaking and she's— well, she's squirming. Every time her bare thighs brush together she's reminded of her little problem. And every time her mind wanders— which doesn't take a lot of effort considering how mechanical her task is— she thinks about Professor Solo eating her out on his desk after class, and a trickle of arousal drips out with nothing to catch it but her bare skin.

 

She feels so exposed. So dirty. And that makes her even wetter.

 

Something's wrong with her. She really isn't like the other girls.

 

She's a pervert.

 

"What's going on with you?" Finn hisses.

 

"Nothing," Rey hisses back far too quickly. "What's going on with you?"

 

"No talking," snaps Professor Hux. It's a common enough refrain on his part as he paces from one end of the dungeon to the other, hands folded behind his back, but what's not so common is the way he stops at Rey's table to give her a hard stare.

 

"Miss Niima," he says coldly, "your face is as red as one of those infernal Muggle stoplights. Are you unwell?"

 

"No, sir," Rey mumbles, giving all her attention to her half-crushed bezoar until Hux finally moves on.

 

With no idea that one of his students is a stiff breeze away from causing a scandal.

 

This is so, so wrong.

 

She's going to kill Ben Solo.

 

But you like it, whispers her treacherous inner voice. You like no one except for him knowing what's under your skirt— or, rather, what's not under it. You like keeping secrets. You like your friends and classmates not having any idea of the things you dare to do.

 

God damn it, she's horny again.

 

She really will make Solo pay for this.

 

Rey all but weeps in relief when Hux dismisses the seventh years an hour later. She's high-key entertaining the notion of rubbing one out in the nearest bathroom, but then Rose is grabbing her arm as they file out of the dungeons while Finn tosses them a wave as he races off to his next class.

 

It's only then that Rey remembers Rose has something for her.

 

"I wrote Mum and Dad about the ball," Rose announces after they've found a quiet spot where they can talk. "They said you ought to have something nice to wear, so they sent this over." She roots around in her book bag; judging by the cacophony that emanates from within, some kind of expansion charm has been cast to make the bag larger on the inside. It's not long before she's pulling out a ripple of gauzy midnight blue fabric, studded with tiny silver stars that glimmer in the pale December light.

 

"Ta-dah!" Rose holds out the dress with a flourish. A herd of fourth years gasp admiringly as they walk past, then hurry away once Rose shoots them the typical upperclassman get lost look. "This is Paige's old gown that she wore to her graduation ceremony," she tells Rey. "The two of you have similar measurements, I believe, but we can alter it."

 

"Rose—" The protest had been rising up Rey's throat from the very first moment she laid eyes on the beautiful gown. "I can't—"

 

"Sure, you can," Rose insists. "Listen, I know this ball's not your thing, but it's our last year and, I don't know, it might be fun? I shan't force you to go but, in case you decide to, at least you've got your outfit all sorted, yeah?"

 

Rey gives up. Rose looks so happy to be able to do this for her. And she won't deny that there's a lump in her throat from how much she's overflowing with love for the Ticos in this moment.

 

To stop herself from bursting into tears on the spot, Rey inspects the garment. Skepticism soon dawns on her face. "Rose, it's missing a panel in the back and in the front."

 

"That's what we call fashion, Rey," the other girl huffs, thrusting the dress into Rey's arms.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey walks Rose down to the latter's Herbology class. While structurally similar to the other Hogwarts greenhouses, the one that the seventh years use contains a variety of foliage that all look snarly and spiky from the outside— Rey's never gone in, it's strictly off-limits to those without the proper clearance. Through the glass, though, she can see the danger signs that are prominently displayed amidst almost every clustered-together species of plant. Large areas of the otherwise transparent building are bathed in magical darkness; Rose had told her once that it's for the flowers that bloom only in the total absence of light. Most of which are poisonous.

 

The truth is, Rey can't help a sliver of mild alarm from coursing through her system every time Rose vanishes into the leafy depths of that place. By their sixth year, it had become quite obvious that advanced Herbology is no joke. Students can't proceed to the N.E.W.T. level class without a special waiver signed by their parents or their legal guardians.

 

"See you later," Rey tells Rose. "Don't die."

 

"Nothing to worry about, we're just handling man-eaters today," Rose says in breezy tones as she enters the greenhouse. "They're awfully predictable."

 

Sighing, Rey heads back to the welcome warmth of the castle. She only has the two classes— Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions— on Fridays. A schedule that she'd liked at the beginning of term because it allowed her to get more schoolwork done so she'd have some semblance of a weekend, but on this particular afternoon she already knows she won't be able to concentrate on runes or spellcasting or essays or equations. It's going to be an unbearably long stretch of empty hours until dinner time and then lights out, when she can sneak away to meet Professor Solo at the Room of Requirement.

 

The prospect of seeing him— of being alone with him for hours in a space no one can intrude upon— sparks a flurry of excitement in the pit of her stomach. It is echoed in the bare wetness between her legs.

 

Well— maybe she does know a way to pass the time.

 

Unfortunately, Jannah has a free afternoon as well, and it's too cold to while away the hours on the grounds as she usually does. Thus, when Rey eagerly barrels into the dorm room, she stops short at the sight of Jannah idly sketching out Quidditch formations on the floor with colored chalk.

 

"Ah, Niima, there you are," Jannah says. "There's a couple of new strategies I was picturing that I wanted to run by you—"

 

"Oh— I can't." Rey starts backing out of the room. "I have— a thing. I must go... bye..."

 

Jannah blinks, utterly mystified. "What'd you come in for, then?"

 

"I don't know," Rey tells her with quiet dignity, before hightailing it out of the dorms.

 

Bugger. She has no choice but to find a supply closet. She knows there's one near the Clock Tower.

 

"Rey!" a male voice calls out just as she's about to make the turn into that particular corridor.

 

"Bugger." This time she says it aloud, under her breath. She spins on her heel to see Seff Hellin running up to her while his friends hang back with grins that can be described as enigmatic, for some reason.

 

"Hullo," Seff says, a little breathlessly, his cheeks pink. "Have you got a minute? There's something I want to ask..."

 

Rey really cannot discuss homework right now, with her body all tensed up at the promise of relief. Her head is swimming. She's so horny she can barely see straight.

 

"I'm in a hurry," she tells Seff. "I'm— I have a thing."

 

"Oh, all right." He visibly deflates. "Some other time, then."

 

"Yes, brilliant," she says, already hurrying away.

 

The hallway leading to the Clock Tower is mercifully deserted, since there are no classrooms in this area of the castle. Rey all but dives into the supply closet, muttering a quick "Colloportus" to seal the door after she's slammed it shut behind her.

 

She leans against the aforementioned door and doesn't venture in any further. It's too dark for her to be able to see where she's going and the last thing she needs is to get into a wrestling match with buckets and mops and who knows what else the house-elves fill the supply closets with. She tucks her wand into the pocket of her robes and has enough presence of mind to then clap her hand over her mouth, muffling her gasp as her other hand disappears underneath her skirt.

 

Just a couple of experimental strokes, and the tips of her fingers are already drenched. She's so wet. Fuck. She's got half a mind to never let Solo steal her knickers again, if this is what it brings her to.

 

It's too much.

 

But getting off quickly had always been Rey's area of expertise, even before she'd met him. With practiced motions, she slides two fingers inside herself— inside her pretty little pussy, as Solo had called it. So pink and soft. She shudders. What a filthy man, with a filthy tongue that had done filthy things.

 

Rey moans into her palm as her thumb finds her clit. The clit that her teacher had sucked on until she came, crying. She tries to mimic what he'd done in his office. She falls into the rhythm he'd set, gently rubbing while her fingers crook against her most sensitive places. It feels delightful, but maddeningly so because it's not delightful enough. Her fingers are small compared to his— now that she knows what it's like to be stretched out, she craves it.

 

Biting down on her lower lip, Rey adds a third finger. Better. Much easier to imagine that it's his hand, that his voice is murmuring in her ear and guiding her to her peak. Doing it standing up is a bit weird at first, but soon her hips are rolling down to match the upward flicks of her wrist, chasing the pleasure. Quick learner, aren't you, Solo had said. Eager little thing, aren't you.

 

She wonders what he'll do if she tells him she'd masturbated in a supply closet. Maybe he'll call her a dirty girl again. Her toes curl at the thought of it.

 

She wonders what he'll do to her tonight. If he'll lick her cunt again.

 

If he'll fuck her.

 

Merlin, would he even fit? From what she'd seen of him, he'd been so huge...

 

She'll take it, Rey decides. If she and Solo go all the way tonight, she'll show him that she can take it all. She'll be good for him, she'll be his dirty girl, she'll come on his cock—

 

She orgasms with a muffled cry, her teeth digging into the mound of her palm. Her spine arching off the closet door. Three fingers crammed inside herself, thumb moving in haphazard circles under her skirt. Her eyes fluttering in the dark as wetness drips down her thighs in much-needed release.

 

When it's over, Rey pulls out her fingers, wincing as they scrape against her overly sensitized walls. She feels... sordid. Embarrassed. Guilty.

 

But also blissfully relieved that she'd taken the edge off.

 

Now she can act like a completely normal person until she sees him again.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey had agreed to meet Professor Solo at eleven in the evening. It's a stroke of luck that Tallie and Jannah fall asleep earlier than usual, but at half past ten Jess still hasn't come back from her rounds. Rey waits fifteen more minutes before deciding— screw it. Jess may be a prefect but she usually leaves well enough alone if no blatant rule-breaking is committed in plain sight. She's also the type to mind her own business, so she probably won't ask Rey why she hadn't been in the common room or the dorm when she returned.

 

It's not like no one's ever broken curfew before— including Jess herself, in earlier years.

 

Buoyed by all of this internal justification, Rey dons the invisibility cloak and steals out of the portrait hole. Every inch of her is buzzing with excitement. The thrill of it. All the way up the torch-lit staircases and shadowy corridors, her steps are lighter than air.

 

On the sixth floor of the castle, she encounters Jess, who is clearly on her way back to Gryffindor Tower, but not alone— Kaydel Ko Connix, the Slytherin Chaser who's also a prefect, is with her. They're conversing in hushed tones and holding hands.

 

Although unseen and at some distance across from them, Rey still instinctively flattens herself against the wall as Jess and Kaydel pass by. They're speaking too quietly for Rey to make anything out, but Jess is all... smiley and giddy-looking, while Kaydel is uncharacteristically relaxed.

 

Blimey, Rey thinks. First Doran Sarkin-Tainer and Korr Sella, and now Jess and Kaydel. Did all her housemates have a Slytherin fetish? Shaking her head, she tears off again, the low burble of the two prefects' voices fading away as she turns the corner and ascends one more flight of stairs.

 

She spots Professor Solo soon enough. He'd followed the directions she'd spouted before leaving his classroom and he's now squinting up at the troll tapestry with an expression of deepest bewilderment, still wearing his gray suit from earlier. As she approaches, Rey's struck by the way the torchlight flickers over his marble-carved profile, creating strange shadows on the planes and hollows of his face.

 

She's so nervous that she bleats out a quavery "Hi" before she can think better of it.

 

And she swears to Merlin that Solo jumps a foot in the air.

 

And then he whirls in her general direction, blackthorn wand aimed at an invisible attacker.

 

"It's me," she hastens to tell him before he ends up accidentally hexing her nose off or something.

 

"Jesus Christ," he mutters. He slips the wand back into the inner lining of his suit jacket. "That cloak's a menace."

 

Rey makes a face at him before realizing he can't see her. She doesn't want to remove the cloak just yet; although there are no portraits in this hallway that can tell on them, someone could come around the bend at any moment. Plutt, or the house-elves, or one of the castle ghosts. It's not a risk she's willing to take.

 

So she takes his hand instead.

 

Or— to be more accurate— she almost does, but she chickens out at the last possible second and her fingers close around his wrist. He jerks at this sudden contact and she doesn't blame him one bit, it's not every day that the seemingly empty air grabs hold of you. She tugs him forward, and if there is a small and secret part of her that wistfully thinks about Jess and Kaydel lacing their fingers together as they walk— well, she quashes it right away.

 

"Wait here," Rey tells Solo once they're standing in front of the blank wall. She lets go of his wrist and paces back and forth, thinking hard. We need to hide, we need the Room of Hidden Things, and no one else can come in—

 

The door materializes. She turns to Solo in triumph, but he's not looking at it. Instead, he's staring down at his wrist, his expression disbelieving and sort of... despondent? No, that can't be right—

 

The blood in Rey's veins turns to ice. Is he offended that she'd hauled him around? In hindsight, it had been rather forward of her.

 

She doesn't know the rules for this.

 

"Do you still want to go in?" she asks him quietly.

 

His dark eyes snap up in the direction of the sound of her voice. She realizes there's already a part of her that's bracing for him to say no. She's too awkward. Too grabby. According to her parents, she's not even much to look at. Waste of space.

 

Hardly the kind of girl worth risking a career and a reputation for.

 

"Yes," Solo says. He licks his lips in an uncharacteristically nervous gesture; her invisible gaze tracks the sweep of his tongue over the swell of a plush bottom lip. "Yes," he says again. "Let's go."

 

Heart pounding, hardly daring to believe it, Rey pushes open the door to the Room of Requirement. "After you."

 

Slowly, he steps over the threshold. She casts one last look back at the dimly-lit, empty hallway, and then she follows him inside.

Chapter Text

Rey takes off the invisibility cloak, beneath which she's still wearing her uniform minus the school tie and black outer robes that she'd left behind at the dormitory. It occurs to her that she and Solo match— him in his charcoal gray suit and white shirt, her in her dark gray skirt and white blouse. His tie is a red so dark it's almost black, like wine, and the expression on his face as he surveys the Room of Hidden Things is nothing short of marveling.

 

She watches his widened dark eyes roam from one ceiling-high tower of odds and ends to the next, illuminated by a plethora of flickering torches hung on the walls. His lips are parted slightly as he takes in the sight of hundreds of years' worth of lost treasure and forgotten junk, each one a remnant left behind by somebody who had walked the halls of Hogwarts and called it home. Irrevocable proof that the castle had been lived in, that it had served as shelter for generations upon generations of witches and wizards in the United Kingdom.

 

The wonder softens Ben Solo's features. Makes him look boyish in the dust-flecked, gilded light.

 

"How old are you?" It's a question that emerges from between Rey's lips almost without her knowing.

 

He hesitates for several long moments. When he finally replies, his tone verges on combative. "Twenty-eight."

 

He says it like he thinks it might be a deal-breaker, and perhaps it should be.

 

But it isn't.

 

Not to her.

 

"I actually thought you were older," Rey admits.

 

"I'm old before my time, certainly," Solo quips, another one of those wry smirks of his tugging at the corner of his mouth for a fleeting heartbeat before he turns solemn once more. "But it's still a difference of ten years, Rey."

 

She shrugs. She doesn't care. Not really.

 

In fact, she suspects that she might kind of like it. He's not one of those playground bullies who'd teased her mercilessly in her childhood, and he's not a gangly and overly boisterous teenager now. He's no bumbling schoolboy.

 

He's a man.

 

And if she's being completely honest with herself, that's part of what makes her gravitate to him like a moth to a flame.

 

Solo had relaxed just the tiniest bit at her shrug. He ventures down an aisle of mostly books to one side, contraband items to the other. "How did you find this place?"

 

"The house-elves told me about it," Rey says, trailing after him. "The room transmutes itself into whatever you want, as long as you concentrate and you try to be as specific as possible. I first happened upon this configuration when I needed somewhere to be alone. Where no one would find me."

 

He is silent, turning from one towering pile to the next, head tilted back in an effort to assess the full scale of the chamber and its myriad objects.

 

She smiles. "You're impressed, aren't you, professor?"

 

"It's interesting," he concedes in an excruciatingly polite tone of voice, disappearing around the corner.

 

She rolls her eyes even as she quickens her steps in order to catch up. Would it kill him to show normal human emotions for once?

 

The next aisle that she turns into is one that she hasn't fully explored before. He's nowhere in sight but she can hear him moving about behind a row of assorted knickknacks. "You must have had rooms like these at Ilvermorny as well," she muses, perusing a teapot covered in symbols that she recognizes as the runes for good health, happy home, and— strangely enough— mice.

 

"I am not aware of a room that possessed the capacity to attune to the needs of its inhabitants," comes Solo's reply, "but there's one that can teleport you to any other room in the world that you desire, as long as that room has a door."

 

"Sounds like a security breach waiting to happen."

 

"You couldn't actually leave the room to access the rest of whatever building it was in." He sounds gradually farther away, like he's walking down the aisle beside hers. Rey walks as well, following his voice, keeping pace with him. "And you couldn't take anything or anyone out of it when you went back into the castle."

 

"Where'd you get off to then, mostly?"

 

"Home." He sounds vaguely wistful. "I scared the crap out of my dad the first time I used the room to enter his study. He thought I'd run away from school— that, despite being only fourteen, I'd learned how to Apparate. Or, as he calls it, to Abra kadabra. He never remembers the correct terms for a lot of wizarding things."

 

Rey laughs, utterly charmed by this story. Shyly offering one of her own. "For months after arriving at Hogwarts I thought it was called the Flu Network, as in influenza. It seemed right because I sneezed out the powder the first time, so I never questioned it."

 

There is a faint huff from behind precariously stacked piles of tarnished goblets and candelabras. She supposes that it could feasibly be a chuckle.

 

"I didn't know you were Muggleborn," Solo remarks.

 

"I am."

 

"Your parents' reactions the day you got your letter must have been priceless."

 

All of a sudden, Rey is very glad that she and Solo are obscured from each other's line of sight.

 

She can be a more effective liar when he's not looking at her.

 

"Priceless, indeed," she says, "but they came around eventually." There's no way she's telling him the truth tonight— or any other night, if she can help it. She's never wanted anyone's pity and she won't be able to stomach his in particular. She changes the subject as quick as a flash. "Are you going home for winter break?"

 

"No. It's not yet advisable."

 

Of course not. He's here because he has to lay low for a while— he'd told her so. Rey inwardly curses herself for her tactlessness but, as is always the case, the words barrel out of her before she can stop them. "Do you miss America?"

 

"I miss my family," Solo carefully replies. She hears his footsteps drifting ahead, quick and light like he's taking long strides, and she runs to catch up, turning the corner as soon as she reaches the end of the aisle and suddenly he is there, looming over her beside a mountain of Fanged Frisbees and Grow-Your-Own-Warts kits, his dark eyes shining in the torchlight.

 

"However," he continues, all husky and low, "I do believe that Britain might be growing on me."

 

And he kisses her. And the world stops.

 

She rises almost to the tips of her toes, looping her arms around his neck. His hands roam down her back with a greedy, all-encompassing kind of hunger, one hand slipping under her skirt to squeeze the bare cheeks of her ass. She moans into his mouth and he deepens the kiss in response, his movements growing more frantic, his free arm clamping around her waist to hold her closer to him as his palm curves down her ass so that the tips of his fingers press flat against the contours of her sex.

 

Oh, how she squirms at that touch. She's thought about this ever since she left his classroom on wobbly legs twelve hours ago.

 

"Fuck me, Rey, how are you already so wet?" Solo demands as he starts kissing her neck. As he starts feeling her up in earnest. He sounds absolutely bowled over and half-mad with want.

 

There can be no room for embarrassment on her part when she knows she's the one making him sound like that.

 

"I— I've been wet all day," Rey gasps out as he dips a finger inside her. She clutches at his broad shoulders to avoid collapsing to the floor, sparks of pleasure dancing behind her eyes. "I even touched myself in a supply closet. After Potions class. Got off thinking about you—"

 

"Shit." He trembles against her. It's not unlike an oak tree withstanding a mighty gale. Another finger surges forward to play with her clit and she arches into him with a soft cry. "I can't believe you," he mutters darkly against the soft skin of her neck. "Goddamn minx."

 

"Only for you, sir."

 

Merlin, the things she says when she's with him.

 

With a growl, Solo slips his finger out of her and backs her up against the nearest stone pillar. He goes for her buttons, coming this close to ripping them away as he nibbles at the column of her throat.

 

"No hickeys," she has the presence of mind to tell him. They're bound to be hard to hide, considering that she always wears her hair up.

 

"I'll leave them on your tits," he promises. "And your thighs."

 

How is she not bursting into flames right this instant? Before she can figure that out, he's making good on his word, sucking a bruise into the exposed swell of her left breast, right above the cup of what is thankfully the plain white bra devoid of any silly patterns that she'd elected to wear today.

 

It's difficult to shrug out of her unfastened blouse when all she wants to do is revel in the ministrations of his wicked mouth, but she manages. It drops to the floor at their feet and is soon followed by the suit jacket that she helps him take off. She's a slave to instinct now, they both are, she's wrestling his tie off of him and he's undoing the clasps of her bra as he covers her chest in wisteria-colored marks in the shape of his teeth. How like an animal she sounds when he takes her nipple between his lips, when he wedges a muscular thigh between her much smaller ones.

 

"Professor—" She rubs herself over the woolen fabric of his trousers. It's a new sensation, it is rough and electric, it winnows her voice into the most hushed and strangled of whispers— "oh, God—"

 

"I still think about the night you came like this." His words are broken against her skin. "Drove me crazy, how you came just like that— drives me crazy still, how you're always so ready and so wet under that short little skirt—"

 

He sucks on her nipple hard enough that she utters a hoarse shout, and then he—

 

doesn't stop, and she's twisting her fingers into his hair and her hips are bucking off of the pillar until she finds the spot, just the right spot, just the right angle, to rub against and grind down on and—

 

and in hindsight, the orgasm shouldn't have taken her by surprise. That night in the Forbidden Forest had proven her capable of this kind of hair-trigger release, and despite that furtive interlude in the supply closet where she'd taken matters into her own hands, the whole day had been spent in a state of constant, low-grade arousal. Of course she'd already been on the edge.

 

But still her eyes widen. Still her lips part as shallow ripples of pleasure course through her system and she gushes all over his trousers, and he's straightening up with a groan and kissing her hard on the mouth, his hands slipping between their bodies to fondle her bare breasts.

 

"You're so good at coming," he rasps, thumbing at her nipples. "So good at everything, really..."

 

The praise makes her throb. She can no longer stay on her feet, everything inside her is all dizziness and warmth and a languid, post-climax sort of yearning that's gradually ratcheting up in intensity with each caress that he bestows.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Rey catches sight of a familiar lumpy couch, shoved in between a coffee table missing one leg and a wardrobe with its door loose on its hinges. She knows from having sat there before that nothing's wrong with the couch— it's even steered clear of the dust and grime of ages with some kind of warding enchantment. Its only flaw is that it is supremely horrid, a violet-and-green tartan monstrosity.

 

It's better than nothing.

 

Rey calls Solo's attention, nodding towards the couch. He scoops her up into his arms, carrying her as one would a bride— although the whimsical illusion is ruined by the fact that she's topless and he kisses her with so much tongue as he stumbles forward, not stopping for breath until he deposits her gently onto the cushions.

 

Right as she wonders how on earth they're going to fit, there is an almighty creaking noise as the couch grows to twice its original length and width.

 

Solo blinks, looking intrigued. "Do you think the couch has an automatic expansion charm built in, or is it part of the room's magic, giving us what we require?"

 

"I don't care right now," Rey says impatiently, lying back on the couch. Spreading her thighs without him having to ask. "Just come here."

 

"So bossy," he hums, kneeling between her legs. He sounds almost fond of her.

 

Their gazes lock as he works on the buttons of his crisp white shirt. The way his fingers fumble with such an ordinary task is the only indication that he's echoing some of the nervousness that she feels. And she doesn't notice when his shirt drops to the floor— doesn't notice anything else in the room, because her universe narrows down to him and him alone.

 

More specifically, to the sight of his naked torso.

 

Rey had always known that Solo would be massive. His blazers and coats and suit jackets and dress shirts had done nothing to hide that.

 

But she hadn't been prepared for just how much of his chest there is. The wide and pale and finely formed expanse of it, flecked with a light dusting of moles and freckles here and there. She hadn't been prepared for the sheer broadness of his shoulders when they weren't hidden from view. Or for the exquisite definition of his arms. Or for the chiseled musculature of his abdomen. Or for how all of this tapers into a trim waist and lean hips and sturdy thighs and long, long legs.

 

Rey's breath hitches in her throat as she stares up at him. Golden torchlight splinters through the messy waves of his dark hair. His eyes in this shadow-stained atmosphere are very nearly black— black and burning down upon her like they're a fiery night sky and she's falling into their depths.

 

He looks like an avenging angel, his body carved from marble.

 

He is almost thrice her size.

 

"We can stop at any time," he says quietly.

 

She shakes her head, mouth dry. "I don't want to stop."

 

Solo unbuckles his belt in the same clumsy, trembling manner with which he'd unbuttoned his shirt. She can see his erection straining against the confines of his trousers. I did that, she thinks, her mind a whirl. I made him that hard.

 

He doesn't remove his trousers yet, though. Instead, those great big fingers of his hook into the waistband of her skirt, rolling it down. She lifts her hips off of the cushions in order to assist, and soon her skirt has fallen to the wayside along with her shoes and her inhibitions and his eyes are devouring the sight of her laid bare before him, save for—

 

"Do you mind keeping your knee socks on?" Solo asks. The half-smile that he cracks is entrancing— mischievous, yet with a trace of bashfulness. "It's just— it looks really hot, Rey."

 

Rey's socks are old and school-issued. A lighter gray than her skirt, each one emblazoned at the cuff with a knitted crest of Gryffindor House— a golden lion roaring on a field of scarlet. After years of wear and tear and so many washes, the crests have frayed at the edges and there are visible stitches where Rey's had to sew up the holes whenever she got tired of recasting her mending charms. She knows for a fact that these tattered socks of hers are the farthest thing from sexy, and yet—

 

and yet it's so easy to believe Professor Solo when he's looking at her like she's the only girl to ever exist.

 

So she nods, and his smile widens, and she thinks that she would do anything, would say yes to anything, as long as he keeps smiling at her like that.

 

He unzips his trousers and then takes them off, along with his briefs. She can't suppress a shuddery intake of breath upon seeing him naked for the first time— he is just so powerfully built, his thighs like tree trunks, his skin as smooth and as pale as ivory. It's very nearly frightening how strong he looks, but in the same vein it's the sheer breadth of him that incites in her a kind of desire that she thinks must have also been felt by those who wanted to be conquerors. Those who crossed oceans and scaled mountains just so they would know that they were capable of it.

 

Her gaze flickers to his cock, springing up from a thatch of wiry dark hair— immaculately groomed, of course, just like the rest of him. And perhaps it's her imagination playing tricks on her but his erection somehow looks bigger than she remembers.

 

She wants to taste him. Wants to run her tongue all over that silky-looking skin.

 

But before she can get around to doing so— to asking him if she can— he bows his head, sealing his mouth over a sensitive spot on the inside of her thigh.

 

That's right, she remembers as she gasps and writhes, he'd promised to leave hickeys there. To mark her up. His teeth dig into her pliant flesh, the delightfully sharp sensation followed by the more drawn out pleasure of him sucking gently, then soothing the sting with a swirl of his velvety tongue before he moves on to a new spot and begins again.

 

The next few minutes are the most agonizing of Rey's life. Solo leaves a trail of bruises along her inner thighs to match the ones he'd strewn all over her breasts, but his mouth never once wanders to where she needs him. After a while, she tries to buck her hips in wordless request, but he flattens one huge palm across her stomach, pushing her back down. Commanding her to be still.

 

"Patience, Miss Niima."

 

They're going to have to sanitize the couch afterwards, with how much she's dripping all over it. Practically soaking the upholstery through. "Professor Solo," she whines, "please just..."

 

She leaves the sentence unfinished, hoping he'll catch her drift.

 

"Hmm?" he queries, nibbling at her thigh.

 

And then she remembers that he likes it when she asks for what she wants.

 

"Please lick my pussy, sir." The words are hushed. Frighteningly frail. Saying them out loud feels like the sweetest kind of surrender.

 

He rewards her with the lightest stroke of two of his fingers along her front walls.

 

She closes her eyes. "I want you to use your mouth on me," she continues hoarsely. As if in response, those same fingers slide up and onto her tiny bundle of nerves, assuaging its need for touch with feather-soft caresses. "Want to come on your tongue again," she moans, encouraged, throwing her head back. "Please, sir, I've been thinking about you all day, I've been so hot for it— please eat me out, professor, I—" He buries his head between her thighs without warning, his tongue flicking at her clit— "oh," Rey cries out, eyes flying wide open as the world swims before her vision.

 

As Solo laps at her, her fingers tangle in his hair. Her ankles cross at his back, the sock-clad soles of her feet pushing into hard muscle. She thrusts against his mouth, and his tongue dances and teases and glides and—

 

and she is coming.

 

For the fourth time that day.

 

It's not very often that Rey thinks her life is amazing.

 

But, in this moment, it is.

 

When Solo lifts his head from her cunt, Rey smiles up at him. A soft, languid kind of smile. She's utterly dazed in the afterglow.

 

He blinks, looking mystified. Looking like he's never seen her before.

 

"What is it?" she prompts when her head has cleared enough for her to speak.

 

"You, ah—" He clears his throat. "You have a nice smile."

 

Her heart skips a beat. "So do you."

 

A flush of pink creeps onto his cheekbones. He wraps a hand around the base of his shaft, pumping in long, slow strokes as he gazes down at her. The sight of him touching himself, with his pupils dilated with arousal and his lips and jaw smeared wet with her release, makes Rey feel bold. Invincible.

 

"Are you going to fuck me now?" she blurts out.

 

"If you still want me to," he rumbles.

 

Her eyes hold his, and she nods. Nervousness and excitement fluttering in the pit of her stomach in equal measure.

 

Solo's free hand darts out to the side. It's not long before his blackthorn wand flies into his palm from where his suit jacket lies crumpled on the floor.

 

It's an awesome, carefully controlled display of wandless magic, and Rey's eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. "Okay, you have got to teach me how to do that."

 

"We will discuss wandless magic in class early next year." Solo's lips twitch. "I'm sure you'll blow us all away, as per usual."

 

She can't help but preen at the compliment. It's not something she can savor for very long, however, because he's soon running the tip of the blackthorn wand over her bare abdomen.

 

"Before anything else, I need to cast a contraceptive charm," he explains. "Is that all right?"

 

She nearly giggles at how... formal he sounds. Considering that they're both nude and he's kneeling between her legs, his cock already dribbling a bead of precome. She knows about such charms, and there are potions, too; two terms ago, a very poker-faced Madame Kalonia had given the talk to the fifth years— it had been an ordeal for all parties involved.

 

Rey quickly sobers up once she realizes that the thought of contraception hadn't even crossed her mind the whole day.

 

She feels a rush of gratitude— gratitude that Solo is responsible, and caring in his own way.

 

"It's not going to hurt," he says, mistaking the cause of her hesitation.

 

"I know." She settles back, allowing her body to relax as she stares up at the cavernous ceiling. "Go on, then."

 

The blackthorn wood is smooth and faintly vibrating with magic as it skates over her abdomen, guided by the deft, steady motions of Solo's wrist. It is rune-like, the pattern that he traces on her skin. It is all warmth and static, the sensation that blossoms inside her and is echoed in her core.

 

When he's done, Solo sets the wand down on the floor, atop Rey's discarded skirt. He then crawls up her body, pressing his lips to hers in a kiss that is deep and searching and oddly gentle. He covers her as completely as she imagined he would. In all his broadness, he is the roof of her world.

 

He props himself up on one elbow, conscientiously keeping his weight off of her, reaching downwards with his free hand so he can... adjust or whatever, she doesn't really have a clear reference that she can picture out. She does experience a flicker of hesitation then, but his fingers are curled at her temple and she is safe and small beneath him, and she's wanted this from the moment she first laid eyes on him in the Great Hall.

 

Life has never seen fit to give her the things she wants.

 

Until now.

 

"Ready?" Solo asks, gravel-voiced and, oh, so patient, in a way that he never is with anyone else.

 

"Yes, sir," Rey breathes.

Chapter Text

She has of course heard other girls talk about their respective first times. It's the type of conversation one can't help being privy to, living in a dormitory.

 

Tallie's had been with a Muggle boyfriend— "more of a summer fling, really"— who lived next door to her paternal grandparents, also Muggles. He'd put on a punk rock album and the act itself had lasted half a song, but he'd taken her to the movies afterwards and bought her flowers.

 

Jess' had been with a Ravenclaw boy who graduated last year. It had happened during winter break, and the Pavas' house-elf had appeared in the middle of the deed with a tea tray.

 

Jannah has always been less forthcoming about her sex life compared to Tallie and Jess, but she'd deigned to tell her roommates that her first had been a girl who went to Beauxbatons, the French wizarding school.

 

Rose mercifully spared Rey the details of the first time she and Finn had done it but, the day after, Rey could just tell. Her two best friends had been quite incapable of maintaining eye contact with each other even as they held hands and blushed, and Finn hadn't stopped grinning for, like, a week.

 

Overall, the consensus seems to be that the first time can be awkward but, if it's someone you have feelings for, it can be good.

 

Rey definitely has feelings for Ben Solo, even if she's not sure what they are yet.

 

So that means it's going to be good, right?

 

Bracketed between her spread thighs, his hips push forward slightly. The tip of his cock nudges at her entrance and she jolts beneath him.

 

"Wait," she squeaks out, clutching his bicep.

 

Sweat dots his pale brow. Flushes of red mottle the smooth skin of his collarbones and chest. But he freezes immediately, as still as a statue. Watching her carefully with soft, dark eyes.

 

"Shall we stop?" he asks her, his tone achingly gentle.

 

"No, but—" Rey swallows. She almost doesn't complete the sentence, such is the trepidation that has turned her nerves into brittle glass.

 

What do you want? She remembers his lush mouth murmuring those words against her breast that afternoon in his office. You have to tell me what you want.

 

"You— you have to hold me," she says through a lump in her throat. "After, I mean. I want you to hold me."

 

His features tense for the briefest of moments.

 

Long enough, however, for her to start feeling afraid that he'll refuse.

 

But then he's kissing her. A sweet kiss, meant to reassure. He pulls away slightly to mumble, "I'll hold you any damn time you want, for as long as you'll let me" before slanting his mouth over hers again.

 

Her heart is singing as she eagerly parts her lips for him. His tongue slides against hers in a gentle caress and she's closing her eyes as their hips slot together and he is pushing forward, and inside, and—

 

Rey stifles a sharp intake of breath against Solo's lips as the first few inches of him slide past her entrance. His cock is so much thicker than his fingers, but she's wet enough that it doesn't feel uncomfortable— just, well, weird.

 

"We good?" he asks.

 

Through gritted teeth.

 

The muscles of his upper arm are coiled beneath her fingertips, as if the entirety of his being has gone taut with restraint.

 

"Yeah." Rey nods for good measure, but their faces are so close together that her forehead knocks against his. Oops. "Sorry."

 

Solo chuckles, giving her lips another quick peck. "It's fine."

 

"You may— er, proceed."

 

Proceed? She could kick herself.

 

He slips in further by another inch. Carefully, so carefully. Opening her up. It's not long before a twinge of pain stabs at her and she winces.

 

Solo stops moving at once. With her eyes at half-mast, Rey glimpses his stricken expression before he bows his head to pepper soothing kisses and hushed apologies along her jawline.

 

He's shaking like a leaf.

 

"I'm okay," she says. "Just need a little..." She reaches down between their bodies to circle a finger on her clit. Her hand accidentally brushes against his cock as she does so and he makes a sound like she's just killed him.

 

It's... nice, to have that kind of effect on someone. She could get addicted to the feeling if she's not cautious.

 

Rey doesn't want to be cautious.

 

Not tonight.

 

"You'll make it fit, won't you, professor?" she whispers in Solo's ear.

 

Delighting at the way he shudders in response.

 

"Yeah." There it is again, that fascinating, low growl to his tone as he kisses a feather-light trail down her neck, tweaking her nipple between his fingers. "Yeah, baby, I'll make it fit."

 

It's exactly what Rey needs. Dirty words, dirty endearments, added stimulation. To feel like a small and cared-for thing, to feel like a temptress in her shabby knee socks. She urges him on, shimmying her hips against his, and more of his length sinks into her.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck, he is so big.

 

She is utterly stretched.

 

But the worst seems to be over. She relaxes slightly. "See? Not so bad," she quips.

 

"Rey." Solo lifts his head from the slope of her neck, looking at her with a pained expression. "It's— it's not all the way in."

 

Her eyes widen.

 

She gulps.

 

His gaze remains locked onto hers as he experiments with a shallow thrust. Pulling back by a hair's breadth, then pushing forward again. He repeats the process a few more times, intently studying her face— and she kind of wishes that he wouldn't, because she's pretty sure that the faces she's making are ridiculous. She's all scrunched up nose and fluttering eyelids and twisted mouth.

 

Her features don't know how to arrange themselves in response to all of the sensations that are currently rippling through her. This strange, bewildering mix of odd and good and too much and not enough.

 

"Shit." Like a tower collapsing, like someone giving up the fight, Solo buries his face in the crook where her neck meets her shoulder as he rocks against her. Into her. "You feel amazing, my God—"

 

Rey thinks about it for a few heartbeats before deciding that she means it when she tells him, "You, too." The more her body gets used to his thrusts, the more she comes to realize that this just might be the best thing ever.

 

It's the way he moves. The gentle friction of him sliding along her inner walls. Drawing out her wetness until she's flooded, there's really no other word for it, and it's her turn to experiment— she mimics the rolling of his hips with her own.

 

Inadvertently changing the angle.

 

Inadvertently wedging him deeper inside her.

 

They both groan out loud.

 

He takes over the job of massaging her clit, leaving her hand free to explore the glorious muscles of his abdomen. To trail up the ladder of his ribs, then run down his back. To sink quivering fingers into his sinews in an effort to ground herself as he fills her to the brim.

 

Or, well, almost to the brim, apparently.

 

"Can— can you take a little more?" Although his words are as strangled as if they've clawed their way up from out of his chest, there's something about the way he says them that lets her know it's all right to refuse. That, if she says no, he will go no further.

 

But hadn't she fantasized about showing him that she could take it all?

 

"Yeah, I can," she replies.

 

And she shifts her hips so that she can envelop another inch of him.

 

A choking sort of noise issues from the back of Solo's throat. That legendary control of his cracks into messy halves and he almost brusquely pushes in some more, and some wild, dark impulse flickers through the depths of Rey's soul.

 

What is the point of all of these risks they're taking if they hold back when they're together?

 

"Professor Solo," Rey all but whines, barely recognizing this voice of hers that's so breathless, pitched high with need. "You said you'd make it fit. You promised."

 

He moves a little higher up her body at the same time that he hooks one large hand under her knee, readjusting the spread of her thighs. He mutters another expletive against her cheek. His lashes rustle against against her temple as he closes his eyes—

 

and there is a bright, fleeting stab of intense discomfort that causes Rey's spine to arch, causes her to rake her fingernails down Solo's broad, broad back as he hilts himself inside her.

 

To the root.

 

"Fuck," she wheezes, "you're bloody huge—"

 

He is silent, moving only his head to nuzzle at her cheek. It's an apologetic gesture, unbearably sweet given that he is trembling. He seems, for all intents and purposes, unable to speak.

 

Rey allows herself some time to get used to being so totally stretched. It's not bad, once she's warmed up to it. The pressure brings with it a kind of adrenaline rush that diminishes whatever pain she'd felt.

 

And she soon begins to want more. She's curious to see for herself what's at the end of this— to see what's waiting for them both.

 

She stares up at the ceiling over Solo's shoulder. "You can move now," she tells him.

 

And, slowly, he does.

 

It's nothing more than a gentle rocking at first. He doesn't pull out completely with each thrust, swirling his hips against hers every once in a while to prevent the rhythm from becoming too mechanical. To keep her guessing.

 

She likes it very much. Likes how he slips one arm between her back and the couch so that he can gather her close. She likes being skin-to-skin and feeling so tiny all smushed up against his wide chest while he pants in her ear.

 

And she absolutely loves what's going on down there. Especially when she starts meeting his thrusts as best as she can given that she's pinned beneath him.

 

He responds to that like she's just given him a new lease on life. Raining sloppy kisses all over her face and throat, his dark eyes shining. It doesn't take very long at all for the stirrings of pleasure to build anew in her core.

 

Higher, she thinks nonsensically as she wraps her arms around his neck, and maybe she actually said that out loud or he sees it written all over her features, because he pumps into her a little more forcefully.

 

"Oh..." She sounds like she's sobbing. Maybe she is. She just feels so full. So full and so small and so deliciously wrecked. "Oh, God, I can't— can't believe it actually—"

 

"It almost didn't." Solo, for his part, sounds just as ruined as she is. "I didn't think you'd be able to take it all— but you did—" And this time, he does pull out all the way, only to very slowly, very deliberately slam into her, and she tosses her head back on a raspy shout, and he does it again and again and again, his sinful mouth singing her dirty praises all the while. "You did— you're taking all of my cock in that tight little cunt... because you're a good girl..." She nods desperately, letting that deep firewhisky voice resound in her ears until it touches off inner chords within her soul, letting his depraved words anchor her and send her heart off into the clouds at the same time. "A good girl who lets me stretch her out," Solo continues in a low, rumbling murmur that's streaked at the edges with a certain dark savagery, "who makes the most gorgeous faces while getting fucked— who makes the sounds I'll be dreaming about—"

 

The last remnants of Rey's self-consciousness vanish, swallowed up by the pleasure and the thrill. He thinks she's beautiful. He likes the sounds she makes. He doesn't mind her body hair, her small breasts, her utter lack of sophistication. She moves with him, her figure writhing under his, the flickering torchlight keeping time with the canting of her hips.

 

With another one of those devastatingly primal growls of his, Solo props himself up over her with both palms squarely on either side of her shoulders. His thrusts pick up speed and ferocity, the ivory skin of his neck and chest flushing red with exertion, sweat dampening his brow.

 

She thinks he's a beautiful man, and she's still thinking that when he leans in and captures her lips in a filthy kiss, his tongue delving into her mouth with a languid, lingering rhythm that's in stark contrast to the frantic tempo of his cock in her cunt. She's so close now, her thighs are locked around his waist and her fingertips are digging indents into his rock-solid haunches as she chases what's almost within her grasp, glimmering in the distance like a sun-fired coast while every stroke of his hips is a wave bringing her closer and closer to shore...

 

And the next time he shifts those hips, the tip of his cock hits a spot inside her that makes her wrench her lips away from his as she shouts, and he is peering down at her with something like triumph, honing in on that spot with the same meticulous precision that he shows his spellwork, pounding into her hard and fast—

 

"I'm going to come," Rey hears herself whimper from what seems like very far away. "You're going to make me come, sir—"

 

"Then do it, Miss Niima." Solo's tone is like ragged silk, resonant with an air of command that she feels in her damn clit. "Be a good girl and come on your professor's cock."

 

He hits that spot inside her again while simultaneously rocking his hips down onto hers in a way that has his pubic bone grinding against her clit, and it's too much, she's off— like fireworks, like a sail, like flying. She sends her bliss up into the very rafters on the crest of a hoarse, gasping cry, and she doesn't think it's possible that she'll ever come back down.

 

Through the ringing in her ears, she vaguely hears Solo telling her that she's so pretty when she comes. Vaguely feels him dotting kisses along her temple and the curve of her cheek. He fucks her through her aftershocks while she lies beneath him all limp and pliant, all dazed and content. It is its own sort of heaven, to be covered by this big, big man. To just let him have his way with her.

 

Their gazes collide and hold again as his rhythm stutters. His jaw is slack, his breath emerging in short puffs that mingle with the wet slap of skin against skin and the creak of the couch springs.

 

"Are you going to come in me?" Rey asks, her eyes wide.

 

He searches her face. As if gauging her mood, as if trying to figure out what she wants him to say.

 

Whatever he sees in her expression makes him grunt, "Yeah. Gonna fill you up."

 

How her aching cunt throbs at that. "I want you to, sir," she moans. "Want to feel your come dripping out of my pussy—"

 

And that's as far as she gets before he buries the entirety of his length inside her in one swift, hard stroke, practically folding her body in half as he muffles a roar into her neck. Her toes curl at the sudden flood of warmth that drenches her walls, more trickling in with each haphazard thrust that he then makes, and finally it's over, finally he's collapsing on top of her and their arms are wrapping around each other as they lie tangled in a sweaty heap.

 

Hearts racing.

 

Jagged breaths suffusing the air of a space that's theirs alone.

 

Rey doesn't know how long she and Solo stay like that. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours.

 

He doesn't move his head from where he's tucked it against the slope of her neck.

 

Gradually, the drawn-out silence becomes just the tiniest bit awkward. They start tensing up at the same time, both hyper-aware of each other but unsure what to say.

 

Unsure what to do next.

 

Rey inhales deeply and then attempts to put all that she's feeling into words.

 

"Bloody hell," is all she can manage.

 

Solo chuckles, relaxing. "Same."

 

It's yet another strange sensation when he slips out of her, their combined— fluids— smearing on her thighs. But the oddness of that is soon eclipsed by the very real fear that he won't make good on his promise, that he won't—

 

Solo presses another lingering kiss to her lips. Then, without pulling away, he rolls them both over so that she's on top. There is no sense of urgency to this kiss, it's drowsy and soft— the inside of Rey's chest feels warm and tight in the best and most radiant of ways possible by the time she lifts her mouth from his and rests her cheek just below his collarbone. His arms tighten around her and she sighs happily, breathing in the scent of his bare skin.

 

A thought occurs to her. "Did you bring my knickers?"

 

"They're in the pocket of my suit," he mumbles, nuzzling at her hair.

 

"Why'd you steal them, anyhow?"

 

"Just wanted to keep you with me during the day."

 

It's probably kind of sad that this is the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to her. But she doesn't mind. Her eyes are already drifting shut, lulled as she is by the pulsing light of the torches and the steady beat of his heart and the golden haze of her afterglow.

 

He clears his throat. "I've never held anyone. After, I mean," he haltingly remarks, his tone solemn. "My previous experiences were... not like this. I am a private sort of person, I don't— didn't— like getting too close. But you have a manner of asking for things that makes me want to give them to you."

 

Rey peeks up at him. His eyes are squeezed shut but he's blushing, all the way to the tips of the adorably large ears that are poking out from his bedraggled hair.

 

"And this is... okay?" she tentatively queries.

 

He tightens his embrace, the fingers of one hand tracing patterns on the small of her back. "It's very nice, I find." A sleepy, lopsided grin tugs at the corners of his mouth. "In this way, you, too, are my first."

Chapter Text

Rey wakes up from the best and deepest sleep of her life, every inch of her body pleasantly heavy with contentment save for the inside of her chest, which is as light as air.

 

Glimpsing the tartan pattern of a familiar couch and the wooden grain of a familiar floor awash in morning sunlight, she surmises that she'd fallen asleep in the Room of Requirement— on her stomach, with her head turned to the side.

 

Oh, bother— she has a wicked stiff neck, doesn't she? It doesn't hurt yet, but it will once she moves. The telltale dull pinch between her chin and her shoulder promises that.

 

Planning to drop by the hospital wing for a salve before heading back to Gryffindor Tower, Rey attempts to peel herself off of the couch as gingerly as possible.

 

Only to find that she can't.

 

A grip like steel is clamped around her waist, locking her in place.

 

Awareness of the real world gradually filters in through the fog of sleep still clouding her brain. She's not laying directly on the couch. There is nothing cushiony about the vast expanse of sculpted form beneath her, although she will grant that Solo's bare skin is unexpectedly smooth and soft. There's nothing at all that's coarse about this man.

 

Except the things he says. When they're having sex.

 

Merlin. She'd had sex.

 

With her professor.

 

Heat suffuses Rey's face as she blushes against the impressive swell of Solo's pecs. She feels his heartbeat alongside her cheek, as slow and as steady as the even pattern of his breathing on the crown of her hair. She lifts her head, eager to commit what he looks like when he's sleeping to memory, but a sharp pain lances upwards and she yelps out loud.

 

Right. The stiff neck. She'd forgotten...

 

Solo rouses at once. His dark eyes snap open to meet hers, fully alert. An Auror's style of waking, she thinks.

 

"What's wrong?" he asks, and something in the pit of her stomach flutters at the way his voice is slightly raspy from sleep.

 

"My neck," she mutters, grimacing.

 

He relaxes. What had he thought she was going to say? Surely not that she regretted last night— although, granted, her scrunched-up expression probably hadn't boded well for him.

 

Large, thick fingers gently press into the side of her neck, slowly rubbing a soothing trail all the way down to her shoulder, then back up. She closes her eyes, slumping over his chest. Fuck, his very touch is magic. She moans when he applies careful pressure to the spot that needs it most.

 

Something semi-hard twitches against her abdomen.

 

"Oi," Rey blurts out.

 

Solo is... abashed, but only a little bit. "Well, don't make noises like that if you don't want my cock in you again," he grumbles.

 

Her pulse quickens. The casual crudeness of his words, that gravely tone... like he won't be able to help himself, like she can drive him mad enough to just take her...

 

"I didn't say I didn't want—" She shifts her thighs and yelps once more as an ache throbs through her nether regions. "All right, maybe I don't. Not this morning, at least."

 

"Sore?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Sorry."

 

Even as he apologizes, his half-erect length gives another twitch.

 

Ooh, he is a nasty man.

 

But she thinks she can forgive him for that, because he patiently rubs her neck and shoulder until she's feeling much improved. It's the first time someone's done something like this for her— touched her with such caring. With no motive other than to ease her pain.

 

It feels really nice.

 

Solo's hand falls back onto the cushions when Rey decides to give sitting up a go. She almost doesn't succeed, groaning in a decidedly unsexy fashion when she parks her bare bottom on the couch and has to bring her legs together.

 

"This is all your fault," she complains, twisting stiffly to one side so that she can glare at him. "You're— stupidly big."

 

He's biting back a smug grin. She can see it playing at the corners of his mouth. And when she twists awkwardly to the other side to level her glare on the offending... appendage, she gets the same smug vibe from it. It's almost fully erect now, flushed a rather charming shade of pink.

 

It's mocking her.

 

Rey glances at a nearby grandfather clock that she and Finn and Rose had discovered still keeps accurate time after all these years. It's nine in the morning. Her roommates definitely know by now that she was out all night. Finn usually sleeps in on Saturdays but Rose will wonder why Rey's not at the Great Hall for breakfast.

 

Anxiety spikes through Rey's system. "I have to go before someone starts looking for me."

 

Solo's jaw tightens, but he eventually nods with a somewhat resigned air. "That would be wise." He hauls himself into a sitting position, and then—

 

and then he presses his lips to the cluster of freckles dotting her shoulder-blade. The one that Rose had prodded in the fitting room one time they went shopping and said looked like a constellation.

 

Rey's so startled that she nearly elbows Solo away. That instinct soon fades, however, and she learns to enjoy his ministrations. Learns to enjoy the glide of his full, satiny lips over her skin.

 

Learns to let him lavish tender kisses on her freckled back while she sits there with her breasts all marked up with love bites and his dried come on the inside of her thigh. A few drops had trickled out of her during the night— he'd come in her a lot.

 

And there's apparently more where that came from, she muses to herself as she sneaks another glance at his lap.

 

Her cunt twinges again, as if to say, Don't even think about it.

 

"Is there anything I can do?" Solo murmurs against her shoulder. "For the soreness?"

 

He sounds genuinely contrite. And Rey's a sucker, she truly is, for she melts instantly, glancing at the grandfather clock again.

 

Maybe a few more minutes won't hurt...

 

"It's fine," she says. "I'll ask Madame Kalonia for some analgesic. For my stiff neck, y'know." She takes a deep breath. "But there's probably something I can do for you, isn't there, professor?"

 

And, with that, she wraps her fingers around the base of his shaft.

 

His reaction is immediate. Extraordinary. He makes a strangled sort of noise in the back of his throat as he leans into her, one big hand clutching at her hip as if for support. His thumb tracing the jut of the bone like it's an anchor.

 

In all honesty, Rey doesn't know what the hell she's doing, but she'd seen how he handled himself in his office right before coming all over her stomach. She might as well copy that. Brow furrowed in concentration, her fist moves up his length and then back down in a tentative, experimental pump.

 

Solo sucks in a sharp hiss of air through his teeth.

 

Encouraged, Rey does it again. And again.

 

It's sort of fun. She likes how he feels in her hand, the delicate skin of his cock as soft as silk but encasing a hardness as solid as any rock. He's so thick that her fingers can barely encircle him as he pulses and swells in the curve of her palm.

 

"Do you— er— like this?" She cringes as soon as the question leaves her lips. What the fuck was she on, thinking she'd be any good at dirty talk? Rey braces herself for a show of contempt. For his derision.

 

"I like it very much," Solo replies in a solemn tone that is low and husky in her ear. "Love your little hand on my cock. Love how those pretty fingers can't even wrap around it all the way but you're still trying—" His breath hitches— "still being so good—"

 

Rey squirms. And the way it aches when she squirms is the only thing that stops her from doing anything other than focusing on the task at hand.

 

"I always want to be good for you, sir," she whispers, her wrist moving a little faster, a little more earnestly now.

 

He angles his torso so that she can rest against his chest while her hand continues working on his length. His own hand peels away from her hip, starts to drift lower...

 

"Not yet, I don't think," Rey says quickly.

 

Solo's hand changes course at once, snaking up her body until it closes over her left breast. "Poor Miss Niima," he teases, nipping at her earlobe. "So sore from her teacher's cock."

 

"Yeah," she mumbles, slightly breathless, completely falling into the spell of the moment. "You big old brute. Fucking ruined me's what you did."

 

"You're so cute when you cuss," he hums, toying with her nipple until it's a tight bead between his fingertips and, God, no one's ever called her cute before. Or any of the things he calls her, for that matter. "You're so cute when— when you're whimpering and panting and— and maybe even crying a bit when you're taking me," he continues, his words threadbare and slurred. His hot breath on her skin eliciting goosebumps everywhere it touches. "Your clit is cute, too, shit, so naughty and so pink. I like the way you shake when I put my tongue on it." He kisses the sensitive spot where her ear meets her jaw. "Let me play with your cute little clit, sweet girl," he murmurs huskily, and Rey is so tempted, but—

 

But she still feels raw down there, despite her gathering wetness. And she's kind of enjoying having the upper hand, as it were.

 

"This morning's all about you, professor," she says. "Just enjoy it."

 

She really, really needs to make him come now. Needs to make him feel as good as he never fails to make her feel. But this isn't the most conducive of positions and she's starting to get a cramp in her arm and wrist— not to mention that she's probably soaking through the couch again and this helpless piece of antique furniture doesn't deserve that—

 

What could very nearly be a whine of protest escapes from Solo's lips when she lets go of his cock. It's a sound that's music to Rey's ears, but she doesn't leave him hanging for long, getting down on her knees on the floor. He's not quick on the uptake, goggling at her in something like disbelief for several drawn-out seconds, but— when it finally clicks for him— she's never seen anyone move so fast. So eagerly. Repositioning himself on the couch so that his feet are planted on the floor with his legs on either side of her.

 

This time, she wraps both hands around his cock, one on top of the other, gripping him firmly. His eyes are soft and dark and hazy with lust as he stares down at her like she's his whole world and, oh, she could get used to this. Could get used to having all the power even though she's the one who's down on her knees. As she jacks him off, she tries to keep her eyes on his face. Tries to savor the wrinkle between dark brows drawn tightly together and the way his lips are parted and how he's making no attempt at all to mask the desperate need in his expression, huffing and snarling like an animal, teeth bared to the sun.

 

He is magnificent. Her lion. Her lionheart.

 

"I'm close," he warns her.

 

"Where do you want to come?" she asks quietly.

 

He hesitates.

 

Could it be that the man is discovering some latent sense of shyness?

 

"My tits?" Rey prompts. This newfound reluctance on his part makes her bold. "My mouth?"

 

The way he reacts to that— Merlin. Who's shaking now, sir, she's kind of tempted to jibe.

 

"Both," he finally gasps. "Want to come all over your face and your tits— fucking Christ, Rey—"

 

He clamps his fingers over hers, coaxing her to adopt the exact rhythm that he needs to push him over the edge. She leans in close, and—

 

and to say that she'd been prepared for it would be an overstatement, if not an outright lie.

 

The first spurt of hot come hits her on the cheek. Her mouth drops open in surprise and his free hand cups the back of her neck, gently urging her closer so that the tip of his cock twitches under her nose as it spills all over her parted lips. It is instinct— devil take her but it truly is— to stick her tongue out, catching the warm, sticky mess, her nerves buzzing at the mild yet strange flavor of it. It is metallic and slightly sweet, shockingly addictive because it's his and she had been the one to draw it out. Then— remembering what else he'd requested— she pulls back, her hands working in tandem with his to aim his cock lower. To pump until the last trickles of his come paint the tops of her breasts and the valley between them in thick splatters of white.

 

He's breathing heavily and so is she as her hands fall to her sides. As she closes her mouth and swallows. As he gazes down at her like she's both damnation and religious experience.

 

"I..." Solo sounds broken. His palm curves at her jaw, the pad of his thumb tracing the edges of the wetness that's smeared across her cheek. "My come's all over your freckles—"

 

Rey doesn't blink, doesn't shy away from his burning eyes as her tongue pokes out, slowly licking up all traces of the spend on her lips.

 

After she's gulped it all down, he hauls her into his lap, enfolding her in a tight embrace and strewing kisses all over her temple and her hair. "Good girl," he says again and again and again, and she smiles against the column of his throat and believes him.

 

✨✨✨

 

A few minutes and several creative uses of the Scourgify incantation later, they've both dressed and fixed themselves up as best as they can. He'd fished her knickers out of his pocket and helped her put them on, and now he's looking her over as he fiddles with the buttons on the cuff of his sleeve.

 

He doesn't say anything, so Rey takes it upon herself to ask the so far unspoken question that's hanging in the air. "Tonight?"

 

"You have exams in the majority of your courses next week," he states. "Defense Against the Dark Arts included. Are you done reviewing?"

 

"Well..." she starts to hedge.

 

"Then, no. Not tonight." He softens the refusal by stopping to press a quick, chaste kiss to her lips. "Come by my office on Wednesday afternoon and we'll discuss when we can meet next."

 

"Can't we just send messages to each other via Patronus?"

 

"It's too risky. A Patronus will manifest to its intended recipient no matter where they are and what they're doing."

 

Rey has a horrid vision of a glowing stag popping up in the middle of the Gryffindor common room and telling her in front of all her friends, "Miss Niima, I am available to copulate tonight."

 

This is followed by a different and yet just as horrid mental image of her own silver doe bounding into the headmaster's office while Solo's in a meeting with Obi-Wan and chirping, "Wotcher, Professor Solo, fancy a shag?"

 

"Rey?" A hand is waved in front of her face, bringing her back to reality. "Are you all right?"

 

She contemplates telling Solo what she'd just imagined. Maybe it would make him laugh. But she's not a funny person in general— not intentionally funny, anyway— and he would probably just find her silly.

 

"Quite all right," she says instead.

 

He tilts his head in the direction of the exit. "You should probably leave first."

 

Makes sense. They can't be seen exiting the Room of Requirement together. Rey nods, and then—

 

and then they just look at each other. Standing awkwardly, inches apart.

 

She wants to kiss him goodbye. She really does. But she can't help remembering what happened the first and only time she'd initiated a kiss, in the greenhouse. He had recoiled from her. Granted, he'd had more than acceptable reasons and the situation is vastly different now, but a shadow of the sting she'd felt back then falls over her heart.

 

"Er— see you on Wednesday, then." She turns to make herself scarce.

 

Her retreat is not as graceful as she would have hoped. She's tender between her legs and there's also the oddest feeling of still being a bit stretched down there and her thighs ache from having been spread for so long, so she has to sort of... limp.

 

"Rey," Solo calls after her. He sounds equal parts amused and concerned. " Please go see Madame Kalonia. An analgesic and an anti-inflammatory, I think."

 

"I will," Rey sniffs without so much as a glance over her shoulder. "Bugger off, you— you giant."

 

His low bark of startled laughter echoes through the room, resonant and deep, following her down the aisles of so many hidden things.

 

✨✨✨

 

"This," says Madame Kalonia, showing Rey a wooden flask as the latter sits in a chair in the otherwise empty hospital wing, "is Butterfly Weed Balm. I will now apply it to your neck. The stiffness should subside after thirty seconds."

 

Rey nods and immediately regrets it, sucking in a sharp breath at the dull stab of pain that results. Madame Kalonia clucks her tongue as she uncorks the flask. "One should always observe the proper sleeping position, Miss Niima," she lectures, the movements of the wand in her other hand coaxing out a few drops of a thick, unctuous magenta potion that the flick of her wrist then guides to the side of Rey's neck. "You're not going to be young forever, you know. Twenty years from now you'll be complaining of a bad back and aching joints..."

 

Rey suppresses a sigh as Madame Kalonia rants on. She'd brought this upon herself for telling the healer that she'd fallen asleep while studying at her desk. In any case, being scolded like a child is a small price to pay for the relief that the Butterfly Weed Balm brings after it has sunk into her skin with a cooling sensation. Soon enough, the muscles of Rey's neck are as good as new.

 

But there's something else that she needs to take care off.

 

"Madame Kalonia, I'm still feeling a bit— under the weather," Rey says carefully, haltingly. "Is there something— an anti-inflammatory potion I could take, or..."

 

The healer shoots her a piercing look. She trails off, the rest of the sentence stuck halfway up her throat.

 

Does she know? Rey wonders in a sudden burst of panic. Can she tell?

 

Without saying a word, Madame Kalonia walks over to the shelves where she'd plucked the flask of butterfly weed balm from. After puttering around for a while, she returns holding a clear, tiny vial that's filled with a sparkling cerulean liquid.

 

"A decoction of bruisewort, to be taken orally," she explains. "Drink all of this and it should heal any soreness or minor internal abrasions."

 

Rey's poker face has always been utter rubbish, but she makes a valiant effort. The potion tastes overwhelmingly herbal and it is an arduous task to drain the vial. Nothing at all like drinking Professor Solo's—

 

and here she turns as red as a beet. It's a miracle she doesn't choke on the bruisewort decoction.

 

When Rey's all done, Madame Kalonia vanishes the empty vial. She folds her hands in front of her, giving Rey another one of those penetrating stares.

 

Rey is unable to meet the older woman's eyes. She blinks down at her shoes.

 

"Miss Niima," Madame Kalonia says, "we healers have a code of ethics, and as the only healer in this castle I am privy to more of your schoolmates' affairs than you might think. I do not go around gossiping about these affairs to the other staff. You may rest assured that your health and wellbeing is my only concern and whatever business of yours directly related to these will not reach your teachers and you will not get into any trouble. Now— do you require a contraceptive potion?"

 

"N-no," Rey stammers. There are morning-after brews that one can take, but Solo had cast a charm that eliminated the need for it.

 

Also, Madame Kalonia would be singing a different tune if she knew that Rey's affair was literally that— and with a teacher, to boot.

 

"You may wish to start taking a monthly contraceptive, anyway. Better safe than sorry." The healer's tone is brisk and professional. "It has to be precisely every thirty days. I can have the first dose ready for you on Tuesday and you can drop by once a month for each subsequent dosage, as quite a few of the other girls do."

 

Rey nods.

 

✨✨✨

 

She leaves the hospital wing with the oddest feeling. A jumble of emotions that she can't quite parse. There is a sense of... having grown up without actually growing older. And all of the thrill and nervousness that it brings. The halls of Hogwarts, weekend-quiet and morning-lit, seem different— familiar, but removed.

 

Or perhaps she's the one who's changed.

 

Not at all eager to be spotted walking around in her rumpled school uniform on a Saturday, she had donned the invisibility cloak after meeting with Madame Kalonia. There are a few students and teachers milling about in the halls and she moves among them unseen, more of a phantom than the castle ghosts who are at least translucent as they drift through the wood and stone of Hogwarts.

 

Everyone looks and acts so... normally. Chatting with their friends. Going about the day's agenda. Oblivious to her and oblivious to how she'll never be the same again.

 

Rey enters the Gryffindor common room at eleven in the morning. Finn's stretched out on the couch, poring over a textbook with a long-suffering expression that clearly states he would rather be doing practically anything else. There's a plate laden with crispy bacon and marmalade-smeared toast on the coffee table.

 

Rey slips off the cloak. "Hey."

 

Finn jumps. "Blimey. Where've you been?"

 

She'd had the whole journey from the hospital wing to Gryffindor Tower to come up with a plausible excuse. "Fell asleep in the library."

 

He snorts. "Sad."

 

"Okay, Mr. Gobstones Player of the Year."

 

Finn puts down the book and reaches for the plate. "Well, if that's how it is, I'll just eat all of the food that Rose dropped off for us, then."

 

"Not on your life!" Rey shrieks, charging at him.

 

And all of her newfound worldly concerns are soon forgotten. There is only a lazy Saturday morning in the common room, her best friend, and fighting over the last slice of toast.

 

✨✨✨

 

As the second-to-the-last week of school for the calendar year rolls around, it becomes apparent that not even the stress of pre-holiday break exams can dampen the student body's excitement for the Celestial Ball. It's all anyone in Rey's year can talk about— who's taking whom as their date, what people are going to wear, what the Great Hall will look like, whether the Shag Kava Band will be giving out autographs.

 

Rey wishes she can share in the enthusiasm, but she only feels unease. She really does have to go, doesn't she, after the Ticos had been nice enough to send her Paige's old dress and everything... Rose insists that there's no pressure but Rey can tell that her friend really wants her there. But, Rey also feels like throwing up every time she pictures herself attending the ball and sitting on the sidelines while her schoolmates dance with their dates and sneak away to snog in the bushes.

 

Maybe Professor Solo will be up for them sneaking away to snog in the bushes. Although she highly doubts it.

 

On Tuesday, Rey furtively makes her way to the hospital wing after class and takes her first contraceptive potion. It tastes like mud. Madame Kalonia reminds her to come back in January.

 

On Wednesday morning, the upcoming Celestial Ball hasn't crossed Rey's mind even once. She and the other seventh-years sit their Charms exam and, as she joins the stream of students trickling out of Professor Erso-Andor's classroom afterwards, she's already mentally revising for her next test while also trying to quell the butterflies in her stomach at the prospect of going to Solo's office later in the afternoon. It'll be the first time they'll see each other after— well, after their first time.

 

"Rey!"

 

She stops walking and looks around. It doesn't escape her notice that Rose grabs Finn by the arm, pulling him away. Before she can tell her friends to wait up, though, Seff Hellin has come up to her, his usual friendly smile a little anxious at the edges for some reason.

 

"Good show on that Atmospheric Charm," she congratulates him. "Did Jyn deduct points for the surprise lightning or give extra?"

 

"She deducted," Seff sighs ruefully. "It wasn't supposed to be there, after all, I was just trying to enchant the snowflakes to fall a little faster— should've practiced beforehand, really, but it's not the kind of thing you'd consider, is it, a simple movement spell reacting negatively with the Atmospheric Charm—"

 

He is interrupted by a chorus of groans from his friends behind him... and also from Finn and Rose, who've stopped within earshot further up the hall.

 

Rey is very confused.

 

"Right." Seff's blushing now. "We, ah, we seem to have gone off-topic."

 

"We had a different topic?" Rey quips.

 

"We're about to." He squares his shoulders. His next words emerge in a rush. "Rey— d'you want to go to the Celestial Ball with me?"

Chapter Text

Seff is looking at her, his question hanging in the air and his eyes hopeful and earnest.

 

Everyone is looking at her, his housemates and hers deathly quiet. Tallie and Jess are grinning like maniacs. Finn and Rose— who know her better than anyone else— are watching with skeptical interest.

 

They're all waiting for her answer.

 

Rey blinks at Seff, a thousand thoughts racing through her mind a mile a minute. Each strand too scattered to focus on for long.

 

She hates attention. People are probably wondering what Seff sees in her. Wondering what it is about her that makes him think she would be a suitable date. At this very moment she is being taken apart, every single one of her flaws scrutinized.

 

She wishes he hadn't asked her in front of their classmates.

 

Even if he hadn't though— if this had been a private conversation— would she have said yes?

 

Does she want to go with him to the Celestial Ball?

 

What would Solo think?

 

"I'm— I'm not sure," Rey stammers out. "If I'll go to the ball, that is."

 

"Rey, what are you doing?" Tallie hisses, only to be shushed by Jess, who seems to display at least some situational awareness.

 

"Oh." Seff's face turns even redder, his posture caving in on itself. "Well— that's all right—"

 

"I can give it a think?" Rey says hurriedly. "I mean— you did kind of take me by surprise here, mate."

 

Seff grimaces, shooting a baleful glance at his friends who are now determinedly avoiding eye contact. "They convinced me it would be more romantic this way."

 

Romantic— good Lord.

 

"Well, it's not," Rey declares, all of a sudden feeling very cross with Hogwarts boys in general. "I'll give you my answer tomorrow, yeah?"

 

"Yeah," he echoes, sounding both relieved and abashed. "Tomorrow, then."

 

They fall silent. Before things can get even more awkward, Rose springs into action. "Rey, c'mon!" She gestures impatiently. "Finn said he was going to teach us how to play gobstones, remember?"

 

Rey flashes a strained smile at Seff and then scurries over to her friends. " Gobstones, Rose?" she mutters as they beat a hasty retreat down the hall.

 

"Sorry, I panicked—"

 

"Oi, what's wrong with gobstones?" Finn demands. "'S a great game—"

 

"It's really not," Rose says kindly.

 

Finn huffs, but decides to let it go. He looks at Rey. "You all right?"

 

"I'm sorry!" Rose says again. "Jysella told me she heard Seff was going to ask you, but I didn't want to ruin the surprise— although he really shouldn't've done it like that—"

 

"It's fine," Rey assures her despite the fact that her body still feels cold. "I just didn't like being put on the spot, is all."

 

"I can hex him for you, if you like," Finn offers. "Unless you do actually want to go with him."

 

Rey purses her lips. "Well, as I said, I'm not sure. But don't hex him, Finn."

 

"Seff is nice, though." Rose is looking at Rey carefully. "And the two of you get on really well..."

 

"I'll think about it," Rey says.

 

✨✨✨

 

She is, in fact, still thinking about it when she knocks on the door of Professor Solo's office after her last exam of the day.

 

It swings open. She steps inside to see him sitting at his desk, in the process of setting his blackthorn wand on top of it after disabling the locking charm. The door creaks shut behind her and she hears the sounds of clicking and a bolt sliding into place, although a glance over her shoulder reveals nothing adorning the door save for its handle.

 

"I'm just finishing up some grading. Make yourself comfortable." Solo nods at a bunch of Chocolate Frogs on the table beside the pile of essays that he's going through one by one.

 

"You never struck me as the type to have a sweet tooth," she remarks.

 

"I don't," he says without looking up, his quill scratching across parchment. "I got them for you."

 

Rey's grinning a bit, pleased as punch, as she crosses the room. There's an empty chair on the opposite side of his desk but, just as she's about to sit down, he stops her.

 

"Miss Niima." A hint of a smirk dances at the corner of his mouth. "When I said make yourself comfortable, I didn't mean in the chair."

 

And, with the hand that's not holding the quill, he pats his thigh.

 

Oh.

 

Rey's face is flaming as she walks over to Solo's side of the desk on knees that wobble like they've turned into jelly. His gaze is still riveted on his paperwork, but he moves back slightly so that she'll have space to squeeze in. He's in a dark blue waistcoat today, the matching suit jacket hung up on the coat rack in the corner and the sleeves of his crisp white shirt rolled up to his elbows. He looks so amazing that the last of her shyness is overcome and she perches on his thigh with no more hesitation.

 

"Good girl," he murmurs, his muscular arm curving around the small of her back, his large fingers splaying over her stomach.

 

As far as seats go, his wide, rock-solid thigh is far more than serviceable. Rey grabs one of the Chocolate Frogs and unwraps it, deftly catching it before it can escape and popping it into her mouth. She'd once thought that the sweets were real frogs— it did stand to reason, from all that her Muggle upbringing had taught her about witches— but they are just pure chocolate, enchanted to wriggle and hop about. She munches away, idly watching Solo write stern remarks and myriads of corrections on what turns out to be the fifth year students' essays.

 

"You're too harsh," she says, mouth full, after he marks Bandy Geffer's treatise on the five signs that identify the werewolf with a glaring red T for Troll.

 

"I have to be. They're taking their O.W.L.s in June." Solo retrieves another essay from the pile. "How are you?"

 

"I'm no longer sore, if that's what you mean. We can go again."

 

His hand trembles, smearing ink on the parchment. Cursing under his breath, he casts a quick charm to banish the mess. "That's good to know, but I was actually asking how you are in general."

 

"Terribly in need of sleep." She swallows the melted chocolate on her tongue. "Exams haven't been that bad, but I'm a bit behind on revising for Transfiguration and I have you and Hux on Friday, so— so I don't think we can meet at the Room of Requirement until Saturday night at the earliest. If that's all right."

 

"Of course. Your schooling comes first." He scratches a line through a misspelled word. "I can be there at eleven P.M. on Saturday?"

 

"Brilliant." She helps herself to a second Chocolate Frog, nervous about the other thing that she has to bring up with him. It's not like she can just keep on delaying the inevitable for long, however, so she finally says, "Seff Hellin asked me to be his date to the Celestial Ball."

 

Solo pauses in his task. Rey glances down at his sharp profile, but it is frustratingly blank. Like he's using Occlumency again. Silence fills the room and, navigating its suffocating haze, she continues, "I told him I'd think about it. I'm not really sure..."

 

"You should go." Solo ducks his head. Resumes marking essays. "I am given to understand that this is the first ball that Hogwarts has had in a while, and the first that your class will experience. You'll regret it if you miss out— maybe not now, but somewhere along the line, certainly."

 

She blinks at him. "So you're— you don't mind if I go with Seff?"

 

"Why would I?"

 

A not entirely welcome realization begins to slowly dawn as she sits there on his lap— she would appreciate it if he minded at least a little.

 

But, apparently, he doesn't. He's perfectly fine with her being someone else's date.

 

She doesn't know why that kind of kills her. It's not like she can go with him to the ball.

 

"Fine, then." Rey's aware that her tone is too brittle, but it can't be helped. "I'll talk to Seff tomorrow and I'll tell him I'll go."

 

"I hope you have an enjoyable time," Solo replies absentmindedly, utterly focused on the essay that he's grading. "If Hellin tries any funny business, go ahead and kick him in the groin."

 

"I'm sure there won't be any need," Rey says tartly. " He is a gentleman."

 

Solo's hand— the one that's on her stomach— drifts lower, slipping underneath the hem of her pleated skirt. "Is that what you want? A gentleman?"

 

She is hard-pressed to formulate an answer right away. His fingers caress the inside of her thigh, robbing her of words. "It— it would be a change," she manages to reply eventually.

 

With his other hand— the one that's not currently feeling her up— Solo grabs another essay from the stack and sets about to marking it. "A nice kind of change?"

 

"Um..." Rey squirms, trying to coax the languidly moving fingers on her inner thigh higher. "I don't know yet."

 

It's hardly scintillating conversation on her end, but he's smiling a little. That not so nice smile that never fails to awaken some dark thrill inside her.

 

"Perhaps you can work on that thesis the night of the ball." Solo's voice is low and husky in her ear. He strokes her through her knickers, fingertips gliding along the quickly dampening outline of her sex. "After your date's kept his hands to himself all evening... after you go to meet me and I lick your pussy until you can't see straight..." Her breath hitches in shock, but he is relentless, rubbing her clit lightly through thin cotton. "Maybe then you can decide once and for all if you prefer a gentleman or not."

 

He tugs the gusset of her underwear to the side and she instinctively spreads her legs wider, a drawn-out moan of relief escaping her lips as his thick middle finger breaches her entrance. She waits with trembling anticipation for his hand to start moving, to start taking her where she needs to go.

 

But the seconds pass, and he doesn't.

 

The finger that's inside her stays completely still while he continues his grading, quill busily scratching away.

 

Rey narrows her eyes. What does Solo think he's playing at? She wriggles impatiently, only to gasp as the movement inadvertently slides his finger in deeper, brushing against her most sensitive spots.

 

"Just a couple more essays, Miss Niima," he rumbles, so nonchalantly that it makes her see red. "You can wait, can't you?"

 

She plucks another Chocolate Frog from his desk, desperate to focus on something— anything— that's not her teacher's finger in her cunt. She chews on the sweet with vehemence; at the periphery of her vision, his smirk widens and another digit slips in to join the first.

 

Rey swallows her mouthful of sugar as she feels her inner walls stretch around Solo's fingers. He thumbs at her clit with just enough pressure to keep her wet, to keep her on edge, but he never builds up to the rhythm that she craves.

 

All while he marks the fifth years' essays. She'll never be able to look anyone from that batch in the eye ever again.

 

"You're dripping all over my trousers," he observes, scrawling an A— meaning Acceptable— beside Raharra Lapti's neatly printed name. "Whatever am I to do with you?"

 

"Getting me off would be topnotch, for a start," Rey grumps.

 

Solo chuckles, crooking his fingers in a way that has her spine arching against his broad chest. "All in due time."

 

The thing is, it's not completely terrible, being like this. She's sort of enjoying feeling small and just a little bit helpless on his lap, speared on his fingers while he acts so calm and composed and does something as mundane as grading. This new streak of his that she's uncovered, it borders on sadistic, and damn if it doesn't make the blood in her veins sing.

 

"Professor," she whines, not because she really thinks she can wear him down but because this is part of it. Part of the scene. She can ask, because she knows it will eventually be given. He'd told her so himself— that he wants to give her the things she asks for.

 

"Please make me come, sir," she whispers, and she can see his gaze darken even as it never leaves the parchment.

 

"Good girls are patient, Miss Niima," he reminds her, his expression stern although the effect is slightly ruined by the hoarse catch to his tone. "And only good girls get to come."

 

Holy fuck. She'd fantasized about him saying something like that, hadn't she? All those lonely afternoons in her room, with nothing but her own fingers bringing her to her peak while she dreamt of him...

 

"Okay." She gulps in a much-needed rush of air, closing her eyes. "Okay, I'll be good."

 

The next few minutes are torture. She eats another Chocolate Frog to ground herself, to stop herself from carrying on so. And then finally, finally, just when she can't take it anymore—

 

Her heart leaps in anticipation the moment Solo sets the quill down. And it sprouts wings and soars as his freed-up right hand tips her chin toward him so that he can kiss her. She sighs happily, looping her arms around his neck. His wrist starts moving under her skirt, steady and slow. She could weep from the blessed friction, from the pumping of his fingers in her cunt and the flicking of his tongue in her mouth.

 

"You taste like chocolate," he murmurs against her lips, his own curved into a smile that she can't help but reciprocate. He pulls away to study her through half-lidded eyes, seeming to relish each sound of pleasure that she makes and the way her hips do their best to roll against his palm. "And you really did try your best to be patient, didn't you?" He pauses, head tilted to the side as he reconsiders his statement. Then he issues an elegant little snort, leaning in to nuzzle at the tip of her nose. "Well, in the end, anyway."

 

Rey's too far gone to muster anything in response. Solo's fingers pick up the pace as they thrust in and out of her wet heat and, Merlin, she's already so close, how can she already be so close—

 

She has to stifle a shout of protest when his fingers slip out of her and don't return. She gapes at him in surprise, in something that's almost like panic, but he holds her gaze reassuringly, unbuckling his belt.

 

"You've done so well, Miss Niima," he says softly, and she can't help but glow with pride. "You've been a very good girl. Do you know what good girls deserve?"

 

"To— to come?" she guesses, watching, mouth dry, as he undoes the button of his trousers and pulls down his zipper.

 

"To come on a nice, thick cock," he elaborates and, fuck, his eyes are so dark, they burn right through her, she is free-falling in the face of all this. No amount of girl talk overheard throughout the years could have prepared her for the likes of Ben Solo. "Take out your reward and sit on it, sweetheart," he croons.

 

The endearment goes straight to her clit. She hurriedly complies, freeing his erection from his briefs with trembling fingers, and, as she balances herself on top of his lap, her knees braced on either side of his hips, his hand cups the small of her back and the other palms her ass. They're both breathing harshly as she tugs her underwear to the side and lets his tip notch at her entrance; she sees a glimmer of sanity return to his eyes, sees him open his mouth to say something, and she beats him to the punch, saying, "I took a contraceptive potion. We don't have to worry about— about that anymore."

 

"Thank God." He kisses her fiercely. "If I had to wait one more second I'd probably burn this place to the ground."

 

She feels warm all over, and it isn't entirely brought about by arousal. It's just nice to be wanted. It's one of the reasons she's flung all caution to the wind. No one's ever looked at her the way Solo does. No one's ever desired her to the point of risking everything.

 

She's looking into his eyes when she allows herself to slowly, ever so slowly, sink down onto his length. His features crumple as she envelops him bit by bit; his eyes flutter shut and he throws his head back and, oh, how badly she wants to suck bruises into the pale marble column of his throat, how much she yearns to press her lips to his plump mouth...

 

But what happened in the greenhouse is still there, lurking in the depths of her mind. Waiting to drown her in the sting of remembered humiliation once more. She can't let it go just yet.

 

So, instead, she busies herself with taking him inside her. Clutching onto his shoulders in a vise grip, rolling her hips down and over until the pressure is so intense that she has to lean into him for support, stifling her ragged, whimpering sounds into the crook of his neck. His hand rubs soothing circles along her spine and his lips strew kisses on her hair, and then those last few inches are overcome and she's actually doing it, she's sitting on her professor's cock, the two of them still dressed, the afternoon shadows long on the walls of his office.

 

"Fuck, Rey, you're so tight," Solo mutters. He sounds almost angry about it.

 

And she suddenly wants nothing more than to make him lose control.

 

Rey begins to move. It is experimental at first, a tentative rocking motion, but Solo makes a choked, gurgling noise like the life is being sucked out of him.

 

Interesting.

 

Very interesting.

 

She arches back so she can get a good look at him while she rocks. His mouth is hanging open, he's staring at her like she's his entire universe. That inspires her to be bolder. She lifts her thighs until his cock is halfway out of her and then she drops back down—

 

and she sees stars, she swears she does, uttering a hoarse shout as he is once more buried to the root. She does it again and again, a smile of pure bliss spreading across her face. She loves this position, loves how she can be in charge of the angle and the depth, loves how it seems like the breath is knocked out of her lungs on each downstroke. And Solo, her poor Professor Solo, he is a man unmade, all flushed cheeks and glassy eyes.

 

"Beautiful girl," he whispers as he brings his hand between their bodies, the pad of his thumb tracing haphazard patterns on her clit, "look at you. Look at you."

 

It doesn't take too long for her to come after that. She wraps her arms around his neck again, shuddering against his powerful frame as the orgasm rips through her. He seizes her hips and takes over the job of bobbing her up and down on his cock, and maybe she likes this, too, likes being too dazed to be anything but limp and pliant while he uses her for his pleasure. Her fingers tangle weakly in his soft hair. "Come in me, sir," she says in his ear, in a hushed and giddy kind of command. "Fill me up, send me back to my friends with your come dripping down my thighs..."

 

He tenses, his fingers digging bruises into her waist, and he spills inside her with a grunt. She closes her eyes, savoring the feeling, the rush of heat shooting down her fluttering walls, still seeing those stars that never quite left.

 

✨✨✨

 

Later, after she's scrambled off of his lap and they've both gotten to their feet and while they're straightening their clothes, he's the one who brings it up again.

 

"I'm serious about what I said with regards to Hellin." Solo's bent down slightly so that he can fuss with Rey's skirt, smoothening out the creases. "About kicking him in the groin if he tries anything funny. Just because you're someone's date to this type of school event, it doesn't automatically mean you're obliged to welcome to their advances."

 

"I don't have to be his date," Rey says before she can stop herself. "I'm still considering it."

 

Solo pauses in his ministrations. His gaze flies up to meet hers with an abruptness that makes her think it hadn't entirely been intentional, that there are things that he, too, can't stop himself from doing when it's just the two of them.

 

If you ask me not to go to the ball with Seff, I won't, Rey thinks, staring into Solo's eyes— a lighter shade of olive brown now that a beam of late afternoon sunlight is falling over him. All you have to do is ask.

 

She's struck by how much she wishes that he would ask. By how much she wishes he would admit that he won't be able to bear the sight of her on someone else's arm.

 

He swallows. Then he looks away, focusing on the task of tucking loosened strands of hair behind her ears.

 

"You must do what you want," he tells her calmly. "You must do what you believe is best for yourself."

 

In hindsight, it had been foolish to entertain the notion that someone like Ben Solo would get jealous on her account.

 

Ah, well.

 

"I'm off, then," Rey says quietly. "See you soon."

 

Solo nods, already walking back to his desk. "See you. And— please study for my exam."

 

She bristles. "What's that supposed to mean? My grades are all right!"

 

He sits down, leaning back in his chair. Instead of responding, he flashes her one last enigmatic smirk.

 

She rolls her eyes at him and all but flounces out of his office.

Chapter Text

"What the bloody hell was that?" Finn whispers as the seventh years stagger out of the D.A.D.A. classroom on Friday morning.

 

"A disaster, is what." His girlfriend's round, cute-as-a-button face has gone gray at the edges, almost sickly-looking. "I was doing fine until boggart-Paige started scolding me. In Vietnamese. That means she's really mad." Rose shudders. "I didn't even know boggarts could talk."

 

"I handled mine all right, but the wardrobe wouldn't budge," Bazel Warv says mournfully as he lumbers past them. "And I've been working on that Knockback Jinx since September, too."

 

"The wardrobes were resistant to magic." Korr Sella's cool, confident tone belies the fact that she and the other Slytherins had looked just as traumatized as the rest of the class upon exiting the room. It's only now that they're in the hallway that they've begun to regain their composure. "I don't know how Professor Solo did it, but they were. You had to target certain spots in order to blast the whole thing backwards."

 

Rey had figured that out almost too late, casting a successful Knockback Jinx on her wardrobe when there were only seconds left on the clock. Before that, she'd been shaken by the form her boggart had assumed— one of the school owls had flown out of the wardrobe, clutching in its talons a scroll of parchment that bore her N.E.W.T. results, every subject marked T for Troll. She'd managed to center herself enough for the marks to transform into renditions of actual trolls in tutus, just like in the tapestry on the seventh floor; this had allowed her to defeat the boggart with the Riddikulus charm, but her quick thinking had barely been enough to make up for the time she'd lost wrestling with the essay portion of the test.

 

A written exam and a practical— Solo was very much off his rocker.

 

"Forget the magic-resistant wardrobes," Jess says. "What I want to know is— how did Professor Solo round up so many boggarts?"

 

"Maybe that's why he never joins us for meals," quips Elliver Olim. "He's too busy tramping about in the woods, shoving boggart after boggart into a sack."

 

A burst of much-needed merriment ripples through the crowd, but it's not enough to alleviate some students' anxieties.

 

"If the N.E.W.T.s are anything like this, I'm going to fail!" cries Reeqo Swen, one of the Ravenclaws. He then promptly bursts into tears.

 

"C'mon, mate, hospital wing for you," Seff says, leading his friend away. "Madame Kalonia's always got loads of Calming Draughts at the ready during exam week."

 

Rey feels a twinge of guilt as she watches Seff and Reeqo go. Instead of giving Seff her answer, she'd avoided him all of yesterday— in her defense, Mothma's Transfiguration exam had been similarly brutal, and it had driven all thoughts of the ball to the back of her mind.

 

She's running out of time and excuses, though.

 

As she makes her way to the Great Hall with Finn and Rose, Rey can't help but shoot one last glance at the D.A.D.A. classroom over her shoulder. It should be empty now save for Professor Solo, who's probably packing up his things. He had presided over the exam with his usual sternness, with those piercing eyes that had refused to meet hers— although she can't exactly blame him for that, it's not like gawking at her the same way she probably gawks at him will do anything to help their situation. He'd nodded at her after she shoved the wardrobe back, and she'd murmured a soft "Bye, sir" that went unanswered as she scurried past him and out of the room.

 

She has to hand it to him— he's great at pretending she wasn't bouncing on his lap last Wednesday.

 

Rey feels a little sore from that, but in a more pleasant way this time.

 

"Eurydice." Tallie takes her by the arm once their little Gryffindor contingent— and one Hufflepuff, in the form of Rose— reaches the second floor landing. "We're all waiting with bated breath— are you going to the ball with Seff Hellin?"

 

"I haven't spoken to him yet," Rey says. "It's been a bit mad, with exams and everything."

 

"Never pegged you for the type to be grade-conscious, Niima," remarks Gandris Dyun. "Saw your boggart, too. I guess we're all really buckling down for this final year, yeah?"

 

"I guess," Rey mumbles. She knows why her boggart had looked like that— her future in the wizarding world depends on how well she does in her N.E.W.T.s. If she flunks, she'll never be able to be independent, she'll never be free from her parents and the kind of life that she lived before getting her Hogwarts letter.

 

The mere thought is too much to bear.

 

"You could do worse than Seff, you know," Tallie says to Rey. "He's not a bad sort."

 

Jess smirks. "Didn't you once tell me back in first year that you wanted to bully him?"

 

Tallie makes no effort to deny it. "He was such a teacher's pet. Still is, but—" She shrugs— "he's more tolerable now, or perhaps I've learned to tolerate him. Anyway, my point is, you should say yes, Rey. It's going to be so much fun."

 

Noticing Rey's discomfiture, Rose charges in to quickly change the subject. "Who are you going with, Tallie?"

 

"My boyfriend, of course!"

 

"Oh, are you and Keyan back on again, then?" Rose asks politely. "I didn't know that."

 

"Well—" Tallie took a deep breath, then launched into one of her trademark monologues with enthusiasm— "he was the one who wanted to get back together. This is your last chance, I warned him, and he promised he wouldn't be an ass anymore, and so I said..."

 

While Rose's tactic had worked in taking the heat off of Rey, it does mean that she now has to listen to yet another chapter in the never-ending saga that is Tallie's tumultuous relationship with Keyan Farlander, the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. Rey darts her best friend a grateful look; in response, Rose makes a face at her that plainly states, You owe me one.

 

Later in the afternoon, Rey sits her Potions exam and it doesn't go any better than Defense Against the Dark Arts— it's even more of a travesty, as a matter of fact. She mixes in the armadillo bile that turns her Wit-Sharpening Potion purple, and then she forgets to let the brew simmer for ten minutes before adding ginger root.

 

Her cauldron explodes in Hux's face as he's inspecting her progress.

 

An enraged Hux assigns a thoroughly depressed Rey a detention and sends her out of the dungeons without completing her practical. There's only one other student in the corridor— Seff, who's a dab hand at Potions and had finished early, and is now waiting for his friends.

 

"What was that?" He peers at Rey in concern. "I heard an explosion, then yelling."

 

"I think I failed my exam," Rey says, ashen-faced.

 

"Not to worry," Seff rushes to assure her, "you can make it up in the next one. And, remember, your N.E.W.T. won't be affected by whatever final mark Hux gives you, you just have to scrape by enough that he'll clear you to sit the test in July. I reckon you could get away with two more failed exams, even."

 

Rey snorts at that. Seff grins and, as she looks at his open, honest face, she knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that if she were to have a nervous breakdown like Reeqo had, he would escort her to the hospital wing for a Calming Draught with no hesitation, even if she hasn't given him her answer yet.

 

She remembers Professor Solo telling her that she would someday regret it if she missed out on this experience. She remembers how impassive his expression had been.

 

"I do want to go to the ball with you," she finds herself saying. Watching as Seff's eyes light up and his smile widens. "But," she continues, because she needs to be honest, he deserves it for her to be honest, "I'm not really looking for— for anything at the moment, and this probably won't change. I'd like for us to go as friends. If that's not all right, I understand. You still have time to ask someone else."

 

Seff blinks. He looks a little crestfallen at first, and then gradually, ruefully accepting. "I would love to go as friends."

 

"You would?"

 

He nods. "You're great company and it'd be fun to hang out with you and Finn and Rose for a night. Even if you lot are Gryffindors." She chuckles and, encouraged, he adds, "I won't lie, I was hoping for something more, sort of, but I understand. It's going to be brilliant either way."

 

And Rey smiles at him, and she thinks that it actually might be.

 

✨✨✨

 

At lunch the next day, Hux— his pointy face riddled with the plasters that Madame Kalonia had slapped over the boils caused by the rogue cauldron— marches over to the Gryffindor table and hands Rey her detention slip without a word. She reads the contents with a sinking heart as he walks away to take his place with the other teachers.

 

"Blimey, a night detention." Finn lets out a low, sympathetic whistle, perusing the slip over Rey's shoulder. "Doesn't the man know it's a weekend?"

 

"That's probably why he assigned it," Rey grumbles. She has to polish the suits of armor in the Vastus Vestibule starting from nine o'clock later tonight until she's done. Without magic.

 

If memory serves, there are twenty suits of armor in that antechamber. It'll take her hours.

 

She won't be able to meet Solo at the Room of Requirement.

 

"Hux is such a wanker." Finn glares in the direction of the faculty table at the front of the Great Hall. "Want me and Rose to help out? We can hide under the cloak."

 

Rey's tempted by the offer but, in the end, she tells Finn that she'll be fine on her own. Her friends badly need their rest after a grueling week. So does she, come to think about it, but there's nothing to be done. Hux had added a note stating that he'll check the Vastus Vestibule first thing in the morning, and if he's not satisfied she'll have to do it all over again the following night.

 

Wanker.

 

She spends most of the remaining day playing Monopoly with Finn and Rose in the Room of Requirement— they find the Muggle board game tucked away under a pile of old textbooks. Friendship— and Finn and Rose's relationship— is put to the test dozens of times. Afterwards, Rey sneaks away to Professor Solo's office, rapping sharply on the door until it swings open and he's gazing down at her, a hand on the doorknob and his quizzical expression turning into one of slight alarm.

 

"Rey. It's not a good time. Headmaster Kenobi is coming over for tea. He should be here any minute."

 

She fights down the crushing tide of disappointment after disappointment. "I just wanted to let you know that I can't meet you tonight. Professor Hux gave me an evening detention and I have to polish all the armor in the Vastus Vestibule. I'll be at it for hours, probably."

 

"What?" Solo's dark eyes narrow. The hand that's not holding the doorknob clenches into a fist at his side. "Did Hux give a reason, or is he just being a power-tripping weasel as per usual?"

 

"Well, I may have forgotten to let my Wit-Sharpening Potion simmer for ten minutes before adding the ginger root, and I may have called him over in a panic when things started getting— bubbly—"

 

"Ah. So it exploded in his face." A hint of a reluctant smile flickers at the corner of Solo's mouth. "That's why he has all those bandages." He seems inordinately pleased for a while, and then he sobers again, a wrinkle furrowing his pale brow. "But that's part of the hazards of the job of training young witches and wizards. He shouldn't give you a detention for that. I can talk to Obi-Wan—"

 

Rey's already shaking her head. "That'd be really suspicious, you going out of your way to cancel a punishment given by another teacher. It's fine, we can meet some other night—"

 

"Rey." Solo interrupts her with a curt edge to his tone. "I am less concerned about meeting you than I am about you having to perform this exhausting menial task right on the heels of exam week."

 

"Oh." She flounders for a bit, startled. "Well, it's still going to be suspicious, and Hux'll make the rest of the term hell for me if I manage to worm my way out of his detention. I'll be all right, I've got all of Sunday to rest."

 

He sighs. "Very well."

 

They stare at each other. The moment hanging on the sense of something unfinished, like there's something else that she needs to do.

 

Solo's eyes drift to her lips but he stays where he is. It's almost like he's waiting.

 

"Er— goodbye, then!" Rey says in a panic, then she turns and flees.

 

As she starts to descend the staircase that leads to the classroom, Solo calls out a soft, "Goodbye, Rey." He sounds disappointed, but— just as she's about to stop and look back at him— she hears the door of his office creak inexorably shut.

 

✨✨✨

 

Nine in the evening finds Rey lugging a bucket filled with rags, a can of Madame Glossy's Silver Polish, and a can of Winky Crockett's Elbow Grease into the Vastus Vestibule. It's an antechamber to the main entrance of the Clock Tower, located on the third floor, and the walls are lined with suits of armor bearing various heraldic emblems on their shields.

 

It's grueling work, rubbing a rag dipped in cleaning solution over a patch of metal until it gleams and then repeating the process all over again. A pleasant surprise comes in the form of Jess and Kaydel dropping by at the end of their rounds to keep her company until it's time for them to head to their respective dorms— not even prefects can stay out all night. A much less pleasant surprise comes in the form of Unkar Plutt, who pokes his head in from time to time to cackle at her as she grits her teeth and fantasizes strangling him with the dirty rags.

 

Then there are the castle ghosts. Less trafficked areas of Hogwarts such as the Vastus Vestibule are their usual abode, and several of them occasionally drift past Rey en route to their customary haunts, the friendlier ones stopping for a brief chat.

 

By one in the morning, though, Rey is well and truly alone, sweat dripping down her brow and five suits of armor left to polish. She hasn't paused to catch her breath at all, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible, but this is proving to be ill-advised as her arms and back hurt like there's no tomorrow.

 

"Stupid Hux. Bloody tosser," she chants under her breath until it becomes her own personal mantra.

 

A gleam of opalescent silver flashes at the corner of her eye. At first, she thinks that it's another ghost but, upon looking around, she sees Ben Solo's Patronus gliding gracefully towards her, the radiant outline of a white stag burning through the shadows.

 

Rey's heart skips a beat. She goes back to her polishing with a soft smile curving her lips.

 

The stag stays with her all through the night, a silent guardian. When she's finally done, it keeps pace with her as she puts the supplies back in the storage closet and then as she heads to Gryffindor Tower. Despite the weariness gnawing at her bones, her steps are as light as air, as light as the Patronus walking beside her, accompanying her through Hogwarts' deserted hallways.

 

The Fat Lady is fast asleep, snoring like a chainsaw. Rey has to say the password four times before the portrait cracks one bleary eye open and swings aside to reveal the passageway to the common room, muttering all the while about inconsiderate students.

 

Rey turns to Solo's Patronus. It regards her quietly, glimmering as if carved out of stardust, and she's reminded of him— soft-gazed and tentative, standing in the doorway of his office, waiting for something.

 

Rey leans forward, pressing a kiss to the tip of the stag's silvery nose. It doesn't feel like anything, but when she closes her eyes she can almost imagine that it's Solo's lips against hers.

 

A Patronus is an extension of the soul, after all.

 

"Good night," she murmurs, straightening up. The stag's ears twitch once, twice, and then it bounds away, vanishing into the gloom.

 

✨✨✨

 

On Monday, December sixteenth, a sort of fevered state engulfs the student populace. No one can concentrate during lecture and more than a few spells go horribly awry. When the exasperated professors teaching the last classes of the day finally give up and dismiss, it seems as if the very foundations of the castle shake with the footsteps of hundreds of teenagers stampeding to their dormitories in order to get ready for the Celestial Ball.

 

It's utter pandemonium in Rey's quarters.

 

"Jess!" Tallie screeches, barefoot and clad only in a pink bathrobe. "Have you seen my mascara, I was holding it only a second ago—"

 

"Who cares about your mascara, Tallissan!" Jess is near tears as she holds a mirror to her face, staring at her reflection in absolute horror. "I have a pimple!"

 

Tallie pauses in the act of rummaging through her sheets for the elusive mascara. "A pimple? You?"

 

"It's all the stress of last week's exams!" Jess wails. "Staying up late, eating crisps, having only enough time to do three steps of my skincare routine everyday—"

 

"Merlin's underpants, how many steps does your skincare routine have?" Jannah demands, fluffing out her wiry mass of dark hair until it frames her features like a particularly exuberant cloud.

 

"Ten, but that's not the point." Jess drops the mirror onto her vanity so that she can wring her hands. "The point is that Kaydel can't see me like this!"

 

Jannah and Rey exchange the kind of glances that can only have been mastered by two people who've had to room with Tallissan Lintra and Jessika Pava for the last seven years.

 

Rey's sitting in one of the many beanbag chairs that dot the room, already dressed and just passing time until they can head down to the Great Hall. She's trying not to feel too uncomfortable with the long, gauzy sleeves encasing her arms and the equally long and gauzy skirt fluttering around her ankles. Tallie had tried to get her to wear heels but, in the end, Rey couldn't be persuaded to put on anything fancier than the other girl's blue ballet slippers, charmed a couple of sizes up because "Good lord, Eurydice, you really do have big feet, don't you?"

 

In contrast to Rey's fidgeting, Jannah is supremely unbothered in her pale gold trouser suit with the relaxed fit and the buttons shaped like stars. Languidly putting the final touches on her hair, she's an oasis of calm in this chamber where Tallie and Jess are running around like headless chickens and Rey is contemplating just forgetting the whole thing and going to bed.

 

"Found it!" Tallie emerges from her tangled pile of sheets, raising a tube of mascara triumphantly in the air. "See, the important thing is to not panic—"

 

"You told Niima you'd kill her if she wore her trainers with her dress," Jannah points out mildly.

 

"That wasn't me panicking, that was me being completely serious." With a huff, Tallie turns to Jess. "Now, Jessika, pull yourself together, I've got a pot of Ten-Second Pimple Vanisher lying around, everything'll be all right..." She trails off, her sapphire gaze swinging to Rey. Then she screeches again. "Why aren't you ready yet?"

 

"Er— I am ready," Rey says.

 

Tallie and Jess round on her, grabbing their makeup pouches and various hair products. "No, you're not," they chorus, a determined glint in their eyes.

 

✨✨✨

 

An hour later, Rey is glued to the full-length mirror where a girl she doesn't recognize is standing still, peering back at her.

 

The first and what she'd thought was the last time she wore makeup and had something different done to her hair, she'd just been in her school uniform. The effect hadn't exactly been dazzling.

 

But now— now that she'd known better and insisted that Jess use a lighter hand in applying cosmetics— now that she's clad in a beautiful blue dress— she looks— she looks—

 

Well.

 

She looks quite nice.

 

Tallie had gathered Rey's hair into an artfully messy sort of... half-bun... thing. It keeps pesky strands away from her face while still allowing a cascade of glossy chestnut waves to flow down her shoulders. Jess had swiped "a nude matte with pinkish undertones, it's very light and hydrating and not sticky, I promise" on Rey's lips, dusted her cheeks with a shimmery blush, and done something frightfully complicated with a liquid black liner that she called "a cat-eye look."

 

Rey has to admit that the hair and makeup flatter her features. She's no longer as uncomfortable in her outfit, after the many subtle alterations Tallie had made that she'd assured Rey can all be undone with a quick Finite Incantatem. Paige Tico's old dress clings and flows in the right places; Rey looks taller and even slightly curvier in it, the slenderness of her waist more defined against the flare of her hips.

 

She just wishes that the neckline wasn't slashed almost to her navel in a deep V and that her back wasn't so similarly exposed.

 

"It has to be like that because the sleeves are long and the skirt is an A-line. Otherwise, you'll look frumpy," Tallie had insisted. "Anyway, I've charmed the bodice to not budge under any circumstances. Your nips are safe."

 

"Unless you don't want them to be," Jess had snickered, prompting Rey to choke on her own spit.

 

Now, as her roommates finish their own preparations, Rey's studying the girl in the mirror, who looks so grown-up and ever so slightly mysterious. Who looks capable of having a secret affair. Her pulse quickens.

 

She can't wait for Professor Solo to see her like this.

 

She turns left, and then right. The tiny silver stars embellishing the midnight blue fabric swirl in a slow, hypnotic dance, like the movement of the constellations through the heavens.

 

"Oh, Rey, you look gorgeous!" Tallie claps her hands together in delight. "We all do. This is going to be the most awesome night ever!"

 

"Too bad we'll miss it," Jannah drawls, "seeing as we should've assembled at the common room five minutes ago."

 

"Jannah, why didn't you say anything?" an apoplectic Tallie cries. She grabs Jess, who grabs Rey, who grabs Jannah, and the four Gryffindors stumble out of their quarters, a happy grin blooming shyly and tentatively on Rey's face as the other girls laugh and shriek around her.

Chapter Text

They descend the stairs leading to the common room, Rey in her starry blue dress, Jannah in her golden suit, Tallie in flowing black robes woven through with sequined zodiac patterns, and Jess in skintight emerald green.

 

The boys in their year clap and whistle upon seeing them; Rey and the other girls hoot right back. She and Finn point at each other and snigger.

 

"Hellin's so lucky," Finn says with an exaggerated sigh, crossing his hands over his heart.

 

"We're only going as friends, I already told you," Rey says. "Rose is the lucky one."

 

Finn's chest puffs up with pride. He does indeed look very handsome in his purple suit. Only...

 

"Finn," Tallie groans, catching sight of his wrists. "Gobstones-themed cuff-links? Really?"

 

"It's a great game," he stubbornly insists.

 

The Gryffindors leave their tower in high spirits, and it's not long before they're joining the crush outside the Great Hall. Rose elbows her way over to Finn and Rey. sparkling and gorgeous in a frilly, off-shoulder dress that's a wash of different colors perfectly imitating the sky at sunset, and Rey thinks that Finn just might be the lucky one, after all.

 

"Hang on, I see Seff," Rose says after their little trio is done congratulating one another on cleaning up so well. "Hellin!" She waves frantically, raising her voice to be heard over the buzzing crowd. "Hellin, over here!"

 

Seff shuffles forward with a bashful smile and an awkward wave. He's wearing traditional formal robs in a muted burgundy hue, his hair slicked back with what has to be a ton of pomade to be capable of taming those blond curls.

 

"Hi," he says shyly. "You look nice."

 

"Thank you," Finn, Rey, and Rose chorus.

 

Then all four of them, including Seff, burst out laughing.

 

"Students, your attention, please." Mon Mothma's commanding tone rings out from where she's standing by the closed doors that lead into the Great Hall. The hubbub instantly tapers off. "You will file into the Great hall in an orderly fashion, proceed to your desired table, and wait for Headmaster Kenobi to give his address. There will be no pushing or running. This is a formal event to celebrate an important milestone in our fine institution's history, and you must comport yourselves in a manner befitting said institution." She watches imperiously as the prefects organize their schoolmates into rows. After a while, she gives a satisfied nod and flicks her wand in the direction of the doors, which spring open, and people begin filtering inside as the music starts up and—

 

and, when Rey enters the Great Hall, it's like she's walking into an ocean of stars.

 

No expense had been spared in decorating the vast chamber for the occasion. The enchanted ceiling mirrors the dark, cloudy heavens that preside over Scotland at this hour, but the thousands upon thousands of floating candles shed bright silver light instead of their usual yellow flames. Lining walls glowing softly with the colors of the Aurora Borealis are huge, glittering ice sculptures that depict all eighty-eight known constellations— a bird of paradise, a centaur, a woman wearing the Southern Crown, a dragon, a bear and its cub, a porpoise leaping from the waves below the Argonauts' ship, Orion the hunter, and so much more. Although the High Table where the Hogwarts faculty are seated is still intact, the long house tables have been done away with, replaced by dozens of smaller round tables draped in white cloth that are strewn all over floors charmed to look like a clear night sky replete with bright stars and even brighter planets.

 

There's a wide circular space in the middle that's been left vacant. "That's probably where the Shag Kava Band will play after dinner," Seff tells Rey. As of now, there's only orchestral music, wafting down from an unseen source in the rafters. "D'you think you might want to dance?"

 

Rey stares at him in horror. "Do you?"

 

"No," he says, looking relieved. "I've got two left feet, me..."

 

"What are the two of you on about?" Tallie demands. "Of course we're dancing." She swats her date's arm. "Keyan, tell them we're dancing!"

 

"We're dancing, mates," Keyan says to Seff and Rey in long-suffering tones. He's one of the school heartthrobs, with shaggy brown hair, deep-set green eyes, and a tall, athletic frame; like Tallie, he is almost too good-looking, chiseled features perfectly symmetrical.

 

"Dancing?" Rose scoffs once Tallie and Keyan are out of earshot. "Don't make me laugh."

 

"I don't know, I think it'll be fun," Finn ventures.

 

"Finn, no, don't say that!" cries an aghast Rose. "Anything but that, Finn!"

 

"C'mon, Rose, you haven't seen my moves yet..."

 

Someone calls Seff's name. Rey turns to see her date's housemates— Pamich and Reeqo— waving them over to their table that has four vacant chairs. Rose's housemate, Jysella, is there, too, sitting beside Reeqo.

 

As she and her group cross the hall to join Pamich, Reeqo, and Jysella's table, Rey is struck by how not self-conscious she is. She had expected to hate being all made up, just like last time, and to not feel worthy of such a revealing, elegant dress. But there's none of that now. It is newfound, this confidence in her body, this not shying away when other people turn and stare.

 

She thinks that she might have an inkling as to why. It's because she knows that someone wants her, that someone has kissed her all over, again and again and again. He may not care that she's here with somebody else, but she has definitive proof that he finds her attractive.

 

She can't wait to see him. Can't wait for him to see her.

 

And she's just about to sit down when he arrives.

 

Professor Solo enters the Great Hall through a side door up front, near the High Table and less than twenty feet from Rey's. The instant her gaze lands on him, she freezes in her tracks.

 

And, upon catching sight of her, so does he.

 

Save for a few strands spilling down to frame his brow, Solo's thick, dark hair has been pushed back and sculpted into glossy waves, the ends curling at the high collar of a tailcoat trimmed with dusky gold brocade. From underneath the coat peeks a matching vest and a pale gold cravat, layered over a white shirt. The top half of the ensemble accentuates the way his broad shoulders and powerful chest taper into a lean waist and rangy hips; in the same vein, his formal, slim-fitting black trousers emphasize his long legs.

 

The overall effect quite robs Rey of breath.

 

He's so fit. She can't believe she's slept with someone so fit.

 

And neither can she believe how he's staring at her with his mouth hanging slightly open. How he's staring at her like she's the only other person in the whole room.

 

It's everything that Rey had hoped for, but she can't count it as a victory— because she's utterly certain she's looking at him in the exact same way.

 

She can't move and she can't think. Not when his dark eyes are burning into hers across the star-strewn space between them.

 

"Rey?"

 

The sound of her name pierces through the moment like a needle popping a balloon. She comes back to herself— comes back to the real world— and Seff is holding a chair out for her, regarding her with a quizzical expression.

 

"Sorry, it's the walls, they're so pretty it's hypnotic," she babbles, settling into the proffered chair. "Did they use a Color-Changing Charm, do you think?"

 

Seff takes his seat beside her, launching into a rundown of the efficiency per square meter of the Color-Changing Charm versus the Dancing Lights Spell, and Rey barely listens. She sneaks a glance at Professor Solo just in time to see him resume walking to the High Table, a thunderous scowl on his face.

 

She wonders about the reason for such a look. Maybe he doesn't want to be here. It's hardly the kind of event a private person such as him would enjoy.

 

The music comes to a stop when Obi-Wan rises to his feet. "A pleasant evening to all of you! Firstly, I would like to congratulate everyone— students and faculty alike— for surviving exam week!" Groans ripple through the hall. "Some of us may be a bit worse for wear—" His twinkling blue eyes dart to Professor Hux, who has yet to remove the plasters on his face, and Rey sinks a little lower in her seat as Finn and the others grin and applaud her silently— "but we have made it through nonetheless! Tonight, we shall be taking our hair down, and it is well-deserved. One thousand and twenty-nine years ago, Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin all gathered together with a dream..."

 

As Obi-Wan drones on about the founding history of Hogwarts, Jysella leans over to Rose and Rey. "Professor Solo is especially handsome tonight, isn't he?"

 

"He is!" Rose giggles while Rey suddenly finds the nonexistent patterns on the white tablecloth to be of great interest. "Like Mr. Knightley in Emma."

 

Jysella blinks. "Who?"

 

"Oh, it's a Muggle film," Rose says with the airy superiority of a pureblood explaining non-magical things to fellow purebloods that Rey's always considered so endearing. "Professor Solo looks like he walked right out of it— so dashing—"

 

While Rose proceeds to explain the movie's plot to an intrigued Jysella, Finn shakes his head and mutters to Rey, "Why do I feel like I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life watching Jane Austen adaptations on loop?"

 

"Because you are," Rey deadpans.

 

Despite the mock shudder that Finn issues, there's no mistaking the lightness that invariably comes over him whenever he talks about his future with Rose. To love someone like that, Rey thinks, a thread of wistfulness snagging at her heart, and her gaze flits, unbidden, to Ben Solo.

 

He's sitting beside Chewie and appears to be giving all of his attention to Obi-Wan at first. As she watches, though, he looks down at the table, and after several beats—

 

he lifts his head and their gazes collide.

 

Rey's first instinct is to break eye contact, embarrassed to have been caught in the act of gawking at him. But she doesn't. She holds his gaze and he holds hers, and she wants nothing more than for the two of them to be alone together. Not even for anything physical, really. She just wishes that she could be by his side and listen to his soft, deep voice and have him smile at her, that lopsided little smile that always seems so shy, somehow, and so hard-won.

 

"I do believe I've prattled on long enough," Obi-Wan concludes. "Now... we feast!"

 

The headmaster snaps his fingers and the orchestral music starts up again as dinner blossoms on the table in the form of goblets of apple cider and pumpkin juice, roast turkey with sage and onion stuffing, cuts of charred and juicy steak, several varieties of potato dishes and grilled vegetables, ham and split pea soup, cream of mushroom soup, Cornish pasties, lamb chops, pork stew, a salad of green beans and tomatoes liberally sprinkled with blue cheese, and a magnificent Beef Wellington, with layers of flaky pastry melting in the mouth to reveal an explosion of truffles and foie gras.

 

It's not that thoughts of Professor Solo are completely driven from Rey's mind, but... well, the food is very delicious. She eats her fill while chatting with the other people at her table and there's this one moment where she casts another furtive glance to where the teachers are seated, her cheeks bulging with mashed potatoes; Chewie is talking to Solo, who is nodding along but staring directly at her.

 

A hint of an amused smirk flickers at the corner of his mouth.

 

And that's when Seff leans in close to whisper, "Rey, you've got gravy on your cheeks."

 

"Oh—" A mortified Rey takes the napkin that Seff offers and dabs it gently on her face, careful not to rub away Jess' hard work on her makeup.

 

When she looks back at Solo, he's scowling again. Glaring at the carved roast turkey on the High Table like it's not dead enough and he's aiming to finish the job.

 

Before she can even wonder what's wrong this time, there's a screech from Tallie and Jess' table.

 

"My Everlasting Eyelashes fell into the soup!" Tallie wails. "My life is over!"

 

Finn and Rose collapse from laughing. It's like a domino effect; soon their entire table is bursting with mirth. Rey shakes her head, but— when Jess levitates the false lashes out of the soup bowl and ends up dropping it in her own goblet of pumpkin juice— Rey can't help but chuckle as well.

 

Once everybody's had their fill of the savory dishes, Obi-Wan snaps his fingers again and desserts appear on the tables. It's a dizzying array of apple pies, jam donuts, chocolate gateau, blancmange, various flavors of ice cream, rice pudding, fudge, and little white cakes adorned with tiny golden stars.

 

Rey can only blink at first, flabbergasted by what is the most luxurious Hogwarts feast she's ever experienced to date. Then she digs in.

 

"Wow." Pamich is regarding her with amazement. "You go, Niima."

 

"I don't know how you do it, Rey." Jysella pushes away her half-eaten blancmange. "I couldn't possibly take another bite."

 

"It's Rey's superpower," Finn tells the group. "Devouring everything in sight." They all laugh and Rey grins, not even the slightest bit abashed. She likes the people at this table. She likes the food. She likes this evening.

 

She's glad she went to the ball.

 

After the plates have been cleared, the lights abruptly dim, plunging the Great Hall into a silvery gloom woven through with the jeweled radiance of the Aurora Borealis that paints the walls. A huge spotlight falls on the center of the circular dance floor, followed swiftly by puffs of colored smoke. As the students whisper excitedly among themselves, a platform rises from the mists; standing on top of it are the silhouettes of three wizards and one witch, each one dressed in shiny robes and holding a different musical instrument.

 

Obi-Wan's sonorous voice booms from the front of the hall, introducing the Shag Kava Band. A collective raucous cheer rises up from the student populace as the hovering candles regain their former brilliance and the band immediately launches into the opening strains of "This Is the Night." All of a sudden, a good majority of Rey's schoolmates are leaping out of their chairs and rushing to the dance floor— among them are Reeqo and Jysella, and Pamich and her date.

 

"Rose, c'mon," Finn wheedles, already on his feet and holding his hand out to his girlfriend in a heartfelt plea. "You love this song!"

 

And, to Rey's immense surprise, Rose reluctantly stands up. "Fine," she huffs, intertwining her and Finn's fingers together. "But I'll only embarrass you."

 

"You could never," Finn solemnly vows. He tips Rey a wink before he and Rose vanish into the crowd surrounding the stage.

 

"I actually thought they'd try harder to convince you to join in," Seff remarks.

 

"Nah. They know me too well," Rey quips.

 

"It's always been the three of you since first year, yeah?"

 

"I suppose so. We all wandered into the same compartment on the Hogwarts Express."

 

"And then in second year you fought the giant spider in the forest." Seff wags an eyebrow at her. "Or is that just a rumor?"

 

Rey snorts. "There wasn't a lot of fighting the acromantula. We just ran, mostly."

 

Seff shakes his head. "What is it with you and encountering monsters in the woods, anyway?"

 

A very different type of encounter— definitely not the type that Seff meant— flashes through Rey's mind. The rain, the yew tree, Ben Solo's lips on hers, his knee between her thighs, his low growl of a voice calling her dirty girl.

 

She remembers thinking, right in that split second before he kissed her, how wild his eyes were, and how he could cause more trouble for her than the manticore ever would. She supposes that in this way Solo is also something of a monster, but then— what does it say about her, that she gravitates to the monstrous?

 

"Dunno," Rey tells Seff, answering his question after a beat too long. "Maybe I'm cursed."

 

He laughs. She relaxes a bit, fighting every urge to glance in the direction of the High Table again, and they spend the next several minutes just talking, heads bent close together in order for them to hear one another over the music.

 

In hindsight, Rey's luck had probably always been fated to run out eventually.

 

"Why are the two of you just sitting here?" Tallie demands, marching over to position herself in front of them with her hands on her hips. She's flanked by Jess and Kaydel.

 

"Er, because we're not really big on dancing?" Seff replies like he's hazarding a guess.

 

"That absolutely will not do." Tallie grabs Rey's hand and a giggling Jess and Kaydel take Seff by each arm and, before Rey knows it, she and her platonic date are being hauled onto the dance floor.

 

"Rey!" Rose beams at her, uncharacteristically giddy and flushed. "You decided to join us, after all!"

 

" Decided isn't the term I'd use," Rey grumbles. She's all for slinking back to her table but, just at that moment, the Shag Kava Band segues into their most popular hit and she swears that her eardrums nearly shatter from how loudly the people around her scream.

 

The wall of bodies closes in, moving to the rhythm with carefree joy, leaving no clear path of escape. Rey and Seff look at each other helplessly.

 

"This is happening, mates," Finn informs them with a wide grin, bobbing his head to the beat. "Just do what I do!"

 

Then he pulls off a complicated, shuffling, arm-waving sort of maneuver that Rey knows she'll never be able to do in a million years. She's never danced in her life. She hates this.

 

But, in truth, it's hard to not get swept up in it. Everyone's jumping around, limbs flailing in time to the music that permeates the air in a lively, frenetic tempo. Colored smoke continues to curl from the stage, entangling the crowd as candlelight like starlight glitters on and on.

 

When Rey finally gives in and offers a half-hearted rendition of the simplest move that she sees being made, the other Gryffindors clap and hoot like she's just caught the Golden Snitch.

 

"No, Rey, I've lost you," Seff groans.

 

But he soon starts tentatively dancing as well, which prompts another volley of deafening cheers from the nearby Ravenclaws.

 

And it is actually kind of fun, and Rey's moves start getting more and more outrageous after it becomes clear that no one is laughing at her— or, to be more accurate, that everyone's being just as silly as she is. She grabs hold of Rose's hands and they twirl, giggling, and as Rey is swung around the crowd shifts and there's a gap that gives her a clear line of sight to the High Table, and she sees Professor Solo.

 

Most of the teachers are sipping goblets of wine and talking among themselves and shaking their heads at their students' antics. At first glance, Solo appears to be doing the same, but Rey knows those eyes and she knows that wry smile, and perhaps it's the adrenaline rush talking but she knows that his look is for her and her alone.

 

She wrinkles her nose at him. His shoulders shake in laughter that she wishes she could hear.

 

And then the Shag Kava Band starts to play a softer, more dreamlike kind of song. The kind of song you slow-dance to.

 

"Like a meteor cutting across a starless night," croons Taybin Ralorsa, the lead singer, "he brightens up my darkest hour..."

 

All around Rey, people move to hold their dates close, swaying to the romantic melody. She and Seff are left to blink awkwardly at each other, standing still.

 

"D'you want to just sit down?" he asks, his face turning red.

 

"I..." Rey trails off. She looks over at the High Table again.

 

Solo is standing up. In long, measured strides, he leaves the Great Hall through the same side door that he entered, without sparing another glance in her direction. Almost before she knows it, he's gone.

 

Rey turns to Seff. "I have to— to go take care of something," she blurts out. "I'll be right back."

Chapter Text

Rey doesn't follow Professor Solo out the side door— she's not that stupid, even if she does have a one-track mind when it comes to him these days.

 

Instead, she leaves the Great Hall via the cavernous main entrance, and then she hikes up her skirts and she runs, circling the exterior of the vast chamber until she spies him disappearing up a flight of stairs.

 

Glad that she hadn't let Tallie bully her into wearing heels, Rey gives chase, clattering up the steps at such speed that she's out of breath by the time she sets foot on the second-floor corridor that Solo is currently walking down on in swift, long-legged strides. There are no portraits here, it's dark and quiet with everyone else at the ball, so she makes her decision, calling out, "Professor— wait—"

 

Her cry echoes through the still, shadowed air.

 

He stops, then turns around slowly.

 

There's shock written all over his face, and something that could almost be hope, although maybe she's the only one hoping—

 

But, as she races to close the distance between them, his Occlumency falls into place, shuttering over his pale features until the expression that he fixes her with once she's skidded to a halt in front of him is quite dispassionate.

 

"Miss Niima," he says calmly. "Is something the matter?"

 

"Why— why did you leave?" she pants, slouching to rest her hands on her knees as she inhales one much needed lungful of air after another.

 

He doesn't say anything at first. She suspects that he's waiting for her to catch her breath— and, indeed, he speaks only once she's straightened up.

 

"I'm not a fan of these types of events, but the faculty was required to put in an appearance for the dinner," he explains. "Now that I've done my duty, I'm heading to bed."

 

"I thought we were meeting at the Room of Requirement later. You said..."

 

She trails off as she remembers exactly what he'd said.

 

What he'd murmured in her ear as she sat on his lap and his hand crept under her skirt.

 

He'd told her he would lick her pussy until she couldn't see straight.

 

They both fall silent, there in the deserted corridor. Warmth suffuses her cheeks. In the torchlight she notices that the tip of his ear is poking out from the glossy waves of his luxurious hair, and it's flushed a little red despite the fact that he's Occluding.

 

"You should enjoy the rest of the night with your friends and with your date," he says, his tone strangely hollow. "Don't concern yourself about me too much."

 

Rey's hands ball into fists. "You walked out as soon as the band started playing slow music."

 

Solo's Adam's apple bobs in his throat. Eventually, he quirks an eyebrow at her. "And so?"

 

"And so I just— I just—" Words rush up from her chest and are summarily discarded in a frantic, never-ending muddle. I want to know if it was a coincidence or if it was more than that. I want to know what you're thinking. I want to know if I affect you in any way beyond the physical.

 

I want to know what place you hold in your heart for you and me.

 

"You just what, Miss Niima?" Solo prompts. So impassive that he could be carved from marble, or from ice like those statues that glittered against the Northern Lights in the Great Hall.

 

She stares up at him, willing him to see what's in her eyes. Too afraid to say any of it out loud.

 

And that's when she hears the sound of her name being called from the direction of the stairs. By two voices accompanied by two pairs of footsteps, steadily growing louder as they draw nearer.

 

She'd know those voices anywhere— it's Finn and Rose. Seff must have told them that she'd left the ball in a hurry and, like good friends, they'd come looking for her.

 

And now they're going to catch her alone with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in a dimly lit corridor.

 

Solo's face is as white as chalk. Rey grabs his hand and tugs him into the nearest empty classroom, keeping her wits about her long enough to retrieve her aspen wand from the holster sewn on the inside of her sleeve and cast a quick Silencing Charm on the door so that it makes no sound when she slams it shut and throws the bolt. She stumbles in the dark— stumbles into him— and to stop her from falling he holds her by the shoulders, pushing her up against the wooden door.

 

There are no torches in this room. The faint golden beam filtering in through the crack under the door and the pale moonlight that soaks through the windows are the only sources of illumination. In the moments before Rey's eyes fully adjust, she sees only shadows, her other senses kicking into overdrive— and all of a sudden she's much too conscious of Solo's broad frame pressed against hers, the scent of him closing in like a trap from which she has no wish to escape.

 

"You're sure you saw her take the stairs up to here?" Rose's question is muffled through layers of oak and stone.

 

"Yeah," comes Finn's reply. "She might've gone to the loo?"

 

"Could be." Rose sounds doubtful. Her and Finn's footsteps thud in a steady rhythm parallel to the walls of the classroom. "I do hope she's all right. She's been acting weird lately, haven't you noticed?"

 

"She has," Finn agrees. "Almost like she's hiding something."

 

Rey's heart slams against her ribcage. Solo squeezes her hip as if in reassurance, his shallow breaths fanning at her temple.

 

"D'you think she and Seff are dating?" Finn continues, and Rey's eyes widen. "That would do the trick."

 

Whatever Rose says in response is lost as she and Finn walk past the closed door and out of earshot. Rey can't relax just yet, because Solo's gone very still. His fingers dig into her hip nearly hard enough to bruise but not quite. She can see the rows of empty desks behind him now, silhouetted in moonlight. She can see a little of that moonlight reflected in his pupils as his narrowed gaze hones in on her.

 

Rey opens her mouth to say something— anything, whatever thing that would stand a chance of defusing the tension— but then Solo pounces, like it's precisely what he'd been waiting for. He sweeps his tongue between her parted lips, kissing her so hard and so thoroughly that her knees buckle. She clutches at the lapels of his dress coat for support, kissing him back as best as she can, because there is a part of her that has missed him, that has missed being held by him.

 

She never wants to stop, but after much too short a time he pulls away. "Well?" he demands, the words carved into a tense growl. " Are you dating Hellin? Or planning to?"

 

Rey blinks.

 

She's well aware that she's not the brightest bulb in the box. Six full terms of Potions and Transfiguration at Hogwarts go a long way towards instilling humility in just about anyone. But she's also not completely oblivious, she is more than capable of putting some things together, and what a small and secret corner of her being had started to suspect from the moment Solo left the Great Hall right as the students were pairing up to dance now fully affixes in her mind and refuses to let go, his thunderous scowls whenever he saw her talk to Seff throughout dinner abruptly making sense in her head with sharp clarity.

 

To her surprise, it doesn't feel all that good to be vindicated in this matter.

 

To her surprise, the fiery lash of her temper flares.

 

"Why are you asking me that?" she demands.

 

"I would just like to know," he replies curtly. "There are certain expectations that need to be managed. I don't wish to impinge on—"

 

"All you had to do was say you didn't want me to go with him!" Rey snaps. "I asked you, and you told me it was fine—"

 

Solo swears under his breath, no doubt because of her raised voice. He retrieves his blackthorn wand from the inner lining of his coat and deftly weaves a Silencing Charm all throughout the classroom. When he's done, he whirls to face her again, his bared teeth flashing white in the silver-stained darkness.

 

"It is fine by me," he hisses, but there are cracks in his Occlumency where there weren't any before, various emotions flickering through him like fault lines. "Who am I to dictate your actions? Do you think me so selfish—"

 

"It's not selfish to act like you care!" Rey shouts. "Would it honestly be fine by you if I dance with him?"

 

"Yes," Solo grits out, jaw clenched. "If that's what you want."

 

"What if I let him hold my hand?" she challenges. "What if I want him to do that?"

 

Solo's only reply is a quick, terse nod, although that telltale twitch has made its appearance in the hollow beneath his eye.

 

Rey sees red.

 

"What if I let him kiss me?" She takes a step forward, striding into even more of Solo's personal space as she lifts her chin in defiance. Goading him. "What if I let him touch me everywhere your fingers have been?"

 

"Rey." Solo utters her name like it's a warning. "Don't."

 

But she's too far gone, she's carried away on the currents of her anger and of her desperation. She has to shatter that mask once and for all. She has to, or else—

 

or else it will always be like this—

 

"What if I sleep with him?" Tears spill down her cheeks as soon as the words tumble past her lips. God, she can't even stomach the mere thought of doing anything she'd just mentioned with anyone other than Ben Solo— she feels sordid and stupid and horrible and petty, but it's too late to stop— "What if I suck him off, because I want to? Would that still be fine by you, professor—"

 

She's crying so hard that she doesn't see Solo lunge forward— she only feels it as he crowds her back against the door, his brawny arms caging her in. He buries his face in the slope of her neck and she feels wetness and warmth dripping onto her skin and the realization hits with all the force of an electric shock that he's crying, too.

 

It arrives as a bloom of pure instinct, the desire to comfort him. She loops her arms around his waist and he's so tall and broad that she kind of feels like a koala clinging to a tree, but it can't be helped. She sniffles against his chest and his fingers disappear beneath the curtain of her hair to cup the back of her neck, all while he dots tender, soothing kisses along her jawline.

 

"Don't cry anymore," he mumbles. "Please."

 

Look who's talking, she thinks mutinously, but what she actually ends up saying is, "I hate it when you use Occlumency when it's just the two of us."

 

"I'll never do it again," Solo vows, his lips drifting down her neck in a slow, sensuous way that makes her traitorous toes curl.

 

Rey is mollified, but just barely. "And I also hate it when you can't just admit that you're jealous. Even when I'm talking about shagging some other guy—"

 

Her mind blanks and she forgets the rest of her tirade, because he bites down on her collarbone. Not hard enough to leave a mark, but enough, that sharp, fine line between pleasure and pain rendering her breathless.

 

"Do you really want to know what it does to me when you talk about kissing or holding hands or doing— anything— with somebody else?" He hasn't raised his voice at all, but nearly every word is spat out. Nearly every word is trembling at the edges.

 

She nods. He slants his mouth over hers— savagely, so savagely, his velvety tongue and his soft lips insurmountable weapons against the last of her defenses. She revels in his uncontrolled approach, thinking that it'll be another delicious memory to sustain her through the rest of the night after he's sent her back to the ball so thoroughly kissed, but then—

 

then he claws at each side of the deep, V-shaped neckline of her gown. The charm that Tallie cast earlier has assure that the bodice stay in place on its own, but it's no match against strong, grasping hands.

 

Rey gasps as her breasts pop free— miraculously, the delicate fabric of the gown doesn't rip at all— and Solo wastes no time in sealing his lips over one nipple while he rolls the other between forefinger and thumb.

 

"Are you— ah—" she yelps as he sucks hard and stars dance across her vision— "are you crazy? Finn and Rose will be coming back this way any minute—"

 

"Silencing Charm," Solo reminds her.

 

At least, that's what she thinks he says.

 

It's a little difficult to make out his reply, seeing as he's got her tit in his mouth.

 

When Rey hears footsteps along the corridor, her soul all but leaves her body. Solo lifts his head from her chest and freezes up, as though he doesn't dare move a muscle.

 

There are several pairs of footsteps— coming from the direction of the staircase, not the second-floor girls' bathroom, so it's pretty safe to assume that none belong to Finn or to Rose.

 

"I'm not sure if it's such a good idea to do this here." Rey stifles a groan of dismay as she recognizes Tallie's voice.

 

"C'mon, Lintra, live a little," wheedles a second voice that Rey thinks is Zekk, one of the Slytherins. "There're no portraits in this corridor, it'll be all right."

 

"Keyan!" Tallie says her boyfriend's name like she's calling for backup.

 

"I don't know about you, babe, but I could use a hit," Keyan Farlander replies in his deep bass rumble. "Shag Kava's on! Ought to get mashed off me face before they play 'Dark Eyes, Warm Thoughts'— proper listening experience, you see—"

 

"Smart man." Azlyn Rae, the Hufflepuff Keeper, is slurring her syllables in a way that implies there's at least one bowl of punch in the Great Hall that won't pass a breathalyser test. "Very smart man."

 

"Fine." Tallie relents with a gusty, put-upon sigh. "But it had better be the quality stuff. Don't need one of you lot screaming your head off because you think the whole castle's turned into bees."

 

There are chuckles that taper off into silence which, after a while, is followed by a series of coughs.

 

The faint, unmistakable, muddy odor of smoked shrivelfig leaf wafts into the air.

 

"You've got to be kidding me," Solo grumbles. "Those damn idiots. I should give them all detention."

 

Despite herself, Rey snorts. For him to complain about people breaking the rules when he's got her pressed up against a classroom door with her breasts hanging out of her gown, her nipples flushed and taut from his ministrations—

 

"Oi, quit hogging the joint," says an annoyed voice that is undoubtedly Rosh Penin's. "C'mon, Zekk, pass it here— oh, bother—"

 

Two pairs of footsteps. Coming from the direction of the bathroom.

 

And then the situation truly cannot get any worse, because—

 

"What in blazes," says an appalled-sounding Finn, "are you lot doing?"

 

"'Blazes' is right," quips Keyan, prompting a round of sniggers from his group. "Move along, this doesn't concern you—"

 

Yes, Rey wordlessly beseeches Finn and Rose, move along— our D.A.D.A. teacher's just gone to town on my nips on the other side of the door, so please, please move along—

 

"Tallie? We're looking for Rey," Rose explains. "Have you seen her?"

 

"No—" Tallie coughs— "no, I haven't, actually."

 

"Look, Evans, Tico— either you take a hit, or you stop disturbing us," Zekk pipes up. "What's it going to be?"

 

"What an impossible choice, however are we going to live," Rose deadpans. "Let's go, Finn."

 

The relief that courses through Rey when she hears her two best friends walking away is immense but far too fleeting, owing to the fact that the other students appear to have made themselves comfortable there in the hallway outside the classroom. It's somewhat worrying that the wetness between her legs hasn't abated in spite of the circumstances, her every nerve ending remaining abuzz at Solo's proximity. He's still got a bit of an erection going on, too— she feels it poking at her abdomen.

 

She opens her mouth to tell him that this is messed up— that the two of them are so messed up— but then Penin says something that turns Rey's veins to ice.

 

"Can't believe Niima actually scored a date. She's always just been... there. And she even looks passable tonight. Who would've thought?"

 

"Charity work pays off, I guess," Keyan muses with a laugh. "Right, Tallie?"

 

Rey looks down at the floor. Solo's grip tightens on her shoulders, but she can't bear to acknowledge him. It's so humiliating that she wants to disappear.

 

She wishes that Rose hadn't brought her up to their schoolmates. Nothing good ever comes out of being noticed.

 

"Rey's brilliant," Tallie argues. "You're all just bitter that she keeps kicking your asses on the Quidditch pitch."

 

Solo chuckles. Rey does glance up at him then, but it doesn't last long because he ducks his head to start nibbling a hot trail down her neck once more.

 

"Bunch of small-dicked idiots. Calling you passable when you were the most fascinating sight in the Great Hall this evening." As if to emphasize his point, his hand traces the bare swell of her exposed left breast. "Stupid, stupid boys."

 

He tweaks her nipple gently and her spine arches off of the wooden door, helpless to the feeling.

 

"If they only knew what I was doing to you right now, not even ten feet away." Solo's words are a fevered rasp on the column of her throat. "If they only knew how you drive me out of my fucking mind."

 

His lips find her breast again, picking up where he left off. Rey doesn't stop him, too caught up in a rush of vindictiveness that far outweighs any guilt or hesitation that she might have felt. A vindictiveness that combines with the pleasure in her system, producing the headiest of combinations.

 

Her peers at Hogwarts might think that she's not worth a second glance, but here— like this, with him— she is beautiful.

 

She's not so far gone that she can't muster some gratitude when Tallie shifts the conversation away from her; however, it's not long before Tallie and everyone else and whatever they're saying are all consigned to the indistinct veils of oblivion as Solo gets down on his knees, rucking up Rey's starry skirts and mouthing at her sex through her knickers.

 

Rey shouts. It echoes through the otherwise empty classroom, safely contained within the Silencing Charm. Outside, her schoolmates are smoking shrivelfig leaf and chatting about the ball, while she's writhing on the other side of the door and holding up her pretty dress and bucking her hips against her teacher's mouth as he sucks on the damp outline of her clit through her underwear.

 

It's almost ruthless, the way he does it, with a pressure that would have been too much without the barrier provided by the thin cotton. He drags her into orgasm in what can't have been more than five minutes, maybe even three, and she hasn't quite finished squirming through the aftershocks when he pulls his blackthorn wand out of his coat again and—

 

and—

 

banishes her knickers—

 

Rey blinks down at Solo, quivering with shock and arousal. "You— you—" she sputters, and he shrugs.

 

"Sorry," he says, not sounding sorry at all as he cups the globes of her bare ass and pulls her toward him.

 

She instinctively hikes her gauzy skirts up a little higher and he starts from the beginning, his tongue licking a broad stripe alongside her entrance and then dipping in and, oh, God, he's fucking her with his tongue, flicking it shallowly as his nose bumps against her clit and she rides his face with wild abandon. The motley gang of Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, and one Gryffindor in the hallway are coughing and laughing still, none the wiser, and damn if Rey doesn't begin to like it.

 

To like breaking the rules so flagrantly.

 

"She's always just been... there," Rosh Penin had said.

 

That little shit doesn't know what I'm capable of, Rey thinks, and it's her last coherent thought for the next several seconds as she comes all over Professor Solo's face.

 

✨✨✨

 

Two consecutive orgasms in such a short span of time leaves her reeling and winded. She slumps against the oaken door, her knees all but collapsing out from under her, and she honestly believes that it's a miracle she's still conscious.

 

He rises to his feet. He holds her up with an arm wrapped around her waist while his other hand fumbles with the fastenings of his trousers. "I'm not done with you yet, Miss Niima," he says darkly.

 

Oh, God. Rey gulps, right before Solo leans in for another rough kiss, his tongue delving into her mouth and her own taste washing over her like a drug.

 

"I just had a thought— maybe Niima's off getting lucky with Hellin," she hears Zekk suggest on the other side of the door. "That's why her friends can't find her."

 

Solo tenses up against Rey for several short beats, and then he kisses her even harder, his hand sliding down from her waist to lift up her thigh.

 

"Even if she were, that's hardly any of your business," Tallie waspishly retorts. "Seff and Rey are cute together, so just leave them alone, yeah?"

 

Solo breaks the kiss and Rey watches— doing her utmost to stay balanced on one leg— as he aligns the tip of his cock with her entrance. She's breathing heavily, trembling with anticipation, luxuriating in the mess that he's made of her.

 

"They are kind of perfect for each other," Azlyn concedes. "Just a couple of little nerds. I approve."

 

An animalistic snarl claws its way out from between Solo's lips. His hips snap forward and Rey— who is on the border of overly sensitized, who is blissed out yet somehow still aching— throws her head back in a hoarse cry as he slams what feels like his entire length into her in one smooth, swift stroke.

 

There is no pain— she's much too wet and pliant for that— but it's intense. He doesn't give her any time to recover, pressing even more firmly inside as he wraps her other leg around his waist as well and begins to thrust.

 

"Holy shit," Rey whimpers, throwing her arms around Solo's neck, splinters of reckless, wildest delight skating across her vision in flashes of white as if they were solar flares. "Merlin— fuck—"

 

"This is what it does to me when I think about you with someone else," Solo growls in her ear. "It makes me want to lose all of my control—" His fingers dig into her thighs— "makes me want to take you so hard that you never forget that you're mine—"

 

Rey's cunt throbs with a fresh surge of arousal. His. She's never been anyone's before.

 

It's a nice thought.

 

It's so nice that it excites her in a way she hadn't expected, adding to the thrill that she already feels at getting absolutely railed up against a door while her oblivious schoolmates smoke shrivelfig leaf outside.

 

"I don't know, I think— I think Tallie and Azlyn might have a point," she pants. There's a devil perched on her shoulder, encouraging her to goad him. To uncover more of his darkness and to take it all. "Seff and I do look cute together."

 

"You wicked little witch." Solo grates out the words through clenched teeth. "Talking like that when you've got my cock in your tight little pussy—"

 

"I'm sorry." Rey doesn't know where she musters the energy to giggle, but she does, breathless and utterly debauched. "I've been a bad girl."

 

"Ought to throw you over my knee," he grunts and, oh, how she clenches down on him at that mental image, moaning something like assent. " Jesus, Rey—" Solo's rhythm falters. He peers down at her, slack-jawed. "Do you— do you want that—"

 

"I want whatever you want," she murmurs, a little impatiently because he's slowed down and it's not what she needs right now. "Please, sir, harder— teach me a lesson—"

 

She breaks off into what is very nearly a shriek as he complies, increasing his pace. The door creaks and her teeth rattle from the force of his thrusts. She can't really move in this position, she can only close her eyes and let him bounce her on his cock while her third orgasm of the night hovers tantalizingly within reach.

 

A muffled peal of laughter emanates from the hallway. Solo leans in close so he can growl in Rey's ear again, and it's the sweetest song. "Can't believe you like this." He sounds almost broken. "Can't believe you like getting fucked by your professor with your cute tits hanging out of your pretty dress while your idiot classmates are just outside—"

 

"I love it," Rey mumbles. "I love being your dirty girl." She imagines what they must look like, her starry skirts crushed between their bodies and his fancy black trousers sliding down his muscular thighs because he couldn't even wait until they'd taken their clothes off, he'd slid inside her just like that, possessive and primal, man made of darkness, and she is wanted, someone wants her, she is his—

 

Solo is the first one to reach climax, swearing as his hot come drenches Rey's inner walls. The feeling is enough to set her off, enough to haul her into orgasm as well, her ears ringing and her heart pounding as she quivers around him, as he rocks her with a few more haphazard thrusts like he wants to wring out every last drop of his spend inside her sloppy, well-used cunt...

 

Finally, he slumps against her and goes still, resting his head in the crook where her neck meets her shoulder. She runs her fingers through his hair, marveling at how strong he is that he didn't drop her all throughout or even after, marveling at how he takes care of her so well. They wait patiently in the dark and in each other's arms as their breathing returns to normal. As they listen to the sounds of the other students walking away.

 

✨✨✨

 

They cast Lumos spells and rearrange their hair and clothes by wandlight, aided by rays of silver moon. She fixes his rumpled cravat for him, following his quiet instructions until the gold silk has been adequately retied.

 

"I wanted you to have fun tonight," he explains softly. "At your age— I just— I just thought it would be untenable if the experience was marred. I didn't want you to feel bad because of me."

 

"I did have fun," she quips, wagging her eyebrows at him.

 

He laughs. She beams, gratified. "I told Seff that I'd only go with him as friends, anyway," she continues, tucking Solo's cravat back into his waistcoat. "Didn't want to lead him on. Not when— when I wanted to spend the evening with someone else."

 

They fall silent. She can tell that Solo's letting her declaration sink in, and she wonders how he'll react.

 

"You—" He clears his throat— "you know that was my Patronus, right? That night, when you were in detention..."

 

Rey's hands drop back to her sides. He's watching her carefully and she's struck by how open and earnest his face is, his expression wrenchingly vulnerable without the benefit of Occlumency.

 

"D'you think I just kiss random people's Patronuses on the nose, then?" she quips, dimpling up at him.

 

"You— you did?" He swallows, hope gleaming in his gentle dark eyes, too lovely to look away from. He appears as though he's wrestling with some agonizing internal decision for several long moments, and then he ventures, with a hint of exhaustion, with an air of surrender, "Then... before you go back to the ball, perhaps— perhaps you can kiss me as well?"

 

"I'm scared," Rey whispers. He's being honest and so she has to be honest, too. "The last time I made the first move to kiss you— in the greenhouse— you pushed me away."

 

Solo winces, his face paling. But he stays where he is, even as his hands clench into fists like he's abstaining from reaching out to touch her.

 

"I was scared then, too," he tentatively admits. "I will always regret that. But— Rey, if you kiss me now—" That deep voice of his that has usually been so confident and so smooth for as long as she's known him, it cracks, and he has to try once more. "If you kiss me now, I won't push you away. Never again. I'd rather face another manticore than do that."

 

She takes a leap of faith and believes him, closing the distance between them and rising up on her toes so that she can press her lips to his. Solo immediately wraps his arms around her in a tight embrace and kisses her back, and Rey swears that all she sees are stars.

Chapter Text

"Rey?" Finn hesitantly ventures as they're walking down the corridors in between their Thursday morning classes. From his other side, Rose peers at Rey in a mixture of anxiety and concern. "Are you really going to be all right for the holidays?"

 

They haven't talked about it yet as a group— the Ticos are spending Christmas with extended family in Vietnam while Finn and his parents are off to Saint Kitts. It's going to be the first time in years that Rey won't see out winter break at either of her friends' houses.

 

In all honesty, she couldn't have planned it better herself.

 

"It's not a problem." She resists the urge to fidget with the strap of her book bag, which has always been one of her nervous tells— ever since accidentally overhearing Finn and Rose's conversation while they were looking for her last Monday night, she's been making an effort to act less... weird, as they'd put it. "There are worse places to spend the holidays in than Hogwarts."

 

My parents' flat, for example.

 

She doesn't elaborate out loud, but the unspoken words hang heavily in the air.

 

Finn and Rose exchange glances, once more communicating without needing to speak, and Rey feels that same old ache of being on the outside, looking in.

 

"Well," Rose finally says, "if you're sure..."

 

Actually, Rose, I'll be shagging Professor Solo throughout winter break, Rey imagines telling her. Every day, if I can help it. So I'll be just fine, thanks.

 

Instead, she forces her lips into a smile. "'Course I'm sure."

 

She daydreams about Solo all the way to the Charms classroom and all throughout Jyn's lecture. With exams over and done with, there isn't much schoolwork that needs to be accomplished for the week— it's the teachers who are swamped, with grading, with preparing their lesson plans for next year. Rey had dropped by Solo's office the day after the ball and he'd only had time to make her come on his fingers, his hand slipped under her skirt while he kissed her up against the wall, before sending her on her merry way.

 

It's kind of sad that she already misses him.

 

Rey heads to the bathroom after Charms. Jess and Tallie are there, chatting by the sinks, and they acknowledge her with smiles and waves before resuming their conversation with each other as Rey ducks into one of the stalls.

 

She supposes that it's a testament to how much her relationship with Tallie has improved this year that the other girl doesn't bother to hide the fact that she's talking about her sex life.

 

It is, however, mightily uncomfortable to be peeing while your roommates discuss the finer details of a handjob that took place after the Celestial Ball and had apparently gone horribly wrong.

 

"It wasn't my fault!" Tallie insists. "I was, like, mashed— we smoked two whole joints—"

 

"You shouldn't be telling me that," Jess says mildly. "I am a prefect, you know."

 

"— and so I forgot about casting a lubrication charm," Tallie continues, ignoring her, "and Keyan started yelping but I kept going because I thought he was just really into it."

 

Jess cackles. "Oh, I've been there. My ex-boyfriend, he said it felt like his dick was being wrung through sandpaper—"

 

Wait. What?

 

Rey flushes the toilet and all but charges out of the stall. Jess and Tallie turn to look at her, startled.

 

"You— you need lubricant?" she asks them, a little wildly. "When you're giving someone a handjob?"

 

"Well, I don't know about need, but it's advisable, especially when your technique isn't up to snuff," Jess explains, still seeming bewildered by Rey's outburst. "It's the friction. And dicks are bloody sensitive."

 

Rey gulps, thinking about that morning in the Room of Requirement, when she'd jacked Solo off.

 

She had not used lubricant. Her technique is not up to snuff.

 

"Why, Eurydice, whatever is the matter?" Tallie grins. "Are you planning on giving lucky Seff Hellin a—"

 

"Goodbye," Rey interrupts as politely as she can.

 

She leaves the bathroom to the sound of the two other girls' laughter.

 

"I've just remembered that I have to go to the library, to look something up for Ancient Runes," Rey tells Finn and Rose, who'd waited for her out in the hall. "I'll see you later, yeah?"

 

They nod, traces of suspicion and worry as clear as day on their faces. She hurries off before they can ask any more questions, and one helter-skelter dash through the castle later she's knocking on the door of Professor Solo's office.

 

There is the sound of all those magical locks shifting, and then the door swings open and Rey walks in.

 

Solo's at his desk, surrounded by veritable mountains of paperwork. The line of his mouth quirks into a small smile the moment he sees her. "Rey."

 

"Hullo." She approaches on unsteady legs, barely hearing the door creaking shut and locking behind her through the haze of her nervousness. "I need to talk to you about something."

 

"Of course." Pale forehead wrinkling slightly, he opens a desk drawer and pulls out a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. "But eat first."

 

Not having had lunch yet, she gratefully takes the candy from him, opening the box and pouring a handful of variously colored jellybeans into her palm. He snorts as she tosses the lot into her mouth.

 

"Isn't the point to eat them one by one? So you can take a guess at each flavor?"

 

"I can do that just fine with several at the same time," she replies, cheeks bulging as she chews. "Right now I've got..." Her eyes narrow in concentration. "Toffee apple, buttered popcorn, ham, vanilla ice cream, spaghetti—" Another jellybean bursts between her teeth and she grimaces— "ugh, that'll be envelope glue, I always get that for some reason—"

 

Solo exhales a laugh, his brown eyes crinkling at the corners. Rey dimples at him in return and swallows the candy. She deposits her book bag on the floor and is just about to sit down in the chair opposite his when he stops her with a look, one dark brow raised. She blinks at him, not comprehending, until—

 

he pats his thigh in wordless command—

 

She should probably be embarrassed by how eagerly she rushes to comply.

 

Rey perches on Solo's lap, the pleats of her gray skirt draping over the darker material of his black trousers. He wraps a solid arm around her waist, his overly large hand spanning the distance from her hip to her thigh while he continues writing.

 

And she can't actually wait a second longer to bring up what's on her mind. "I didn't use lube," she says, turning to face him as best as she can in their current position.

 

Solo drops the quill. "I beg your pardon?"

 

"The morning after— in the Room of Requirement," Rey forces out. "When I was... you know."

 

He leans in to nuzzle at her cheek. "Jacking me off?" he murmurs huskily. "Making me come all over your face and tits?"

 

"Er. Yes." She squirms at the memory. His cock twitches with interest against her backside. "I've only just found out that you're supposed to use lube. For the friction. I'm sure it couldn't have been nice for you. You should've said something."

 

She feels horribly gauche. It seems like there are so many rules to sex. And the things that should be common sense just— aren't, to her, because she's so inexperienced.

 

Solo presses a kiss to the corner of her mouth. "How do I put this..." he muses, almost to himself. "I suppose that it chafed a little bit, but the chafing was— secondary. To everything else." He punctuates this statement with another kiss, this time to the tip of her nose. "It was nice for me. It was very, very nice. Because it was you, because it was your pretty little hand doing it—" His lips drift lower, lavishing the slope of her neck with attention— "and because you were looking up at me with those gorgeous eyes."

 

His words sound too good to be true— but, the thing is, she believes them. He's no longer hiding behind Occlumency. The contrast to their previous interactions is staggering. His tone is earnest. His handsome features when he pulls back to look at her are relaxed and sincere.

 

She offers him a hesitant smile. "Well, all right. If you say so."

 

"I do say so." He squeezes her hip. "But I also have to finish this lesson plan for the second years that I need to submit to Obi-Wan. Could you give me ten more minutes?"

 

She nods, and he goes back to his task. His arm never moving from her waist. So very content, she eats her jellybeans and reads what he's writing, a sense of nostalgia washing over her at all the familiar topics. The Disarming Charm, the Tongue-Tying Curse, Fumos Duo, the Full Body-Bind. Magic that she remembers practicing over and over again at thirteen years of age, her wandwork clumsy and sloppy compared to what it is now.

 

She can't believe she's graduating in eight months.

 

Once he's finished, Solo affixes his signature to the document and flicks his blackthorn wand over it. The parchment is rolled into a scroll by unseen hands, a length of twine appearing from out of thin air and wrapping around the middle of the scroll in a neat ribbon. Rey thinks that she can spend endless hours watching Solo do magic— he wields it so uniquely. His wandwork is precise yet sweeping, and not without its little flourishes.

 

But his conjuration of the twine reminds her of when he'd done the exact opposite the night of the ball. "Where d'you suppose my knickers are right now?"

 

The tips of his ears turn pink. It's adorable. "Vanished objects go into non-being," he mumbles, placing the rolled-up parchment in a row of similar scrolls on one corner of his desk. "Which is to say, everything."

 

It's such a Ravenclaw answer that Rey has to smile."Bet you were at the brainy house in Ilvermorny, weren't you?"

 

"Horned Serpent, yes." Solo puts away his ink pot and his quill. He reaches out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind Rey's ear. "Meanwhile, you are the most Gryffindor-ish Gryffindor I've ever met." He kisses her full on the mouth at last, at long last, his tongue sliding between her lips and lazily exploring for a few heart-stopping moments before he pulls away to drawl, "I can definitely taste the envelope glue."

 

She smacks him across the chest, and then that same hand of hers fists into his shirtfront, tugging him close for another kiss.

 

It's not long before the box of jellybeans tumbles to the floor.

 

It's Solo's fault, really, for rolling his tongue inside her mouth like that.

 

He gets to his feet, effortlessly lifting her up by the waist and depositing her on the edge of his desk. Hunching over her, leaning in, kissing her and kissing her and kissing her until she is is boneless, floating, falling, her back meeting the table's hardwood surface, his arm impatiently sweeping away all of his paperwork to give her more room.

 

Rolls of parchment join the candy on the floor.

 

Rey starts. "Professor—"

 

"I'll clean it up later," Solo mutters against her lips. "Want to fuck you first."

 

Her stomach flips. She's still not used to his blunt talk in circumstances like these. Or to her reaction to it that is both mortification and thrill at the mortification. She spreads her thighs wider, bracketing his hips, sighing into his mouth with every nudge of his erection against her sex through the maddening, unbearable barrier of fabric.

 

They don't have a lot of time. The sixth years will start filing into the D.A.D.A. classroom downstairs in about thirty minutes, give or take.

 

Solo seems keenly aware of this fact. There is a desperation to the way he kisses and grinds against her and squeezes her breasts through her white blouse, like he's working as quickly as he can to get her as wet as possible. He doesn't need to try that hard, though— she's already soaking through her knickers. Ready for him as always.

 

And once he finds this out for himself— after sliding a finger beneath her underwear and dipping it into her cunt, then retracting it with a quietly uttered expletive as it comes away slick— he straightens up, unbuckling his belt, unbuttoning and unzipping his trousers while she kicks off her shoes and props herself up on her elbows and waits, impatient, aching, ragged, her mouth going dry at the sight of his erection once it springs free. It is long and thick, flushed and oddly beautiful, and all just for her.

 

Taking himself in hand, fist slowly bobbing up and down in rhythmic strokes, he eyes the damp spot between her legs speculatively.

 

"Don't you dare," Rey warns him. "I don't need any more of my knickers becoming one with the universe, thanks."

 

"Fine," Solo huffs. He conjures a pillow under the base of her spine, lifting her ass slightly off the table, and he hooks her right leg over his shoulder as he guides his cock to her entrance, waiting until she's reached down and tugged the gusset of her white cotton underwear to the side before his hips snap forward and—

 

and Merlin, there is so much of him, in this position he slides in so, so deep with that first thrust and he barely gives her any time to get used to it, setting an almost punishing pace right from the start—

 

The pressure and the fullness coalesce into jagged shards of relentless pleasure. Rey hears strange whimpering, gurgling, squealing noises that sound like they're coming from a long way off.

 

It takes her what seems like ages to realize that she's the one making them.

 

She's flat on her back now, both legs hooked over Solo's shoulders. His hands are on her hips. His teeth are bared in an almost lupine snarl as he fucks her open on his desk, and she throws her head back and enjoys it, so damn grateful for the pillow— if he can remember to do that for her, then she can remember to cast a lubrication charm next time.

 

"Rey. Sweetheart." The pleading note in Solo's tone is at odds with his frenzied thrusts, as is the way the endearment catches in his throat. "I really need you to come before my next class starts. Can you do that for me? Can you play with your clit while I'm cramming my cock inside this tight little pussy?"

 

She shivers and she does what he asks, sparks dancing behind her fluttering lids as her fingers trace haphazard circles on her swollen bundle of nerves. "That's it, good girl," Solo encourages her, dark and rumbling and as addictive as sin. "My favorite student." Oh, how she clamps down on him at that, the beginnings of orgasm stirring, dragging her heart forward like an undertow. "Always so wet and ready for her professor. Letting me fuck her anytime I want." She breaks around him with a sharp cry, all white heat, all scattered to the wind. "God, yes, come for me, baby," he hisses, hitting that spot inside her again and again and again until her brain has turned to mush and she's practically sobbing. "That's my best girl."

 

He rocks into her while she quivers with her aftershocks, and then he's pulling out, taking her by one limp arm, gently but firmly hauling her off of the desk, tugging her down until the very tiny part of her mental faculties that's left intact understands.

 

Rey gets down on her knees, still dazed from that shattering climax. Solo cups the back of her neck, his fingers tangling in her hair while his other hand guides his erection to her lips. She opens her mouth for him, stares up at him with wide eyes as he works himself to completion with just the tip of his cock hovering between her parted lips.

 

He comes with a grunt, spilling all over her tongue. Leaving her mouth a sticky, white-spattered mess.

 

He watches with reverence as she swallows it all down, her gaze never wavering from his.

 

✨✨✨

 

"May I see you again tomorrow?" he quietly asks as she's preparing to leave his office. "I'd like to say goodbye before you go home for the holidays."

 

Rey hoists the strap of her book bag over one shoulder. "I'm not going home for the holidays."

 

Solo's eyes light up, but after a beat he frowns. "Why not?"

 

Now isn't the time to have this conversation. She doesn't think there'll ever be a good time, but it's definitely not when he has to lecture in— she glances at the clock on the wall— five minutes.

 

But she can't feed him some kind of elaborate lie, either. Not when he'd let her be privy to so much of his own life.

 

"I just don't want to," she says with a shrug. "I'd much rather stay here with you."

 

Her attempt at flattery backfires. He looks aggrieved. "It's going to be your last Christmas before entrenching yourself in the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts. You should spend this time with your family—"

 

"Professor." She darts over to him and rises up on the tips of her toes, interrupting him with a kiss to his pillowy lips. "You have a class to teach. I have to go."

 

She feels his penetrating stare on the back of her neck as she walks out of his office.

 

Classroom 3C is already filling up with sixth years, several of whom turn to look at Rey as she makes her way down the stairs.

 

Damn.

 

She should have put on the invisibility cloak.

 

I swear that man makes me stupid.

 

"Niima!" cries Tharandon, one of the two Gryffindor Beaters. "What're you here for, then?"

 

"I had a consultation with Professor Solo," Rey says, trying to sound as casual as possible despite the fact that she can still taste her teacher's come on her tongue. "About my grades."

 

"Being hard on you, is he?" Tharandon commiserates. "He's a right prick."

 

"He's not that bad," Rey protests, instinctively rushing to Solo's defense. "I'm just... a terrible student."

 

But you're his favorite student, remember? leers her treacherous inner voice.

 

Rey ducks her head in order to hide her flaming cheeks and scurries out of the classroom before her Quidditch teammate can utter another word.

 

✨✨✨

 

The next day is the last day of school for the year. Solo hands back the graded written portion of their exams complete with his critiques and their marks for the practical.

 

It's carnage but, then again, none of them had been expecting anything different.

 

"This exam," Solo tells the seventh years, "was an approximation of your N.E.W.T.s, as will be the rest of the exams in my class. Remember that how you perform on each one will impact my decision on whether you're qualified to sit your N.E.W.T.s in July. Let us hope that studying harder makes it to the top of your list of New Year's resolutions."

 

Rey shoots him a disgruntled look as she exits the room at the end of the class.

 

He merely quirks an eyebrow at her.

 

On Saturday morning, Rey sees her friends off, exchanging hugs with Finn and Rose before they get into one of the many black carriages that are waiting to transport those who are going home to the train station in Hogsmeade, where the Hogwarts Express will pick them up and bring them to Kings Cross. The carriages are ostensibly horseless, appearing to move on their own, but after the summer where she'd kept vigil at her great-grandfather's deathbed in Saigon, Rose had been able to see that they were being pulled by thestrals— skeletal, winged horses that were only visible to those who had witnessed someone pass away.

 

It's not snowing yet, but the December air is bitingly cold out on the barren grounds. Huddled in her threadbare winter coat, Rey watches the door of Finn and Rose's carriage swing shut, and then turns to head inside.

 

She almost bumps into Tallie, who's bundled up in stylish furs and carrying a pink valise.

 

"Happy Christmas, Rey," Tallie chirps. "I'll see you next year."

 

She's smiling prettily, her plaited copper hair blazing under the frozen gray sky. Rey looks at her for several long moments, remembering the night of the ball.

 

And maybe she's also thinking about Ben Solo, and how he treats her like she's everything, and how she hadn't realized that it could be that way.

 

"You should break up with Keyan. Permanently, I mean," Rey blurts out. Tallie's blue eyes widen in shock. "He's not a nice person. You deserve someone who is good to you."

 

Having said her piece, hardly daring to believe that she'd said it in the first place, Rey brushes past Tallie and makes her way back to the warmth of a castle that will be so much quieter for the next two weeks— but, she already knows, not lonely.

Chapter Text

Hogwarts takes on a drowsy atmosphere with the majority of its student population gone for the holidays. It's as if the castle itself is bunkering down for the winter, its staircases at a standstill and its portraits seen napping within their frames more often than not. The corridors no longer echo with tons of footsteps and lively chatter, and the sprawling grounds are devoid of movement most of the time.

 

The drowsiness overtakes Rey as well. Her body has a mind of its own; lulled by the cold weather and with no more coursework that she's required to accomplish, she sleeps the weekend away, whether on her bed in her otherwise empty dorm room or on the couch in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. She wakes up only for meals, which she eats with other schoolmates at the singular long table that has replaced the four house tables now that there are less than fifty students trooping into the Great Hall at any given time.

 

Seff hadn't gone home for the holidays, either. Rey has fallen into an easy sort of friendship with him, although there are instances when it's difficult to look him in the eye as she remembers the things she'd said to Professor Solo in the empty classroom the night of the ball. During Sunday lunch, she finally asks him why he'd decided to stay over for winter break.

 

"Oh— well—" Seff lowers his voice so as not to be overheard by the other diners— "the thing is, my parents are in the middle of finalizing their divorce. Dad's leaving the house to Mum but he's not moved out yet, so it's a bit tense. I just didn't want to be there, y'know?"

 

"Right." It figures that she'd inadvertently stumbled upon such a sensitive topic on one of the few occasions she tries to make small talk. "I'm sorry."

 

Seff shrugs. "It was a long time coming. They've been making each other miserable for years." He changes the subject— or, well, he doesn't change it exactly, but he redirects the flow. "What about you? Why didn't you go home?"

 

"Things aren't so great there, either," Rey admits. Even that already feels like saying too much, but she doesn't know how else to respond to his honesty except to offer him some of her own.

 

Thankfully, he doesn't press the issue. He flashes her a commiserating smile and they move on to lighter topics as they finish their meal. Through it all, though, Rey silently questions why she didn't open up to Professor Solo when he asked— if she could tell a schoolmate a little bit of the truth, then surely she could be more forthcoming with her— her—

 

Dear God, she thinks, staring down into the depths of her onion soup, what is he? Calling Solo her boyfriend seems a tad too juvenile, considering that he's ten years older. Calling him her partner makes her think of taxes, for some reason. And calling him her lover makes her stomach cramp with embarrassment.

 

"Rey?" Seff waves a hand in front of her. "What's the matter? Your face is, like, glowing red."

 

She really needs to master her poker face. Maybe she can ask Solo for Occlumency lessons...

 

On Monday afternoon, Rey happens to glance out of her bedroom window at just the right moment. She sees the back of Solo's unmistakable tall, broad frame clad in a dark winter coat and a houndstooth-patterned scarf crossing the grounds with Chewbacca. The two men are making their way to the black carriages, which probably means that they're going to Hogsmeade. She hopes against hope that he'll look up and see her, but no such luck. She watches him and Chewie get into the carriage, watches the carriage drive away as if on its own. She wonders if Solo can see the thestrals— it's highly likely, considering that he used to be an Auror.

 

Considering the things that the First Order must have made him do under their thrall.

 

He eats dinner in the Great Hall that night. His presence comes as such a surprise that Rey almost chokes on a pumpkin pasty when he walks in and takes his seat at the head table with the other teachers.

 

Their eyes meet.

 

It's only for the briefest of moments, and the exchange is quite ruined by the fact that she's got half of a pumpkin pasty in her mouth, and he never looks her way again all throughout the meal, but there's no denying what the raw yet fleeting urgency in his gaze attempts to tell her.

 

He wants to see her tonight.

 

Rey can hardly concentrate on food after that.

 

Once she's back in Gryffindor Tower, she makes the effort to take a shower and brush her teeth. It's a way to pass the time, but she also wants to smell good for him— and it's not a stretch to assume that kissing would go a whole lot better if one didn't taste heavily of pumpkin and garlic. A girl can only be so thorough with her ablutions, though, and as a result— with thirty minutes to go before lights out, she's perched on the edge of her mattress, knee jiggling restlessly, all nerves and excitement and impatience. She can't stop thinking about Solo, can't stop fantasizing about all the things he'll do to her. The spot between her legs is already damp with anticipation. Her dorm room is so quiet, so dimly lit.

 

Might as well, Rey concedes.

 

She unbuttons her jeans and lies back on the bed, pushing her abominably colorful secondhand sweater up to her neckline so that she can play with her breasts. Her other hand snakes down, sliding beneath her underwear. She closes her eyes and thinks of Solo, thinks of his full lips wrapped around her clit and his large hands on her ass. She thinks of his hot breath on her neck as his cock splits her into two. She thinks about all the ways he's made her come since the end of November, and soon enough she's wringing a slow, gentle orgasm out of herself with a soft sigh.

 

It's truly quite alarming what has become of her, she reflects as she waits for her heart rate and her breathing to return to normal with two fingers still crammed inside her cunt. The man's turned her into some kind of horny little gremlin— and what's worse is that she can't seem to mind at all.

 

The— session— is enough to tide her over, though. It takes the edge off of her waiting, and once the clock strikes ten in the evening Rey dons the invisibility cloak and sneaks off to the Room of Requirement. She finds Solo already on the seventh floor, leaning against the wall with his hands shoved into his pockets. Although he's dressed down now that there are no classes to teach, he somehow manages to still look so bloody proper in a black cashmere sweater, dark jeans, and trainers. Trainers. She hadn't even known that they were in his vocabulary.

 

As she approaches him, Rey's seized by a mischievous urge that she doesn't think twice about acceding to. There is a giddiness to being in an almost deserted castle in the middle of the night, with no exams or unfinished schoolwork hanging over her head, with someone so handsome and so tall whom she must keep secret, with two whole weeks stretching out before them. It makes her feel so strangely carefree.

 

"Knock, knock," Rey says, coming to a stop in front of Professor Solo.

 

He blinks in her general direction, at what he is seeing as nothing. Then he sighs, and says in the most put-upon tone she's ever heard, "Who's there?"

 

"Orange."

 

"Orange who?" he drawls.

 

Rey takes off the cloak, dimpling at him. "Orange you going to kiss me?"

 

Solo leans in with a low, reluctant chuckle, pressing his lips to hers. He tastes a bit minty and he smells like soap and clean skin, like he's just gotten out of the shower. It really warms her heart that they'd been on the same page— and it's the height of foolishness to be doing this in plain sight, although admittedly it would have to be in plain sight of someone who'd randomly decided to head to this remote hallway on this little-used floor after curfew.

 

Still, they can't be too careful, and perhaps that's why Solo's so quick to pull away.

 

"There's something I've been wanting to try," he says.

 

Rey perks up. "Oh?"

 

He quirks an eyebrow at her. "Not like that."

 

"Oh," she says again, deflating.

 

He chucks her under the chin. "I mean, I have many, many ideas about that," he murmurs huskily, so huskily that she almost kisses him again and begs, yes, yes, show me all those ideas. "But this is with regards to the Room of Requirement. I'm curious about what will happen if you run its magic through different parameters. Wait here."

 

She watches him pace in front of the blank stone wall, his brow furrowed in concentration, until the door appears. They go inside, and—

 

Rey's eyes widen. The entrance creaks shut behind her and a gasp of delight escapes her lips as she takes off the invisibility cloak and steps further into the chamber, soaking it all up. The Room of Requirement's interior has transformed into a— well, it's a log cabin, one that wouldn't be out of place on some mountain, somewhere. Exposed beams, oak floors, and a brick fireplace crackling with bright orange flames lend a rustic feel; the centerpiece of the room is a king-sized bed draped in a mountain of pillows and thick, snowy white sheets strewn with red rose petals that perfume the air with their sweet scent. There's even a window situated high above the headboard, offering a view of the starry night sky.

 

"I asked for a cozy place with an actual bed. The room adapted better than I thought it would, but—" Solo grimaces— "I could have done without the rose petals."

 

Rey turns to him with a smile. "I think they're brilliant. Really posh."

 

Something in his expression wavers. He scoops her up into his arms and carries her over to the armchair by the fireplace, settling her into his lap once he's sat down.

 

"Rey," he whispers against her temple, and his next words make her freeze. "I know about your parents. Chewie told me earlier while we were at Hogsmeade. He bought a Christmas present for you because they sure as fuck aren't going to."

 

With her face buried in the front of Solo's sweater, she can feel the way he's all coiled up in rage, ready to leap to her defense in any way that he can. With his hands running soothingly over her curled form, she can sense protectiveness in his every touch. She can speak, then, when things are like this, when she's being held and surrounded by his gentleness and his strength.

 

"They weren't always terrible. When I was younger, they tried. I remember them trying," she croaked. "Mum would do my hair before school, things like that. Then it got worse and they weren't able to hold down steady jobs anymore and they— they started taking it out on me, in a way. Nothing physical but, like, they'd say I was worthless and... and stuff." She peeks up at Solo and he's staring off into the distance, his face drained of color and his jaw clenched. But he's got one hand in her hair, stroking it softly, and that gives her the courage to continue.

 

"So I learned how to cook and clean and just— just fend for myself, overall," Rey mumbles, nuzzling into Solo's chest once more, letting the steady beat of his heart calm her nerves enough for her to tell the story straight. "When I was— I think eight or nine years old, my magic began to express itself in earnest. Weird things had always happened around me, but they definitely picked up at around that time. Floating objects, vanishing glass, exploding pots— you know. The usual. I mean, it's usual for us— for the wizarding world— but it creeped my parents out. Sometimes I think that's what drove them to drink even more— because their daughter was a freak and—"

 

And here she breaks down, releasing sobs that have been held in for so, so long. Finn and Rose already know the bare bones of this story, but this is the first time Rey's ever filled in the details.

 

It's just— it's humiliating, for someone else to know that other people don't find you worthy of love.

 

Solo lets her cry, tightening his embrace, his lips moving against her temple in consoling phantom kisses, not at all seeming to care that she's getting snot all over his expensive cashmere sweater. Time passes— Rey doesn't know how long she sits there and weeps in his arms, but eventually her tears run dry and her sobs fade into occasional sniffles, and the heaviness in her chest abates.

 

She slumps against him, feeling wrung out but strangely at peace. He gives her a few minutes to gather herself, the only sound in the room that of the fire crackling in the hearth, then he tips her chin up so that she's looking into his eyes, his large fingers curling at her jaw.

 

"There are three things that I need you to know," he tells her solemnly. "First of all, it's taking every ounce of willpower that I have to not storm past the wards, Apparate to Muggle London, and hex your stupid parents. In case I am unsuccessful in controlling myself, would you prefer sardines to come out of their noses or for their toenails to grow alarmingly fast?"

 

Rey snorts. It's a wet, blubbery, unattractive sound, but it makes Solo crack a wry, affectionate smile. He tucks her hair behind her ear, his thumb brushing away the lingering teardrops that stain her cheek. "Secondly, it's not your fault. It was never your fault. Your magic is— it's radiant. So alive and deadly at the same time. You're the girl who produced a corporeal Patronus on the first day of class, the girl who fended off and slew a manticore. You're one of the most talented witches of your age. No one can take that from you. Okay?"

 

She nods, her eyes stinging again. If she hadn't been all cried out, she would've shed tears of bittersweet relief. She hadn't counted on how good it would feel to hear someone say these things.

 

"The third and last thing is—" And here he rests his forehead against hers, his palm cradling the side of her face as tenderly as if she were made of glass— "thank you for telling me. I know it can't have been easy, and I am humbled that you chose to share."

 

"You're not mad that I didn't tell you before?" Rey asks in a small voice.

 

"No. God, no." A shudder wracks through him, like he can't even bear the thought of it. "If anything, I'm mad at myself for all those times I pushed you away. For all the times I hurt you. If I'd known—" The words splinter apart on the hitch in his throat. "Forgive me, Rey. I will be better, I swear."

 

She shakes her head and kisses him. It's all in the past now and she only wants to move forward, into a future where he is by her side. He responds immediately, with an achingly careful slowness, leaning into her and slanting his mouth over hers like he could do it forever, like there's nothing else that he wants to do for the rest of his life. His hands never stray from her waist and from the small of her back, markedly chaste, but the sheer deepness of their kiss— the mere sweeping, rolling flicks of his clever tongue alongside hers— it's enough to draw out shard after shard of yearning until she's burning brighter than the fire, too hot and uncomfortable in her scratchy sweater and tight jeans.

 

Unable to bear it any longer, Rey wrenches her mouth from his and shifts position so that she can straddle Solo's lap, yanking her sweater over her head and tossing it aside. She'd elected not to wear a bra tonight and it turns out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made— he damn near beams at her. Merlin. She'll literally never wear a bra ever again if that's what it takes for this boyish, ridiculously pleased expression to take up permanent residence on his face. Free the nipple, and all that.

 

But he doesn't immediately dive for her tits like she expected he would. Instead, he kisses her again, and it is so soft and sweet and slow, his left hand roving down her spine, his right hand thumbing gently at her nipple until it's a hardened peak and then switching to the other. It's not long before she's all shivery, all hypersensitive, all squirmy in her jeans as she grinds down onto him.

 

"Need you now," she mumbles against his lips. "Please."

 

She needs touch. She needs assurance. She needs to forget every bad thing that has happened before this night.

 

Solo carries her to bed, depositing her gingerly onto a mattress that immediately sinks to accommodate her weight, enveloping her in rose petals and Egyptian cotton. It's fucking amazing.

 

"Thanks for this," she breathes while he busies himself with taking off her shoes and her socks, with sliding her jeans and her underwear down her legs. "For thinking of this."

 

"Don't mention it," he says as he in turn disrobes. "You deserve only the best."

 

"I do have the best," Rey says without thinking, in a dreamy tone of voice that's brought about by the sight of his bare, sculpted form gleaming in the firelight. He's just so massive. So massive and so perfect and so hers, his thick, flushed cock pointing towards her the way a compass points to the North Star.

 

It's adorable, the blush that stains Solo's cheeks as he joins her on the bed, propping himself up with an elbow curled by her shoulder while he sucks on her breast and his hand drifts down to the spot between her legs, making her gasp with the swirling of his tongue, the skimming of his fingertips, the circling of the pad of his thumb, the hot weight of his erection against her thigh.

 

She can tell that he's a bit mystified by how wet and relaxed she already is down there, and even more so when he slides a finger into her with no resistance. There's a slick pop as he pulls his mouth off of her nipple, his dark gaze traveling to her face. "You came not too long ago, didn't you, sweetheart?" he rumbles, his eyes half-lidded. Smoldering. He adds another finger before she can even reply.

 

"Y-yes," she stammers while he thrusts languidly. "I— I got impatient, waiting for lights out— is— is that all right?"

 

He chuckles, a low, affectionate rasp that sends another ribbon of arousal spiraling through her abdomen. "It's more than all right, Rey. In fact—" His wrist picks up its pace, making her cry out— "I think that we should make a new rule."

 

It's so hard to hang on to the act of speech with his fingers working their own special brand of magic. But, somehow, she manages. "What— what sort of rule?"

 

"From now on, I think you should play with this pretty little pussy before we meet. Every— single—" he punctuates each word with a downward stroke, with the swipe of his thumb over her clit— "time. I want you to have come at least once before I've even laid eyes on you. Want you to get all nice and wet and stretched out for me."

 

"Bloody hell," Rey whimpers. There are still several months of school left to go. She's going to die."

 

"God, Rey—" Solo's voice breaks, and he surges up to kiss her, his teeth sinking into the swell of her bottom lip. He pulls away only infinitesimally, only enough so that he can mutter, "You have no idea what it does to me, the thought of you fucking yourself— I'd keep you in my office all the damn time if I could— just make you sit on my lap with your fingers busy under your tiny skirt while I do paperwork—" Her spine arches as his fingers find her G-spot and don't let up, their caresses light but relentless. "You deserve to always be coming, baby," he whispers, sprinkling haphazard, feather-soft kisses all over the side of her face. The bridge of her nose. The apple of her cheek. "You deserve only the sweet things in life. None of the bad would ever touch you if I could help it. You are so, so good— such a good girl—"

 

Rey comes with the quietest of screams, her mind a whirl of mental images of her masturbating on her teacher's lap while he works at his desk, her heart aglow with his praise, her entire body quivering with pleasure. Solo lavishes attention on her parted lips, kissing and nibbling, licking slowly into her mouth while the aftershocks course through her. She's too dazed to do anything, she can't even muster the energy to kiss him back, she just lets him have his way with her mouth, she just lets him pry her thighs apart a little wider and sink into her as they both groan.

 

He takes his time kissing her as she adjusts to his size, her inner walls stretching around his thick length, sucking him in deeper, inch by inch. He's still kissing her gently when he begins to move— slowly, so slowly, his hips rolling against hers instead of outright thrusting. His cock never leaves her, not for a second. She feels warm and safe even as she wheezes from the sheer breadth of him inside her.

 

It goes on for forever. A blissful eternity, painted in the firelight. He is pressing her down into the mattress, they are skin to skin, there are rose petals gliding against her bare limbs, there is another orgasm that is starting to build steadily within her core.

 

"I love how well you take me," he mumbles against the corner of her mouth. "You feel so good, Rey. You're so beautiful— so strong, so brave—" His words open her up like she's a flower blooming in the sun and she wraps her arms around him, moving her hips in time with his. "I can't believe you let me fuck you," he continues in a more ragged tone of voice. "I can't believe you let me make you come. Do you think you can come again? Just one more time. Just for me."

 

She nods limply, too awash in the sensations to speak. He lifts his head, peering down at her as he thrusts a little more forcefully yet still with that heart-wrenching slowness, his thumb tracing patterns on her clit. His face is all that she sees, a lock of dark hair falling over his pale forehead, his lips red and bruised from their kisses, his eyes rendered a tawny color in the glow of the fire. If I'd known that you were the one waiting for me at the end of my loneliness, it wouldn't have been so bad, she thinks. If I had to endure it all over again, I would. Because I'll find you on the other side.

 

Rey falls off the edge for the third time that evening. It is a rippling through rather than a wave crashing over; it is an unfurling rather than an explosion. She is as helpless to stop her spine from arching above the sheets and her eyelids from fluttering shut as she is to prevent the syllable that rolls off of her tongue in a surrendered sigh.

 

"Ben."

 

He all but jolts in her arms. His hips snap against hers and then he's coming, too, with an ineloquent "Shit" uttered through gritted teeth, the hot ropes of his spend bathing her core and dragging her into a smaller orgasm that curls in at the heels of the previous one. She's still whimpering from the sensory overload when he collapses on top of her, burying his face in the slope of her neck, emptying every last drop of come inside her with a few more sloppy thrusts.

 

And then he goes still, their hearts racing side by side through the winter night.

 

Once Rey comes back to herself, it's to the realization that the air smells like sex and roses— and that she is so happy. It's as though her soul is made of gold. It's as though—

 

she's being crushed by a ton of bricks—

 

"Oi." She pokes his upper arm, subtly copping a feel of his bicep while she's at it. "Budge up."

 

There's no response.

 

He's asleep. Or he will be, very soon.

 

"Ben," Rey ventures. Saying his name is— delightful. There's no other word for it. Her mouth cradles it like it's a precious thing. She gently strokes the shell of his ear. "Ben..."

 

"Mmm." He rolls them both over so that she's the one on top, his spent cock slipping out of her as he does so. "Sorry," he slurs, his arms tight around her waist and back, keeping her inexorably pressed up against his broad torso. "Came so hard..."

 

He kisses the top of her head. Then he starts snoring.

 

Totally out for the count.

 

Rey stifles a laugh against his chest. Oh, she'd gotten him good. She closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep, and her last thought is that it doesn't matter whether she calls him her boyfriend or her lover or whatever else— as long as she can call him Ben.

 

✨✨✨

 

They are woken in the early morning of the twenty-fourth by an insistent scratching noise over their heads. She reluctantly untangles herself from the cocoon of his arms and sits up to frown at the window, squinting against the pale sunlight.

 

"What is it?" Professor Solo— Ben— asks drowsily, his eyes at half-mast, his big hand reaching out to idly caress her hip.

 

Bit by bit, Rey's consciousness shakes off the fog of sleep, gradually piecing images together to make sense of the blur of feathers and talons scrabbling at the glass.

 

"It's an owl," she says, mystified.

 

Ben climbs out of bed, grumbling under his breath as he pulls on his underwear and jeans. He grabs the blackthorn wand and aims it at the window, which creaks open in response to the nonverbal spell that he cast.

 

The owl sails into the room, dropping an envelope on the floor at Ben's feet. Then it blinks its huge golden eyes at Rey— who's as naked as the day she was born— and it makes a hasty exit, as if coming to the conclusion that it wants absolutely nothing to do with whatever's happening here.

 

Ben picks up the envelope and tears it open, extricating what looks like a Christmas card with a wall of text scribbled on the back of it. For several long moments, he stares silently at the message, uncomprehending, and then—

 

"Jesus fucking Christ. My parents are here." His eyes meet Rey's, and he looks slightly panicked. "They just checked into the inn at Hogsmeade."

Chapter Text

In the afternoon, it starts to snow.

 

The timing couldn't have been better. Rey and her schoolmates gasp in delight as the first cold flakes hit their cheeks while they're filing out of the castle. Obi-Wan had announced over breakfast that it was a Hogsmeade day and all of the older students had jumped at the opportunity to buy last-minute presents and grab a pint at the Three Broomsticks.

 

First and second years aren't allowed to go on the Hogsmeade excursions and, although Rey had gotten her mother to sign the permission slip in her third year— saying that it was for a school field trip, which wasn't really a lie— she'd spent most winter breaks since then at either Finn or Rose's house. Thus, it'll only be her second time to while away Christmas Eve at the wizarding village.

 

Of course, her excitement also has a lot to do with the fact that there's a big chance Professor Solo— Ben— will be there as well.

 

Ben, Ben, Ben, Rey thinks happily, holding the name close to her heart as she clambers into one of the black carriages. He'd been in a rush earlier, saying that he had to go meet his parents before his Muggle father did anything stupid in magical territory, but he'd remembered to kiss her goodbye on his way out of the Room of Requirement.

 

By the time the school carriages roll into Hogsmeade, the snow is falling in copious, spiraling flurries that cover the thatched cottages in a layer of soft, pristine white. The powder-dusted trees twinkle with strings of enchanted candles, their cheery golden lights glinting off of the holly wreaths hung on every door.

 

It's the type of picture-perfect Christmas village that one might see inside a snow globe, and Rey is utterly entranced— even more so when she and Seff make their way to High Street, where all the shops are located, and it's just one bustling, radiant avenue lined with sparkling display windows that are all done up in red and green and purple and gold.

 

The first stop is Honeydukes. Rey stocks up on nougat, toffees, and her beloved sugar quills that are all marked on sale, and then— over her protestations— Seff treats her to one of the freshly baked gingerbread yetis by the cash register.

 

"Consider it a Christmas present," Seff tells her. "It's no trouble. Mum and Dad sent me a little extra this year— to make up for the impending divorce and everything, I guess."

 

"Now I feel bad for you and I have no choice but to accept," Rey grumbles, and Seff laughs.

 

She contentedly nibbles on the gingerbread yeti as they peruse the other shops. Gladrags is having a five pairs for one deal on socks, and Rey immediately decides that these will be her presents for her friends in lieu of the usual Christmas cards and candy that were all she'd been able to afford in the past. She leaves Seff at Scrivenshaft's, where he's poring over quills and ink pots, and slips into the wizarding apparel store to pick out socks for Finn, Rose, Seff, and her roommates. There's a lot to choose from— there are socks patterned with flashing gold and silver stars, another pair patterned with animated flying hippogriffs, socks that glow in the dark, socks that scream if they get too smelly, socks that give off a distinct whiff of pineapple, and so on and so forth.

 

Rey contemplates buying a present for Ben as well. She doubts he'll appreciate any of what Gladrags has to offer— they're too fun for him, for starters— but perhaps she can get him a book or something. She heads on over to Tomes and Scrolls; after half an hour of carefully browsing the shelves, though, she's forced to conclude that their wares are astronomically out of her budget.

 

What had she been thinking? Books are expensive.

 

Embarrassed, Rey slinks back into the clothing shop and purchases the safest pair of socks that she can find. They sport a garish orange and yellow paisley print, but nothing's moving and they don't make any strange noises. There's really no hope that Ben will like them, but he might at the very least appreciate the thought.

 

A cloth bag stuffed with gift-wrapped parcels dangling from her arm, Rey meets Seff outside the Three Broomsticks, as they'd agreed, and they shuffle indoors with several of their schoolmates.

 

The pub is smoky and crowded, but warm enough that it's a welcome respite from the December chill. Maz Kanata, the tiny, grizzled old witch who is the proprietor of the Three Broomsticks, bellows a greeting as the Hogwarts contingent elbow their way to the bar.

 

"Happy Christmas, you lot!" She goggles at the students through over-sized round spectacles. "What'll it be today?"

 

Although everyone else orders butterbeer, Rey's still a bit raw from her and Ben's conversation about her parents the previous day. She doesn't think she can stomach anything that even remotely resembles alcohol at the moment, so she settles on hot chocolate, and Maz has barely placed a large mug of the thick, frothy beverage on the counter in front of Rey when—

 

— the deepest, dearest voice rumbles—

 

"Four butterbeers, please."

 

"Coming right up, professor. You tell Chewie to stop by the bar for a chat before he leaves." Maz winks at the veritable brick wall of heat and sandalwood scent that's standing behind Rey before turning away to fill the requisite pints at the tap.

 

Rey has forgotten how to move. How to turn around. How to breathe. Ben feels so near that, if she takes just one step back, she will surely walk right into him.

 

But out of the corner of her eye, she sees her schoolmates whirling to face him and she knows that she has to follow suit or risk coming off as unforgivably rude. She spins on her heel, clutching her mug of hot chocolate like it's a shield against horniness, and there he is. Looking his long nose down at her, his hands shoved into the pockets of his black peacoat. The rest of the world fades into mere wallpaper.

 

She barely hears Pamich Nerrro Goode chirp— in that excessively cheerful, painfully polite manner that one often adopts when encountering a teacher in the wild— "Wotcher, Professor Solo! Having a little drinkypoo, then?"

 

"Er— yes, Miss Goode. With my family." Ben gestures toward the back of the pub, but it's so crowded that Rey can only see Chewbacca over everyone else's heads, puffing away on a hand-rolled cigar the size of a hammer.

 

"Oh?" Pamich says in an agony of small talk, her smile so courteous that it's almost maniacal. "They're visiting you for the holidays? That's so nice!"

 

"I suppose that it is," Ben says levelly.

 

There is... a wealth of awkward silence, during which Pamich looks wildly at the other students for help and Ben seems to be looking everywhere but at Rey and Rey can't bring herself to stop looking at him. They're surrounded by her schoolmates. She is going to combust.

 

Maz saves the day by plunking down four heavy tankards on the counter. Ben reaches over to pay, his arm stretching out past Rey's shoulder and his breath stirring her hair as he mumbles, "Excuse me, Miss Niima."

 

She moves aside as best as she can, but there are several villagers clustered at the bar beside her so she doesn't get very far.

 

Merlin, he smells so good, is all that she can think, his hip brushing up against hers as he drops coins into Maz's waiting palm.

 

Then Ben is straightening up, waving his blackthron wand over the four tankards so that they rise into the air. He nods curtly at Rey's group. "Don't drink too much," he warns them.

 

"Yes, sir," they all automatically chorus, and he walks away with the tankards full of butterbeer trailing after him.

 

"Well, that was bloody awkward," Pamich humphs once Ben's out of earshot. "Fat lot of help you guys were..."

 

The students pick up their beverages and drift off into their respective cliques, looking for a place to sit down. Rey, Seff, Pamich, and Bazel Warv make it all the way to the back of the pub before finding four empty seats— unfortunately, right at the table where Ben and Chewbacca are seated, with two other people who can only be Ben's parents.

 

I'm not stalking you, Rey vainly tries to broadcast to him via a telepathic link that, if the universe is kind, will pop up right at this moment.

 

But the universe is not kind, and Ben solemnly drinks his butterbeer and avoids making eye contact, the tips of his ears turning just the slightest shade of pink as Chewie beckons the students over after a hurried exchange with Leia Organa.

 

Rey recognizes Ben's mother right away. The newspaper photos had not done her justice; she is beautiful and regal in robes of amethyst silk embellished with silver fastenings, her graying hair coiled in a series of elaborate braids. Her eyes are so much like Ben's, expressive and the color of brandy, and she wastes no time in telling Han and Ben to make room for the four teenagers.

 

"That's all right, ma'am," Pamich protests, sounding just as alarmed as Rey feels, "we wouldn't want to intrude—"

 

"Nonsense!" says the MACUSA president in an imperious tone that is uncannily reminiscent of Ben barking instructions at the class. "You all look like you've been running around in the snow all day— time to sit down and get cozy— Han, will you move, please?"

 

"Right away, Your Worship," her husband mutters, shifting his chair so that there'll be enough space for everyone at the table.

 

Han Solo is tall, with ruggedly handsome features and the leanness of someone who's just come out of a long hospital stay. He's bundled up in a ribbed sweater, a flannel jacket, and— Rey's heart squeezes when she realizes this— the same houndstooth scarf that Ben had been wearing yesterday. She imagines him grumping at his father for not dressing warmly enough, maybe arranging the scarf around Han's neck himself while saying something about how deadly British winters are...

 

"Rey! Go!" Pamich is nudging her forward. In the direction of the empty chair right beside Ben.

 

"What?" Rey hisses back. "Why me?"

 

"I'm not going to sit beside our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at a pub! Just take one for the team, will you—"

 

"Is something the matter, dears?" Leia asks. Seff has already made himself comfortable next to Han, with Bazel on his other side. The entire table is looking at Rey and Pamich expectantly— save for Ben, who's gazing into the depths of his tankard like it contains the arcane secrets of the universe.

 

Red-faced, Rey ducks her head and mumbles something to the effect that there's nothing wrong as she slowly, clumsily inches into the chair beside Ben, taking great care that no part of her body touches his. She'd been excited to go to Hogsmeade and maybe see him with his parents— maybe catch a glimpse of what he's like with the people that he loves— but this is quickly turning into a harrowing lesson on being careful what you wish for.

 

"So, Ben, Chewie— aren't you going to introduce us to your students?" Leia asks brightly once they've all settled down.

 

Rey sees Ben glance at Chewie, but the Hogwarts gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor has just put the cigar back to his mouth, and he gestures expansively at Ben to do the honors.

 

Ben clears his throat. "Mom, Dad, this is Miss Niima—"

 

"And here I thought we were in a bar, not your classroom," Han scoffs. "First names, please."

 

"They call them pubs here, Han," Leia reminds him. "But, yes, Ben, there's no need to stand on ceremony."

 

"Very well," Ben says through gritted teeth, glaring at his father, who merely sips his butterbeer and looks unrepentant. "This is Rey, Pamich, Bazel, and Seff. Everyone, these are my parents. Leia Organa and Han Solo."

 

It's pretty clear that Seff is starstruck by Leia, but he makes a valiant attempt at conversation. "And how are you finding Scotland, Madame President and, er— Mr. Madame President's Husband?"

 

One thing that Rey's noticed about a lot of Ravenclaws is that they rarely get tripped up but, when they do, it's a full-on face-plant. It would appear that Seff is no exception.

 

"It's just Han and Leia, dear. As I said, there's no need to stand on ceremony." Leia flashes Seff a gracious smile. "Scotland is wonderful! Although— it's very cold—"

 

"So damn cold," Han agrees. "Been freezing since we got off the plane."

 

Rey's surprise overcomes her shyness. "You flew?" she blurts out.

 

Han grins at her. A crooked, shit-eating grin that she has sometimes seen on his son's face. "Nah, kid. Like I said, we took the plane."

 

A whole three seconds pass before everyone else realizes that he's making a joke based on flew and Floo sounding alike.

 

It's Chewie who laughs first, hearty and roaring, and soon Rey, Seff, Pamich, and Bazel are following suit, while Leia and Ben just look faintly embarrassed.

 

"I've never been on an airplane before, but we discussed them in Muggle Studies," Bazel says thoughtfully when the mirth has run its course. "Portkeys and the Floo Network are so much faster for intercontinental travel, but planes are more comfortable, I imagine."

 

"There's a Muggle Studies class?" Han smirks. "Can I apply to teach it, I'm very qualified—"

 

"That'd make you and Ben coworkers," Chewie points out. "I'd pay to see that."

 

"I wouldn't," Ben deadpans, and Han laughs, his dark eyes twinkling fondly.

 

Rey is happier than she could ever have imagined to see for herself that there's someone in Ben's life who looks at him like that.

 

"To answer your question, Bazel, planes are definitely more comfortable," says Leia. "Han can't abide Portkeys or the Floo, they make him violently sick. It's a good thing I have a Muggle passport."

 

"I seem to recall you singing a different tune whenever we hit turbulence," Han quips. "You said you'd never forgive me for sticking you on this deathtrap if we crashed before you saw your son again—"

 

"Anyway, isn't it so nice that we're all here!" Leia airily cuts across, and Han jolts as if someone's just kicked him under the table. "Kids, you must tell me what Ben is like as a teacher. I hope he isn't being too hard on you."

 

There is a brief, uncomfortable silence. Rey practically inhales her hot chocolate so that she won't have to answer.

 

"Not— not in the least," Pamich squeaks. "Professor Solo is— very understanding and gentle— and tall—"

 

"He's so nice to us!" Bazel says emphatically.

 

"A paragon of kindness!" Seff adds with fervor.

 

Leia blinks and then casts a doubtful glance at Ben. "Really?"

 

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom," Ben drawls. "Obviously, they don't wish to offend and are being charitable."

 

Leia's mischief-tinged gaze falls on Rey. "Well, perhaps Rey has a less charitable assessment."

 

And Rey knows that she's being awfully quiet and the older woman is merely folding her into the conversation with a diplomat's ease, but she still can't help the guilt-ridden anxiety that crashes through her in waves. The pub is too loud all of a sudden, the various conversations at the other tables taking on a dull roar and the clatter of utensils and drink containers exploding like shockwaves. Everyone's looking at her— even Ben, she can see his pale face turned towards her at the periphery of her vision— but she only has eyes for Leia, who is so distinguished and so kind, who has no idea what her son does to Rey in the dead of night or in stolen moments during the day. Leia has no idea of the damage that will be wrought upon Ben's career and reputation with one wrong move, one badly timed kiss. No idea that there is a danger that the second chance she worked so hard to give him will come crashing down because of the girl she so blithely invited to sit with them on Christmas Eve.

 

Rey has no right to be here. She should just go. And she should also do Ben's sweet mother a favor and never touch him again—

 

And that's when she feels the side of Ben's thigh brush up against hers under the table— and stay there, a warm, comforting pressure through their respective jeans. She's too spooked to actually look at him straight on, but this reminder of his presence grounds her more than anything.

 

They're in this together.

 

She has to let his parents know how amazing he is. How hard he tries.

 

"Professor Solo is a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. The most competent we've ever had," Rey tells Leia and, by extension, Han as he listens with undisguised interest. "He can be tough, but only because he wants us to do our best. To be our best. He emphasizes practical application while also making sure that we're grounded in theory. And he's one of the most brilliant wizards I've ever met. He's just—" Rey swallows— "he's doing a really great job."

 

Her schoolmates nod in silent agreement. Hans looks as pleased as punch, while Leia seems a bit misty-eyed.

 

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say that the young pup's about to blush!" Chewie claps Ben on the back, and a few drops of the latter's butterbeer slosh out of the tankard that he's holding.

 

It's only then that Rey lets herself turn to look at Ben. His Occlumency is in place, she can tell from how remote his features are— and she can't begrudge him for it, not when they're sitting together under everyone's scrutiny— but his complexion is tinged pink. His thigh remains pressed against hers.

 

The small talk flows smoothly from there and is actually quite pleasant, even though Rey doesn't feel up to contributing to much of it. Han is a character; combined with Leia's gift for making people feel at ease, the whole thing isn't as awkward as it could have been. Rey also learns that Chewie, Han, and Leia are old friends thanks to Obi-Wan. Through it all, she's unable to fully relax, but she's slightly consoled by the fact that Ben can't, either. She feels the tension in his frame radiating against hers.

 

Eventually, her schoolmates start making noises about not wanting to get left behind by the school carriages. They stand up and so does Rey; as she rises from her chair, she lets her fingers trail over Ben's knee. The lightest of touches, the most subtle of farewells. Out loud, she bids a polite goodbye to him and to his parents and to Chewie, and, as she follows Seff, Pamich, and Bazel out of the Three Broomsticks, she has to clench her fists against the temptation to look back.

 

✨✨✨

 

"Did I really say that Professor Solo was 'understanding, gentle, and tall'?" Pamich shakes her head in mournful disbelief. "Why can't I talk like a functional human being when I'm nervous?"

 

"It wasn't that bad," Seff attempts to reassure her. "I mean, he's apparently 'the most competent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had,' so—"

 

"Oi, I was nervous, too!" Rey snaps hotly.

 

"I like President Organa," Bazel muses. "She's not stuffy, unlike most politicians."

 

"Professor Solo's dad is great, too," Pamich adds. "He's so funny. But he looked a bit peaky, yes? Wonder if he's been ill..."

 

Rey clams up. Now that she can put a face to a name— now that she can fully envision what had happened in the Adirondacks— all she wants to do is to hug Ben. To tell him, see, everything's all right, you are forgiven, you are loved...

 

They pass by Zonko's Joke Shop on their way out of High Street. Seff and Rey had dropped by earlier so that the former could buy Frog Spawn Soap and slip it into the boys' bathroom in Ravenclaw Tower as revenge for his roommate serving him tea in a Nose-Biting Teacup last week, but now— with only a couple of hours left until closing time— there's a shop attendant standing outside and distributing free Father Christmas hats that will become obsolete the day after tomorrow.

 

Rey commits the grave mistake of making eye contact with the shop attendant. He bounds over to her and plops the red hat on top of her head. "A Happy Christmas to you, my good lady!"

 

"This wouldn't happen to be the prank hat that makes you grow a matching beard, would it?" she asks him suspiciously.

 

"Heavens, no— that was last year's model! You can always depend on Zonko's for fresh laughs!"

 

Rey doesn't trust people who punctuate every sentence with an exclamation point. As she and her group continue walking, she reaches up to whip the hat off— only for her fingers to grasp empty air.

 

"What the..." She looks around.

 

The hat is now on a very surprised Bazel's head.

 

Rey groans.

 

This is going to be a bloody nuisance.

 

✨✨✨

 

As it turns out, Rey's not the only student who'd been victimized by Zonko's attendant. Dinner that evening is marked by several red and white Father Christmas hats blinking in and out of existence up and down the Great Hall. They don't always Apparate onto someone's head; sometimes they end up on the chandelier, sometimes in the fod. Professor Hux has no less than five hats appear atop his ginger hair and then vanish moments later, growing more livid with each one.

 

"Come now, Armitage!" Rey overhears Obi-Wan telling him. "At least it's not the ones that make you grow a beard— although you pulled that look off really well last year, old chap..."

 

"It's a plague," Seff says, picking a hat out of his soup. "Zonko's are mad geniuses. I reckon that this sort of mass-produced charm will wear off in a couple of days, though. Maybe less."

 

"Still not soon enough," Rey declares.

 

The next morning, she wakes up to her accursed Father Christmas hat perched on top of the mirror. It doesn't Disapparate again for several minutes and she heaves a sigh of relief as she gets out of bed, thinking that the spellwork has faded.

 

However, the moment she exits her room, she feels that slight, telltale weight materialize on her head. Wonderful. She'd tried banishing it last night but it hadn't taken; she is this close to setting the thing on fire.

 

The Gryffindor common room is deserted. Rey checks the clock on the wall and realizes that she'd woken up far too early. There's already a fire crackling in the hearth, though, and the view beyond the windows swirls with fat snowflakes.

 

It's Christmas morning.

 

Still dressed in her pajamas, Rey sits down cross-legged by the colorful, glittering tree in one corner and eagerly rummages through the heap of presents at its base. There are parcels addressed to her from Finn, Rose, Chewie, and her roommates. She can give Chewie his socks after the Christmas feast and later she'll nip up to the school owlery to send packages to Tallie, Jess, and Jannah, but Finn and Rose will have to wait until they come back after the New Year. Rey can't afford the hefty fees for international mail.

 

One day, she promises herself. One day she'll be able to splurge on things like these.

 

Her gaze is drawn to what is easily the biggest parcel under the tree. Wrapped in fancy-looking gold paper bedecked with a sparkling, opalescent ribbon, it's longer than Rey is tall and vaguely Y-shaped. Curious, she leans in to examine the attached card.

 

And her heart skips a beat.

 

EURYDICE NIIMA. Printed in neat block letters, in silver ink.

 

Rey flips open the card. There's only one word scrawled on the inside. A question.

 

TONIGHT?

 

It's... well, it's not exactly the sweetest of Christmas greetings, by any means, but she understands that Ben does have to be careful in case someone else got nosy and peeked at the card. That's probably also why he hadn't used his usual cursive, which would have been too recognizable.

 

In any case, it doesn't really matter what he'd written. He'd gotten her a present. She taps her wand to the parcel and its wrappings vanish and, there, on the floor, is—

 

Rey hauls it across her lap, disbelieving, just as Gandris Dyun emerges from the boys' dormitory, yawning and also still clad in his pajamas. The moment he sees Rey and what she's just unwrapped, though, all trace of sleepiness disappears and he lets out a low whistle.

 

"Galloping gorgons..." the Chaser whispers, his tone reverent, "that's a— Niima, that's a Firebolt Supreme—"

 

"I know," Rey whispers right back, illogically afraid that speaking in too loud a voice will cause this dream to end. For what else can it be but a dream? She runs her trembling fingers over the broomstick's glossy ebony wood handle and its goblin-made ironwork, and then her gaze darts to the twigs at one end— hazel, for greater precision in turning, perfect for a Seeker who needs to follow the Golden Snitch's frantic, random path.

 

"That's the fastest broom ever made." Gandris walks over to her, every bit as utterly mesmerized as she is. "It can go from nought to one hundred and ninety miles per hour in ten seconds. It's got superb balance and precision and an unbreakable Braking Charm and it can take even the most adverse of weather conditions. That's a world-class broomstick, that is! That's what professional Quidditch players ride!"

 

Rey blinks back tears of piercing, poignant happiness. This is the finest thing she's ever owned and will probably ever own. But all she can see is Ben. Ben as he studies her features, as he talks to her, as he files bits and pieces of her away for reference in that brilliant mind of his. Ben as he pulls out snacks for her every time she drops by his office, as he holds her because she'd asked him to and when she doesn't need to ask anymore. Ben as he must have been the night he sent his Patronus to watch over her while she was in detention. Ben as he'd kissed the top of her head before drifting off to sleep.

 

She hugs the Firebolt Supreme to her chest, closing her eyes and wishing that she were hugging him instead.

 

"Bloody hell, Niima," she hears Gandris continue in what can only be described as awe, "who got you that for Christmas?"

 

Rey chooses to ignore him. In her mind, though, she answers. Someone understanding and gentle. A soft smile plays at the corners of her mouth. And tall.

Chapter Text

A seemingly endless barrage of snow covers the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch in heaps of white. Up in the air, visibility is almost zero, causing Rey to squint through her goggles as she leans forward on the Firebolt Supreme, scanning for any sign of Gandris or Bazel.

 

At eleven in the morning, her teammate had insisted that they take her new broom out for a spin. Rey hadn't needed much convincing; aside from it sounding like a good idea to work up an appetite for the Christmas feast at noon, she'd also been impatient to put the Firebolt Supreme to the test— and, so far, it is magnificent. She's never ridden anything finer. The broom is almost telepathic in the way it responds to her every touch.

 

And it's so... fast. She'd almost fallen off the first time it accelerated, only narrowly managing to lock her thighs around the handle at the last possible second. There's no question of it outflying Gandris' Cleansweep Eleven or Bazel's old Shooting Star, but they're not racing at the moment.

 

The real question is whether the Firebolt Supreme can outfly a Bludger.

 

Although Gandris is one of the Gryffindor team's Chasers, he has Beater experience from playing with neighbors in his hometown. It's not much fun tossing a Quaffle around when it's just the two of them, so he and Rey had signed out the necessary Beater equipment from a severely unimpressed Professor Dameron. As luck would have it, they'd bumped into Bazel Warv— an actual Beater, for the Hufflepuff team— on their way to the pitch. Bazel had nearly burst into tears of joy at the thought of getting to see a Firebolt Supreme in action.

 

And now both boys are... here, somewhere, using the falling snow as cover, waiting for the perfect opportunity—

 

There's a flicker of movement at the leftwards corner of Rey's vision. She slants her body to the right and for half a second is completely sideways in the air as a black ball made of pure iron whizzes past her cheek, all of Bazel's considerable arm strength behind it.

 

Gandris, speedy and agile as all Chasers are, swoops down to intercept the Bludger's trajectory with his bat, lobbing it at Rey again as she straightens up. Gritting her teeth, she dives, the scrape of her Firebolt Supreme's bristles against the cold iron sphere only faintly audible over the air rushing past and the blood pounding in her ears. It's a real mastery of spellwork that the annoying Father Christmas hat manages to stay on her head. She plummets until she's mere feet above the ground and then spins wide and pulls back up— only to immediately veer sharply to the right to avoid the Bludger smacking her in the face with another swing from Bazel. It's a series of maneuvers that she's able to execute as flawlessly as breathing.

 

Damn, this broom is beautiful.

 

"Jolly good show, Miss Niima!" yells a distant voice that she recognizes as belonging to the headmaster.

 

Rey's gaze darts to the stands— and, for the second time that day, she almost falls off of the Firebolt Supreme. Obi-Wan is watching the drill, and he's not alone.

 

He's with Chewie, Ben, Leia, and Han.

 

Rey's never been more self-conscious while on a broomstick her whole bloody life.

 

There's a dull thunk as, somewhere above her, the Bludger collides with Gandris' bat. Rey dodges in the nick of time; another volley from Bazel— who'd somehow crept below her without her noticing— has her doing a figure-eight to avoid it.

 

Or, well, she hadn't needed to, really. She could have just veered out of the way instead of risking such a complicated aerial maneuver in heavy snowfall, on a new broom.

 

But there's a part of her that wants to show off, because—

 

because Ben is watching, and so are Han and Leia, and Ben needs to know that he hadn't wasted his money on someone who can't fly and Rey needs his parents to like her, and—

 

and the first rule when a Bludger is in the vicinity is to never allow yourself to be distracted, because things can go south fast.

 

Unfortunately, Rey is distracted. As she closes the last loop in the figure-eight, she is unable to refrain from glancing at the stands to see Ben's reaction.

 

And that's when Gandris swings the iron ball at her again, and it crashes right into her broomstick, narrowly missing her leg.

 

The Firebolt Supreme careens through the snowy air at a downwards angle. It's not long before the handle slips from Rey's grasp and she is lurching, and then—

 

falling—

 

She's too stunned to scream.

 

The ground rushes up to meet her.

 

Gandris and Bazel hurtle towards her on their brooms, but they're too far away. Neither of them will be able to catch her in time.

 

Everything is snow and wind, and a surrender to gravity, her life flashing before her wide, terrified eyes.

 

"Arresto Momentum!" someone shouts from down below.

 

There is a rush of static-tinged warmth as Rey is enveloped in magic. Suddenly she is— still falling, but more slowly now, her heart pounding in her ears like a measured drumbeat as she floats gently to the earth along with a whirl of powdery white snowflakes.

 

Rey is no stranger to people casting spells on her, but it's never felt like this before. The Slowing Charm wraps around her like an embrace. The magical signature woven into its core leaps out at her with an unusual vibrancy, protective and reassuring as it guides her prone body to earth.

 

And, finally, she is deposited into Ben Solo's arms, carried like a bride over the threshold of a new beginning, and he is staring down at her with his lips clamped together in a thin line, his pale jaw clenched and his dark gaze rife with a mixture of anger and worry before he locks it all away, retreating behind Occlumency walls.

 

Rey peers up at him, the adrenaline rush of the last several seconds tapering off into something that's soft and sweet. He looks kind of like an angel with his imperious features set against a silvery gray sky like this, clouds of white snow swirling all around them. She supposes that he is kind of an angel, saving her so very capably.

 

"Nice hat," is all Ben says.

 

"It's charmed," Rey mutters. "I can't get it off."

 

She's loath to leave the sandalwood-scented cradle of his strong, strong arms. Loath to be extricated from where she's currently tucked up against his broad chest that's solider than any mountain. She clasps her hands together so that she won't give in to the temptation to brush a light dusting of snowflakes from his thick hair.

 

"My goodness!" Obi-Wan is scrambling over to them, Chewie and Han and Leia in tow. "That was a close one! Are you all right, Miss Niima?"

 

"I— I'm fine, Professor Kenobi," Rey manages to tell him as Ben puts her down and then steps away from her as quickly as if she were on fire. Gandris and Bazel dismount from their brooms and cluster around her to make sure she's all right, spewing hasty apologies that Rey waves off. Close calls are nothing new in Quidditch.

 

"Oh, you brave, foolish girl, what were you thinking?" Leia fusses over her, clucking her tongue. "Two against one is hardly fair, especially with that iron ball of death in the mix! You could have broken every single bone!" The MACUSA president straightens Rey's sports attire and pats her windblown hair into a semblance of order, ignoring the fact that the Father Christmas hat has quite disrespectfully elected to Apparate onto her own head.

 

"Not a bad look on you, Your Worship," Han remarks. "Put anything nice in my stocking this year?"

 

"Just coal," Leia says airily, and her husband laughs before turning to Rey.

 

"I'm not even going to pretend to know anything about Quipple, kid," he says, smirking at her, "but that was some some great flying."

 

"It's called Quidditch," Ben automatically corrects.

 

"Bless you," Han replies.

 

The hollow under Ben's left eye twitches.

 

Rey giggles. It comes out a little shy, but Han looks gratified while Ben looks away.

 

"Nothing like a near-death experience to whet the appetite!" Obi-Wan says cheerfully. "Shall we head indoors? It's almost time for the feast."

 

Devoid of its rider, the Firebolt Supreme had circled to the ground and is now hovering at a convenient mounting height. Rey walks over to it and says the incantation to put it in what is basically sleep mode. She's thankful that Gandris and Bazel are united in the belief that it's awkward to walk with their teachers and their teacher's parents, and she and the two boys race ahead, saying that they have to put away their brooms, before it can occur to either Obi-Wan or Chewie to ask where her new one had come from.

 

✨✨✨

 

If there had ever been any doubt among the student populace as to who Professor Solo's mother is, those are soon laid to rest when Obi-Wan introduces her and Han in the Great Hall as "Leia Organa, the esteemed president of the Magical Congress of the United States, and her husband, Han Solo— Professor Solo's mother and father, and two of my oldest, dearest friends."

 

"Wonder how they all met," a fifth-year Slytherin boy muses to his friends within Rey's earshot, and she has to admit that it's a good question. How does Chewie fit into it as well? She'll have to ask Ben later.

 

Despite the traveling Zonko hats making a nuisance of themselves, the Christmas feast is nothing short of spectacular. If the house-elves had been instructed to impress the guests, it really shows. There are several roast geese and pheasants served with stuffing and cranberry sauce, mountains of chipolatas hot off the grill, buttered crumpets, creamy Welsh rarebit spooned over slices of freshly baked seedy wholemeal bread, brussels sprouts and parsnips in a balsamic honey glaze, pigs in a blanket, the usual assortment of potatoes, succulent baked hams, and— for dessert— treacly-rich Christmas puddings topped with sprigs of holly, sugar-dusted Yule logs, mince pies, jam tarts, and even a rather capable rendition of tiramisu.

 

Through it all, Rey keeps sneaking glances at the High Table, where extra places have been set for Han and Leia. She has to curb a fondly amused grin at the sight of the MACUSA president absolutely babying her only son, fixing his hair and heaping more food onto his plate before he can so much as protest.

 

Ben appears to endure all of this with a long-suffering expression, although Rey privately thinks that he shouldn't be annoyed or embarrassed at all— she would love to have a mother who cares. She remembers Leia's maternal touch on the Quidditch pitch and, all of a sudden, the grin battling to reveal itself is gone— replaced by the urge to tear up that she has to stuff more crumpets into her mouth to distract herself from.

 

Ben's parents are so nice. They seem to like her well enough— as his student. She can never be introduced as anything more to them without raising questions as to what exactly Ben had been doing during his stint at Hogwarts.

 

Me, Rey thinks glumly. He'd been doing me.

 

But she knows that she can't continue going down this mental road. It brings up a whole lot of other questions about the future that she's not ready to face just yet.

 

For now, Rey concentrates on the feast, and on small talk with her schoolmates. Once the plates have been cleared, she slips outdoors and puts her gift for Chewie on the doorstep of his hut, casting a simple charm on the parcel to shield it from the snow, and then she goes back to her room and promptly falls asleep, lulled by a full stomach and the cold weather.

 

When she wakes up, it's already dark. A glance at the clock reveals that it's almost time for lights out. Swearing under her breath, she hurriedly jumps into the shower, scrubbing away the dried sweat and the smell of broom polish from that morning's Quidditch drill, and she takes a minty toothbrush to the lingering traces of the feast and of sleep.

 

At a little past ten in the evening, Rey throws on a pink sweater and jeans, followed by the invisibility cloak. On her way to the seventh floor, she passes by Mr. Pancakes, who lets out the unholiest of shrieks when the Father Christmas hat chooses that moment to Apparate on top of his head. The chubby cat slips the hat off and then flies at it in a whirl of sharp claws and bristling fur; Rey's only too happy to leave the accursed object behind, but a few minutes later it's on her head again, wedged underneath the hood of the cloak.

 

Bugger this for a lark.

 

Ben's waiting outside the Room of Requirement, his leather book bag slung over one shoulder. The door has already appeared on the wall. He flashes Rey one of his trademark half smiles when she takes off the cloak and he wastes no time in grabbing her hand, leading her into the same chamber from yesterday that looks like the interior of a log cabin— but now there's a Christmas tree by the fireplace, draped in shiny silver garlands and sparkling ornaments.

 

Once the door has clicked shut behind them and Rey's tossed the invisibility cloak to the floor, a certain impulsiveness takes over. It's due to a combination of her gratitude both for the present and for him catching her when she fell, the affection she'd felt at seeing him with his parents, and the fears for the future that she's not ready to acknowledge just yet. She waits only until Ben's dropped his book bag before flinging herself into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist as she clambers up his wide frame as if she were the overly ardent koala to his stoic eucalyptus tree.

 

Although he instinctively slides one large palm under her buttocks to support her weight, he lets out a grunt of surprise that's soon muffled by her frenzy of kisses. "Thank you for my new broom," she says in between pecks to his lips, his nose, his jaw.

 

Ben scowls a little, like she's just reminded him of something unpleasant. "If I catch you doing tricks while people are swinging iron balls around ever again, I'm confiscating it."

 

"You got me a Firebolt Supreme. Of course I'm going to do tricks." She kisses him square on the mouth again, slipping him enough tongue that, by the time she finally pulls away, he seems slightly mollified.

 

But still cranky.

 

"Just be more careful," he grumps as he carries her to bed, setting her down amidst a slew of fresh rose petals. She remembers her gift for him that she'd shrunk and stuck into her pocket, but before she can say that she'd gotten him something, too, he pulls his sweater over his head and the words die on her tongue.

 

As a general rule, she'll never be over how he looks like one of those marble statues in them posh museums— but especially tonight, like this, with the Christmas tree glimmering behind him and the firelight spilling waves of gold and shadow over his sharp collarbones and his toned arms, his smooth, impeccably defined chest that's probably wide enough to land a plane on, and his sculpted abs that ripple with his every measured breath. Big man, she thinks happily as he helps her out of her own clothes, doling out soft, nibbling kisses in between. Big, big man.

 

When he's got her well and truly naked, save for the Father Christmas hat perched on her head, he kicks off his shoes and his socks, takes off his trousers and his underwear, and joins her on the mattress, kneeling between her spread legs. He's already half-hard, his flushed cock springing up from a thatch of wiry dark hair that's in stark contrast to his pale thighs.

 

Then he looks at... her cunt. Just studies it for several long moments. She should probably feel self-conscious but, somehow, she doesn't. There's a certain thrill to being examined like this, with such piercing focus. He licks his kiss-stung lips as he stares, and she swears that the inside of her stomach dissolves into a million butterflies.

 

Even more so when he skims a finger along her entrance almost experimentally, as if testing something.

 

"Miss Niima," he finally says, "you forgot to do something, didn't you?"

 

Oh.

 

Bollocks.

 

Heat floods her cheeks as she belatedly recalls the new rule that he'd set. "I think you should play with this pretty little pussy before we meet. Every single time," he'd purred, thumbing at her clit. "Want you to get all nice and wet and stretched out for me."

 

"Sorry," Rey whispers, squirming as Ben dips just the tip of his finger inside her, curling it back towards him in the shallowest of thrusts.

 

And then she's seized by a brilliant idea— something that she realizes she'd been entertaining in the back of her mind probably ever since November, but even more so now that he'd gotten her what's basically the sports car of broomsticks.

 

She hauls herself into a sitting position, so eagerly that her forehead almost knocks into his chin. "I know how to make it up to you, sir."

 

He lifts a skeptical eyebrow. "You do?"

 

Oh, he is in a mood tonight. She'll show him.

 

Rey nods fervently. "Sit down. On the edge of the bed."

 

Ben complies, looking curious and intrigued— only to frown when she drops to her knees on the floor between his legs.

 

"Rey." He hesitates. "Are you sure?"

 

She nods again.

 

What wouldn't she do for this man?

 

Reaching into the pile of discarded clothes to fish out her wand, Rey casts a lubrication charm, clear liquid oozing out from the aspen tip and smearing onto her palm. She grabs the base of Ben's shaft and slowly, carefully works him to full hardness, delighting in the way he twitches and swells in the circle of her fingers. He stares down at the sight as if mesmerized.

 

"Your hand's so small," he mutters huskily, sounding almost resentful at his own awe. "Look at that. You can't even get those tiny fingers all the way around my cock."

 

Her clit throbs. She puts her wand down and slips her now free hand between her thighs, rubbing gently to alleviate some of the pressure. Mustering all of her courage, she leans in closer, bringing her nose to his groin...

 

And that's when it happens.

 

The Father Christmas hat— the annoying, Apparating joke hat from Zonko's— the triangular red hat with the white fur trim that has been the bane of her existence since Christmas Eve— leaves her head—

 

and materializes right on top of Ben's erection.

 

Rey jerks back with a startled cry.

 

Ben's mouth drops open in genteel horror.

 

For several long moments, there is only a stunned silence between them, during which the fire crackles merrily in the hearth.

 

Her lips quiver as the hat seems to wag on its own accord as his dick twitches.

 

She bursts out laughing.

 

No, that's too mild a term for it.

 

She's practically cackling with glee.

 

The thunderous expression on Ben's face only serves to send her into even greater fits of mirth, so much so that her sides ache.

 

"I am very glad that this is amusing to you, Miss Niima," Ben grits out.

 

"I— I'm sorry, p-p-professor," Rey says in between giggles. The longer she's at it, the more she notices that his lips are reluctantly quirking at the corners. "It's just that— well— H-h-happy Christmas to me—"

 

The hat vanishes again, this time materializing on top of the Christmas tree. Rey's still recovering from the last wave of giggles when Ben's hand cups the back of her head, coaxing her forward. The tip of his cock slips past her lips. It's instinct— Merlin help her, but it really is— to sort of purse them, giving an experimental little suck. His large fingers twist into the buns of her hair.

 

"Laughing at your poor old teacher," he grumbles, his deep voice strained. "Why don't you put that impertinent mouth to better use, hmm?"

 

Rey's eyes flutter shut. If she didn't have his considerable girth stretching out her lips, she'd be smiling right about now. There'd been no need to be nervous at all. Every new thing is fun when it's with Ben.

 

It's not perfect. She doesn't know how to cover her teeth at first, making him hiss a few times— and not in pleasure— but he encourages her with tenderly murmured words and light caresses to her face, and pretty soon she manages to fall into a semblance of rhythm. It's not that difficult, actually. Like going to town on one of her beloved sugar quills— and he tastes even better, all clean skin with a trace of salt and the slightest tang of precome. Over the years she's heard other girls complain about their partners tugging at their hair and thrusting forward, but Ben's very good at not doing any of that. Even though the way he pulses in her mouth and the strangled grunts that escape his lips indicate that he's losing control, he keeps perfectly still, like he's afraid she'll spook.

 

Eventually she takes the base of him in hand again, pillowing her cheek on his warm, solid thigh as she licks and sucks to her heart's content, methodically working on his cock as if it were a sugar quill that will soon melt on her tongue. She takes note of what makes him shudder and what makes his fingers fist into her hair a little tighter, because she is definitely doing this again. She's heard people say that this particular act isn't exactly a two-way street but, for her, it kind of is.

 

It's the feeling of having her mouth filled to the brim. It's how he's rendered incoherent by each swipe of her tongue.

 

She loves it. She's so wet that it's dripping down her thighs.

 

"Touch yourself, sweetheart," Ben growls the moment he notices her squirm. "Play with that cute pussy while you're sucking me off."

 

Rey's only too happy to oblige, slipping two fingers into her wetness, curling the flats of them against her clit. She moans around him and that is when his hips buck against her mouth.

 

Not too forcefully, but enough to show her that she can probably take more of him than she thought. It hadn't been that uncomfortable.

 

"Shit." The pad of Ben's thumb swipes along her cheek in an apologetic gesture. "Sorry."

 

She peeks up at him and he looks so stressed.

 

Her poor, darling professor.

 

Rey lifts her cheek from Ben's thigh, straightening up so that she can bob her head up and down his erection, trying her very best to keep on gazing into his dark eyes while she does so. His jaw goes slack with disbelief. She takes him deeper and deeper, inch by sloppy wet inch, her fingers pumping into her cunt with a slowly blossoming fervor. The Father Christmas hat Apparates on top of her head again, and for a moment Ben's eyes nearly roll into the back of his skull.

 

"Why does that look so fucking hot?" he wonders out loud, almost angrily, and her shoulders shake with yet another giggle that's stifled by his cock.

 

Rey's not mad at the Zonko's hat anymore. The Zonko's hat is her best friend. She sucks Ben harder, taking him as deep as she can into her mouth, and he moans.

 

"Jesus— holy shit..." He does pull at her hair then, just a little, guiding her forward enough that she comes close to gagging, and there's some wicked part of her that adores it, adores that he'd let primal instinct take over, and she's already teetering on the verge of orgasm when his grip on her hair suddenly tightens. A wordless command for her to stop.

 

"Come sit on my lap, baby." His gaze is feverish. His voice is like gravel. "Wanna fuck Santa's little helper."

 

Bloody hell, Rey thinks in a daze as she lets Ben haul her into his lap, her back pressed up against his chest. She's never going to look at the holidays the same way ever again.

 

They both groan as she sinks down onto his shaft. She's so wet and ready that he hilts inside her as quickly as anything, although it's still a tight fit that makes her cry out once he's all the way in. He palms at her stomach with one large hand. "So damn tiny," he mumbles into the crook of her neck. "I can practically feel my cock bulging inside you. Right—" he glides a finger up to her belly button— "here."

 

"Yes, sir," Rey gasps, swirling her hips. Closing her eyes against the firelight. "It's too big, sir."

 

"But you're going to take it." His hands circle her waist, lifting her up and down, bouncing her gently on his lap. Maneuvering her as effortlessly as if she were a rag doll. "You're going to take it because you're a naughty girl who got wet sucking her teacher's cock."

 

"I— aah—" Rey's spine arches as Ben slides one hand over her left breast, fingers flicking at her hard little nipple. "I think I've been very nice this year, actually."

 

She feels rather than sees him smile against her shoulder-blade. "No, Rey, you haven't."

 

He starts rutting into her in earnest, the slap of skin on skin filling the room. She's insensible now, twisting her bare body into the caresses of his wandering hands and onto each stroke of his length along her inner walls. The white puffball on the tip of the red hat that she's wearing jiggles festively with each thrust.

 

"Next time you suck me off, I'm going to come in your mouth," Ben promises, covering the round of her shoulder in bite marks. "You're going to let me fuck your pretty lips and then you're going to swallow my come."

 

"Yes, professor," Rey sighs dreamily as he rubs her clit. "Whatever you want, professor."

 

His pace falters. He leans forward to kiss her cheek, and then the corner of her mouth. Strangely enough, it's that sweet but relatively chaste gesture that brings her to her climax, her toes curling and a ragged little cry clawing its way out of her throat to echo through the room.

 

Ben continues sliding her up and down his cock while she writhes through her aftershocks. There's a frenzy to his movements, like he's trying to lose himself in her. She's gone all limp and sated by the time he finally comes, spending inside her cunt in a rush of warmth.

 

They collapse onto the sheets in a tangled heap. He wastes no time in rolling her over to one side, facing the Christmas tree, and then curling himself around her, burying his face in her sweaty hair. She's content to stay quiet and just breathe him in, luxuriating in their combined afterglow.

 

It takes several long, drowsy moments before her half-lidded eyes flicker to the book bag on the floor.

 

"What's in the bag?" she asks.

 

"Gingerbread yetis and a thermos full of eggnog." Ben yawns against the back of her neck. "I figured you would need the snacks, as I'm keeping you here all night."

 

Rey smiles, unseen by him. "Are you now?"

 

"Yes," he says in a tone that brooks no argument.

 

She wiggles her backside against his groin in what is almost an act of retaliation. He chuckles, resting a hand on her hip. "Give me a few minutes, then I'll eat you out."

 

Rey really likes the sound of that. She lets the silence unfold comfortably, safe and warm in this world of snow and firelight. In the cradle of Ben's arms.

 

"My parents went back to America today," he tells her all of a sudden, quiet and tentative like he's confessing to something. And perhaps he is— confessing to his vulnerability, to how much he misses them.

 

His bit of a mood at the start of the evening makes sense now— as well as the desperation with which he'd fucked into her earlier.

 

"You'll see them again before you know it." She rolls over to face him, nuzzling at the tip of his nose with hers. "They came all this way to spend Christmas with you, and the way the three of you are around one another after everything that happened— that's an amazing kind of love. The kind that can endure distance and a little more time."

 

Rey says this wistfully, and Ben presses his lips to hers in a lazy kiss just as the red Zonko's hat Apparates onto his head. He groans in a mixture of abashment and annoyance, and she smirks as she pulls him close.

 

"Happy Christmas, Ben," Rey whispers against his chest.

 

"You, too, Rey," he murmurs as he rubs soothing patterns on her back.

 

And then—

 

"By the way," he drawls, "we should probably work on your poker face, because my mom thinks you have a crush on me— Rey—" he calls in a tone tinged with mirth as she scrambles out of his arms and out of the bed— "Rey, sweetheart, where are you going?"

 

"I'm off to jump into the lake," she says, her face burning with embarrassment. "Bye, it was nice knowing you—"

 

"No," he manages to say in between rumblings of laughter, "come back—"

 

And he grabs her from behind and drags her back onto the mattress. She puts up a struggle that quickly turns half-hearted and then forgotten as he buries his head between her thighs, still chuckling softly to himself.

Chapter Text

Over the course of the next several days, Rey has—

 

a belief-defying, mind-blowing, stupendous, quite possibly unconscionable amount of sex.

 

Tucked safely away in their cozy little hideout on the seventh floor of a sleepy, snow-blanketed castle that houses only a third of its usual population, with the nights so lazy and long and free, she and Ben experiment with enough different positions that she's able to compile a list of her top three favorite ones. The human body is weird and fascinating, really, in how an angle can mean the difference between a wonderful orgasm and one that leaves her unable to move or even think for literal minutes. Of course, all sex is good, but she especially likes it when she's on all fours and he's taking her from behind, and when she's riding him and slowly watching him come undone beneath her, and when she's on her back with her knees hooked over his shoulders as he all but folds her in half. She adores these positions because they make her feel so full of his stupidly big dick, so very stretched out beyond what she thought she was capable of.

 

There's a term for that. She's heard it bandied about by her schoolmates.

 

Size queen.

 

She admits as much to Ben one night, after they've collapsed onto the sheets and he's pulled out of her and they're lying side by side, panting and covered in sweat and staring up at the wooden ceiling. Her ears are still ringing pleasantly and she's much too blissed out and exhausted to guard her thoughts. "I think I'm a size queen," she says into the drowsy silence.

 

"Jesus—" Ben turns his head to muffle a surprised laugh into the round of her shoulder. It's not long before he's rolling onto his side, wrapping his brawny arms around her waist and curling around her, trailing languid kisses from her shoulder to her neck and then back again.

 

"What's your favorite, you know— position?" she asks, carding her fingers through his hair.

 

"Let's see..." He takes his time thinking about it, which she appreciates— and maybe she appreciates it even more because his lips don't stop lavishing attention on her flushed skin. "I would have to say that I don't have any strong preference, but anytime I can kiss you while we're fucking is always welcome."

 

Rey snorts, both embarrassed and delighted by such a response. "Oh, come off it."

 

"I'm serious," Ben mumbles into her neck. "I love kissing you."

 

He is such a... soft sort of man, she is starting to realize. And he can be a bit goofy, too— he'd grinned from ear to ear when she'd given him the paisley socks and solemnly sworn that he would never take them off, and he'd chucked her under the chin when she wrinkled her nose at the thought. He hides it behind a stern facade but, in private, in firelight, he makes her feel so utterly adored.

 

They do their fair share of talking as well. Early one morning, while they're drinking hot chocolate by the fire before sneaking back to their respective dorms, she asks him how Chewie and Obi-Wan and Han and Leia had all come to know one another, and what follows is quite possibly the most entertaining story she's ever heard. Back in the latter half of the seventies, a dark wizard by the name of Sheev Palpatine had terrorized the Pacific Northwest with his pet dragon, a Hungarian Horntail he called Deathstar. It was an international incident, owing to the fact that Palpatine was from Svalbard and a graduate of Durmstrang Institute. Obi-Wan and Chewie had been on the team assembled to neutralize him, owing to the former's experience battling dark wizards and the latter's skill at handling dragons, while Leia— who'd still been with the International Confederation at the time— had been sent to mediate between MACUSA and the Norwegian ministry. The conflict had lasted for the better part of a month and encompassed Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and spilled over into the Canadian border, which had proved even more of a diplomatic headache for Leia.

 

Han had gotten involved simply because he'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time. "As usual," Ben grunts, making a face that leaves Rey no choice but to snuggle into his side from how wryly hilarious and adorable she finds it. "But the one who really saved the day was Uncle Luke— my mom's twin brother," Ben continues, draping an arm over Rey's shoulders. "He was a MACUSA Auror at the time and, after the dragon had been knocked out and Palpatine had disarmed Obi-Wan, he stepped in and dueled Palpatine, managing to incapacitate him so that he could be taken back to Europe and locked up in Nurmengard."

 

"I didn't know your mum had a twin," Rey says. "Why didn't he visit you this Christmas as well?"

 

"Uncle Luke," Ben sighs, "is a hippie. He retired early to travel the world and he doesn't get in touch often. Last we heard from him, he was in Australia. Probably spends his days getting high off of billywig stings in the outback."

 

Rey giggles. Ben blinks, like he can't believe he made her laugh, and then he disguises his tiny, somewhat bashful smile by taking another sip from his cup of hot chocolate.

 

On New Year's Eve, Rey makes an early exit from the party in the common room, feigning a headache, and she rings in midnight with Ben, her head pillowed on his bare chest as he holds her close while they watch the fireworks through the log cabin's lone window. She breathes in his scent as smoke and colors explode before her eyes, and she thinks that maybe this can be a good year.

 

Maybe it can be the best she's ever had.

 

In the early morning on the fifth of January, the frosted-over castle grounds are once again a flurry of noise and life as the other students return from vacation. Rey's already waiting in the front hall when Finn and Rose rush in and envelop her in joyful hugs, the three of them for a moment standing as still as boulders in the fast-moving stream of people etched in winter light.

 

"Rumor has it that Tallie and Keyan broke up over the holidays," Finn divulges to Rey in a stage whisper. "They walked right past each other at King's Cross and they didn't sit in the same compartment on the way here."

 

Rose lightly smacks her boyfriend on the arm. "You're such a gossip." She then turns to Rey, her expression suddenly dead serious. "But it's true. Jysella told me that she saw them at the Leaky Cauldron on December twenty-ninth and Keyan was all red in the face like he was about to cry—"

 

"Here she comes!" Finn hisses, and Rose immediately clamps her lips tightly together as Tallie strides in through the entryway with Jess and Kaydel.

 

To Rey's very great surprise, Tallie flutters over to her and does... that thing where you pretend to kiss someone on both cheeks but turn your head before any actual contact is made. "Eurydice! I do hope your holidays weren't too boring!"

 

"Er— they were all right." Rey tries to look and sound as blank as possible. "How were yours?"

 

"I think I made some good decisions about certain things, and now I'm looking forward to seeing what this year has in store for me," the blonde girl loftily declares, and Rey has to smile at just how unstoppable Tallissan Lintra is.

 

Rey spends the rest of the morning on a bench in the courtyard, catching up with Finn and Rose, who are full of stories about their respective vacations. As for herself, Rey can only share the awkward meeting with Professor Solo's parents in Hogsmeade and the G-rated version of the epidemic of Zonko's hats, the charms on which had finally faded shortly before New Year's Eve— but the way Finn and Rose react, it's as if she's gone on the grandest adventure of them all. She really has missed her friends, and—

 

and the absolute worst thing happens when Gandris and his friends pass by and he amiably asks Finn and Rose if they've seen Rey's new broomstick yet.

 

"No, but we're getting to that," Finn assures Gandris, and— once the latter and his crew have left, Rey fidgets uneasily at being the object of two piercing stares.

 

"A Firebolt Supreme?" Rose barks.

 

"Yes, I won it in a contest." Rey's been practicing this line for days, but there'd been a part of her that had been hoping it wouldn't get brought up. An extremely naive part, in hindsight. "Back in October, I found a Quidditch magazine in the library—"

 

"Which Quidditch magazine?" Finn interrupts.

 

"The Doubtful Bludger, it's from New Zealand, you wouldn't have heard of it," Rey tells him with an air of challenge. The magazine exists, but of course there had been no such contest; however, she doubts Finn is an avid subscriber as she doesn't even think he knows which ball is which in the game, and the risk she's taking appears to pay off when he raises his palms in surrender. "Anyway, I wrote to them with a short essay on what Quidditch means to me—"

 

"An essay?" Finn interrupts again, sounding even more dubious.

 

"Oi, I can write when it's something I'm passionate about!" Rey snaps, offended on her nonexistent Quidditch essay's behalf. "And I won, didn't I, they sent me the first prize and everything—"

 

Finn and Rose exchange glances. "Well, congratulations," Rose finally says, reaching over and squeezing Rey's hand. "Don't listen to Finn Llewellyn over here. You deserve that broomstick."

 

"I mean, you do, Rey, you're brilliant," Finn says apologetically, and Rey feels like she's the most horrible person who ever lived. "But why didn't you tell us?"

 

Rey looks down at the ground. "I thought it would be too embarrassing if I told anyone I'd joined and I didn't win."

 

Finn and Rose comfort and reassure her and congratulate her again, but things don't go back to normal. On the surface, they do— however, Rey carries the guilt like a mouthful of thorns all throughout the rest of the day. She and Ben had spent an amazing couple of weeks together, but now reality is seeping back in.

 

They have to start being careful again.

 

And she has to develop a thicker skin about lying to her friends.

 

Rey doesn't sneak out of Gryffindor Tower that night. Ben had insisted that she needed to get all the rest that she could for tomorrow, the first day of school of the new calendar year. He'd muttered something about readjusting her body clock now that winter break is over, and in a way she does appreciate being ever so sternly cared for like this— but she goes to bed frustrated both sexually and with the general situation, and when she wakes up in the morning it is much the same.

 

Her malaise lasts all throughout that entire first week of classes and the next, exacerbated by the workload that is unceremoniously dumped on her and the other seventh years. "Word is that the teachers are panicking because we didn't do so well in our exams last December," Doran Sarkin-Tainer confides in hushed tones over lunch. "They think that there's a good chance most of us will make a complete muck of the N.E.W.T.s if they don't step it up."

 

"Good on them for caring, I guess, but two hundred questions on one single bit of Charms homework? Charms?" Jess wails, aggrieved. "That's so much!"

 

It really is so much. And, on top of Jannah insisting that her team observe Ravenclaw and Slytherin as the two houses practice for their match in February, Rey barely has time to breathe, let alone see Ben outside of class.

 

And, speaking of Ben and his class... well. She's got a bone to pick with him because of that, too.

 

In Defense Against the Dark Arts, they've started the phase of the curriculum that deals with wandless magic. "It's a useful little trick if you get disarmed— and, hopefully, one that your opponent won't see coming," Ben says, leaning against the front of the teacher's desk with one hand in his pocket as usual. "I'm not expecting any miracles here. Those trained in the European style of magic generally find this difficult, close to impossible. Not even Headmaster Kenobi can perform a complex spell without some sort of conduit. However, at the end of this month, you should at the very least be able to summon your wand into your palm across a short distance."

 

A series of uneasy murmuring flickers through the room. Rey looks around; some of her classmates are shaking their heads and some are conferring tensely with one another, while others are looking at Ben as if he's just told them that their next practical exam will involve underwater combat versus the Giant Squid.

 

Ben is clearly less than pleased by the reactions. "You are in this N.E.W.T.-level class because you dream of becoming Aurors, Curse-Breakers, and various other professions that require quick thinking and resourcefulness when facing the more dangerous elements of the wizarding world," he reminds them. "The ability to call your wand to your person can mean the difference between life and death in a situation where you are dealing with a dark wizard or artifact. If you don't want to even try coaxing your wits and your magic towards the pinnacle of what they can achieve, then I have no choice but to recommend that you switch career tracks."

 

Brrr, Rey thinks. She had forgotten how much of a bastard Ben can be in the classroom. Seeing him like this, it's almost as though he's a stranger to her. It's yet another blow to the rapidly deflating happy little bubble that she'd immersed herself in during the holidays.

 

He demonstrates summoning his blackthorn wand into his grasp, much to the amazement of her classmates. He's very careful not to so much as glance in her direction; they're the only two people in this room who know that she's already seen him do such a thing, right before tracing a contraceptive charm on the plane of her stomach. Her mouth goes dry at the memory of his intricate spellwork sinking into her bare skin.

 

But all thoughts of sex— or, indeed, anything good in the world— are quick to dissipate, because it turns out to be the most exasperating lesson that she's ever had within the halls of Hogwarts.

 

Ben instructs them to place their wands on top of their desks and hold an open palm several inches in the air above it while trying to cast Accio. "Roughly the same principle as nonverbal, but with a lot more concentration," he explains. "Bear in mind that your magic doesn't come from your wand. You are the source."

 

Rey is getting flashbacks to her first Flying lesson, she and a bunch of other kids whose names she could barely keep straight moving like awkward ducklings as they arrange themselves into rows on the pitch, Professor Dameron telling them to step to the left side of their broom and say, Up! Her broom had flown into her hand at once, and Dameron had grinned broadly as he declared that she might be a natural talent.

 

He'd stopped grinning a while later, when her very first flight had ended with her almost crashing into him and veering away at the last moment only to end up whacking him over the head with the broom handle hard enough to knock him out. Thus setting the stage for their seven-year feud.

 

Unlike that day, though, her wand is currently refusing to gravitate to her palm. Even after several tries— even when she's focusing so hard that she's pretty sure she looks constipated— it just won't budge.

 

After an hour has passed with no progress from anyone, Ben's perennial frown deepens. Then he gets a certain gleam in his eye that causes Rey to have to stifle a groan because that gleam has never signified anything good.

 

"Most instances of accidental wandless magic happen in early childhood and there are innumerable cases when that magic kicked in to save its wielder from harm," he says.

 

Rey nods along with several other students. There had been one afternoon when she was nine years old and an aggressive dog had chased her on the way home from the grocer's. Its jaws had closed around her leg and she'd been screaming, waiting for the pain, but it never came— the dog's fangs had vanished, and it had been just as confused as she was, allowing her to scurry away unscathed.

 

Back then, she'd chalked it up to yet another one of those weird occurrences that always happened around her for some reason.

 

"Let's see if we can try to jumpstart that self-preservation instinct," Ben says. "For the remainder of the period, you and your partner from our dueling course will take turns firing hexes at each other— with the caveat that the target's wand will be on the floor and they have to summon it in order to deflect the attack. Needless to say," he continues dryly as the class groans in abject despair, "we will stick to mild hexes for this lesson."

 

And that is the story behind the seventh-year D.A.D.A. students trooping out of the room at the end of the period, each one sporting injuries and deformities that range from minor burns to bruises to grossly elongated front teeth to electric-shocked hair to green warts to antlers to tails. Rey has such a bad case of Twitchy Ears that she has to clamp her hands over them as she walks.

 

"I can cancel some of those hexes if you like," Ben offers, glancing at the miserable contingent filing out of the door as he magically arranges the desks back into their proper positions. "I'm not exactly a healer, but..."

 

A jolt runs through the students and they quicken their pace, and pretty soon Rey is the only one of her peers left inside the room, bringing up the rear. She'd let Finn and Rose scamper on ahead to the hospital wing, as Rose had vanished Finn's nose and they were both in a panic.

 

"Miss Niima, let me take care of that for you," Ben calls out. "No sense overloading Madame Kalonia any more than necessary."

 

She changes course, stiffly marching over to him. He motions for her to take a seat in the front row, facing the aisle, and she complies, her ears spasming against the sides of her head in a way that makes her grit her teeth. As the sound of the last of the footsteps in the corridor fade away, he flicks his blackthorn wand at the door; only once it has creaked shut does he kneel on the floor beside her, gently wrapping the fingers of his free hand around her left wrist and coaxing her to lower her arm so that he can inspect the aftermath of Seff's rather prodigious spellwork.

 

He is so close to her.

 

Ben cancels the hex on her left ear, and then the right. Afterwards, he doesn't immediately get to his feet. He pockets his wand and stays where he is, his hands idly rubbing up and down her arms in long, slow strokes.

 

"Hi." He sounds... tired. And a little bewildered. He sounds exactly the way she feels after a week of so much work and being stressed over their situation. He's back in one of his suits and she's in her school uniform and it's another stolen moment that can't be allowed to go on for too long. She just wants it to be that last week of December again, or maybe that first little piece of January.

 

"Hi," she echoes in what is barely above a whisper.

 

Ben reaches out to tuck a stray lock of Rey's hair behind her now thankfully not-twitching ear. "How's your week going?"

 

"Do you mean before or after my ears started dancing the Macarena thanks to some tosser?" she shoots back.

 

"Now, now, Miss Niima, there's no need to call Mr. Hellin names," Ben drawls.

 

"I— I meant you!" Rey sputters.

 

He smirks. His hand darts to the topmost button of her blouse, fingertips skating across her collarbone along the way. "Do you have some time?"

 

She's so tempted. She's shivering at his touch. But...

 

"Finn and Rose might come looking for me when they get out of the hospital wing," Rey says. "I'd like to play it safe for now. They're already a tad suspicious because of my new broomstick."

 

"Shit." Ben goes pale. "I didn't even think about that. What did you tell them?"

 

"That I won it in a contest—"

 

"A... contest?" He blinks. "What kind of contest?"

 

"An essay writing contest for The Doubtful Bludger," she mumbles. "It's a Quidditch magazine from New Zealand. I told them I found it in the library."

 

The silence that ensues is very, very long. Ben is staring at her with something like horror written all over his features, and Rey feels more and more stupid with each second that ticks by.

 

"What if they look for the magazine?" he finally asks.

 

"They won't. They don't care about Quidditch."

 

"What if they happen to mention it to someone who does care, and who also wants to check if there are more contests of this nature?"

 

His line of questioning, couched as it is in a patient tone, only serves to heighten the anxiety that she's been feeling these past few days. She scrambles to her feet, snarling, "Well, you probably should've been the one to come up with a believable excuse before buying me the wizarding equivalent of a sports car that everyone in this school knows I can't bloody afford!"

 

Ben stands up as well, his brow furrowing at her outburst. "Rey," he starts to say— but she's already stomping out of the classroom, humiliated, worried, tired.

 

He doesn't chase after her. He can't, even if he wants to, because someone might see. And that only makes her feel even worse.

 

✨✨✨

 

Rey's mood is far from improved when another week of school rolls around and is just as grueling as the previous one. It gets to the point that she seriously contemplates dropping out of Arithmancy, a subject she loves, just so she can get more than four hours of sleep per day. In addition to attending lectures morning and afternoon, producing scroll after scroll of homework every night, and practicing charms, Transfiguration spells, and wandless magic in their free time, she and the other N.E.W.T.-level Potions students also have a list of ingredients that they need to gather from the school grounds for the Friday brewing— and foraging is messy and complicated, and it eats up so many hours.

 

"Hux is such a wanker," Finn complains on Thursday evening as he and Rey and the other Gryffindors are up to their elbows in snow and mud, methodically unearthing a patch of aconite growing near the shores of the Black Lake. They have to be extra careful to not inflict any damage on the plant's fragile roots. "Foraging is a necessary skill that every potioneer worth their salt must excel at," he mimics the redheaded professor's cold, nasal drawl. "He literally looks like the British Empire. Bet he's never had to forage for anything his whole life."

 

Rey doesn't even have the strength to voice her agreement, as she's just finished translating fifteen pages for Ancient Runes, with fifteen more to go.

 

So far, January is turning out to be a really bad month. And she hasn't gotten laid in ages.

 

Not that she even thinks it's a sure thing that she will in the near future. She hasn't seen Ben since she walked out on him last week.

 

When she and the rest of the students enter his classroom the next morning, he looks just as cranky as she feels. "After our dismal session last Friday, I hope you've all been practicing," he says once everyone is seated. Not even once glancing at her. "Today you will come to the front one by one, leaving your wand at your desk, and you will attempt to summon it.

 

"We're all doomed," Rey overhears Tallie muttering to Jess. Among the Gryffindors, only Doran has managed to get his wand to come to him after a good hour spent swearing at it, and that was on the tail-end of a week's worth of practice. And he's the Head Boy.

 

"I will be calling out names at random," Ben announces. "Let's start with Miss Tico."

 

After five minutes, Rose is unable to summon her wand. Same with pretty much everyone who is called after her. With each failed attempt, Ben's scowl deepens and his tone grows even more clipped, and Rey's temper— which already hadn't been in the best shape to begin with— rises and rises.

 

He'd told them that even accomplished wizards had a hard time with wandless magic. Why is he expecting them to be able to pull it off when they haven't even graduated yet?

 

There is a distant, tiny part of Rey that understands that she's being hypocritical. She'd told Leia that Ben is a good teacher because he pushes them to be at their best. This new lesson is him pushing them to be at their best as well— however, she's not in the mood to be logical. The frustrations of the past two weeks are building up inside her, demanding to be expressed.

 

"Miss Niima," Ben calls out, his features even more impassive than usual. Merlin, she'd give anything to faze him at this point.

 

With all eyes fixed on her, Rey goes up to the front of the room, standing a few feet away from Ben. She extends a hand towards her desk and tries to focus, tries to coax magic out of her fingertips and pull her wand to her being. But her thoughts are a muddled haze and she feels like she hasn't slept in years and she doesn't know how to deal with the fallout of the argument that she'd had with him last Friday and—

 

"You're not centering yourself," Ben admonishes. "Did you even practice at all?"

 

He has the gall to sound slightly disappointed in her.

 

"Give me a minute, will you?" Rey says hotly, glaring at him. Out of the corner of her eye she sees Finn and Rose press their hands over their mouths in shock. "You're not our only teacher and we've all been hanging by a thread since classes started back up. We are trying here. Cut us some slack."

 

The room goes as silent as the grave.

 

A muscle works in Ben's jaw.

 

She will give him this— he appears to be processing her words despite the sharp way she'd uttered them. He glances at the haggard faces of the other students and then turns back to her. "Very well. I'll take this into consideration," he says curtly. "But, while I may not be your only teacher, I am still your teacher, and I will not be talked to like that again. Do you understand?"

 

"Yes," she grunts.

 

His Occlumency cracks and, for a split second, she glimpses his annoyance with her, his temper rising. "'Yes, sir,'" he acidly corrects.

 

And that's when Rey hits her breaking point. "There's no need to call me sir, professor."

 

Her classmates gasp.

 

Ben's dark eyes gleam dangerously. "Detention, Miss Niima," he says in a quiet tone that is nevertheless firm enough to let her know that she's in for it. "My office. Tonight at seven."

Chapter Text

Her retort is echoed over and over again, passed along from one student to the next, whispered in hallways and classrooms with quiet reverence, spreading through the school like the most delicious form of contraband. By the time lunch rolls around, three Gryffindors and one Slytherin have made a pact to get There's no need to call me "sir," Professor tattooed on their bodies in the summer, while a second-year Hufflepuff has declared that he would like it inscribed on his tombstone.

 

"I'll be telling mine and Rose's kids about this," Finn brags to anyone who will listen. "Our four daughters and four sons will all know the story of how their Aunt Rey completely wrecked Professor Solo."

 

"Since when were the two of you going to have eight kids?" Rey mutters to Rose.

 

"We're not," Rose says crisply. "But I'll let him dream for now."

 

Rey goes through the rest of the school day in a sort of haze, lost in the clouds of possibilities of what's in store for her. Will Ben make her write lines or clean his office or...

 

She realizes that she has no idea. As far as anyone's able to tell, she's the first student that he's ever given a detention to.

 

"If the way he acts in class is any indication— bloody hell, Niima, he's going to put you through the wringer, he is," Jannah remarks. "It was really nice knowing you," she adds sincerely.

 

Come evening, Rey's so nervous that she only picks at her food— much to everyone else's surprise, and for the first time in living memory. When the clock strikes quarter to seven, she pushes her plate away and gets to her feet.

 

Her housemates stand up as well. It starts with the seventh years, and then the rest follow. As one, they salute her. She doesn't know whether to laugh or to be mortified, so she settles for nodding stiffly at them as she exits the Great Hall.

 

It's the longest walk of her life, through shadowy corridors and up torch-lit, winding staircases. She's not afraid at all but there is a certain anticipation, and it's every bit as intense as fear. She remembers Ben's firm tone when he'd issued the detention and, before that, the way his dark eyes had flashed when she talked back, and she somehow can't shake the feeling that her life is about to change.

 

Rey's all nerves when she knocks on the door of Ben's office. When it creaks open, her knees do that annoying wobbling thing as she steps inside, the magical locks clicking behind her with a weighty finality. He's standing behind his desk, arranging the mountains of paperwork piled on it, and he doesn't immediately look at her so she takes the time to look around.

 

She's never been here at night before. The impersonal austerity of the surroundings is softened by the glow of the torches hung on the walls and by the moonlight streaming in through the windows. There's a big couch in one corner that hadn't previously been there, but she doesn't afford it any more than a moment's passing notice because Ben finally meets her eyes and it appears as though his pale features are softened, too. He doesn't seem annoyed or angry anymore, just tired. There is a wrinkle on his brow that she wants to kiss— but she can't do that, can she? They're in a fight, after all.

 

Aren't they?

 

"Before anything else..." He trails off, then beckons her closer. She walks over to his desk and he grabs a sheaf of paper from it and hands it to her.

 

It's a magazine. The October issue of the Doubtful Bludger, as a matter of fact. "Last page," Ben grunts, and Rey turns to it and—

 

— and there it is. The announcement of the essay writing contest, with an illustration of the Firebolt Supreme marked as first prize and the deadline for submissions a date long past.

 

The Transfiguration work is seamless. She would never have known that the magazine hadn't printed it if it hadn't been her own lie that she'd concocted.

 

This must have taken him hours.

 

And suddenly the reason for his visible exhaustion is all too clear.

 

"Did you sneak this out of the library?" she asks.

 

He nods. "I'll put it back tomorrow. I wanted to show it to you first, because..." He trails off, and she hadn't thought it was possible for the look in his eyes to get any softer, but he proves her wrong. "Because we're in this together," he says at last, "and— and I know it's not easy for you. I apologize for the times that I've made it even more difficult, but in the end you can always count on me. I promise you that."

 

She puts the Doubtful Bludger back on his desk and makes her way around it until there's nothing between them anymore. Then she flings her arms around his waist, burying her face in the front of his crisp white shirt.

 

It's automatic, the way he returns the hug. Like it's a given, and that's something that she still has a hard time believing.

 

"Sorry," she mumbles. "For— for walking out. And for snapping at you in class."

 

"No harm done," he says, easily enough. "If anything, it was a wake-up call. I want all of you to do your best in my subject, but you have to do your best in other subjects, too. I'd forgotten how demanding seventh year can get."

 

"Because that was four decades ago?" Rey can't help quipping.

 

"Cute," Ben snorts into her hair, and she smiles by the beat of his heart. He rubs her back soothingly in that way of his that never fails to make her melt.

 

"Nice couch," she says.

 

"I had to get one. Some girl keeps dropping by my office and I'm not certain how much more my desk and chair can take."

 

Rey giggles, and they fall into a comfortable silence, still locked in an embrace.

 

"You have several options here, Miss Niima," Ben says at last. "First, you can leave my office right now and get some well-needed rest—"

 

"No," she says. Too quickly, and she doesn't care. She's missed him too much.

 

He holds her a little more tightly, pressing a kiss to her temple. "Your second option is to dust the shelves and we'll call it a day."

 

"That's what you had planned for my detention?" She blinks up at him. "And you're giving me a choice?"

 

"I mean, I only gave you detention so I'd have a reason to see you." He seems a little bit grumpy as he tells her this, and a wave of affection passes through her, causing her to snuggle into his chest once more.

 

The thing is, she's kind of tempted to take him up on dusting the shelves. It seems like the least she can do after embarrassing him in front of her classmates. Before she can say anything, however, he continues, "Your third option is for me to make you come before sending you off to bed."

 

Now she understands what it means for one's ears to prick up with interest. He's not even trying to seduce her. His tone is very calm, almost academic.

 

It kind of drives her crazy.

 

"Is... is there a fourth option?" Rey hears herself ask.

 

"There is." Ben takes a step back, his hands sliding to her arms. Staying there, his thumbs tracing tentative circles on her skin. He watches her face like— like whatever he's about to say next, he has to be studying her expression while he says it.

 

Gauging her.

 

"The fourth and last option," he tells her, and his voice is so husky and so low that it curls through her veins like smoke beneath blood, like some secret thrill unfolding its dark roots amidst all the longing, "is for me to make you come and send you off to bed— after I paint that lovely little ass of yours red because you were such a brat in my classroom."

 

At first, it's as though all the air has been sucked out of the office. His words make her feel lightheaded like that.

 

But the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes that—

 

— she's not surprised.

 

Not really.

 

There is a memory that had just been waiting to resurface. The night of the Celestial Ball, the door creaking as he fucked her up against it. The way she'd squeaked with each powerful thrust as his thick cock opened her up and left her breathless. I ought to throw you over my knee, he'd said, and she'd all but begged him to, lost in the heat of the moment.

 

Now, a month later, she stares at him in the flickering shadows. She thinks about how big and warm his hand always feels on her bottom, how he can practically cup both her cheeks in one palm.

 

She remembers the dangerous glint in his eyes whenever she tests the limits.

 

This is why she'd been so nervous coming here. A part of her has always known what's going to happen tonight.

 

The silence stretches on for far too long. Rey's brain— and, to be frank, certain other parts of her— are purring for that fourth option, but her lips refuse to obey. Refuse to give her desires voice. She has no illusions about the way she looks right now; a fish out of water, her mouth opening and closing, soundless.

 

If Ben is at all discomfited by what must appear to be a less than favorable reaction on her part, he doesn't show it. He rubs her shoulders with an idleness that somehow manages to still be reassuring.

 

"There's absolutely no pressure," he says. "Whatever you want to do, we'll do."

 

"But have you ever— er—" She falters, flushing hot from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

 

"No," he replies evenly. "But if there's anyone I'd like to try it with, it's you." A fleeting, roguish smirk lightens his features. "I hear it's a great way to release some tension."

 

He is almost boyish, just this side of hopeful, and in hindsight she'd never really stood a chance. Even though he'd given her a choice.

 

"Okay," she says. "Let's do it."

 

She swears that he stops breathing for a moment.

 

"Are—" He licks his lips— "are you sure?"

 

"Yes." She holds his gaze as steadily as she can. It is in little more than a whisper that she says, "Teach me a lesson, sir."

 

"God, you're a dream."

 

Ben slants his mouth over hers while she's still preening at the compliment. It starts as a gentle kiss, her senses singing sweetly, but it's quick to turn into something heated, something that veers into punishing, his teeth worrying at her bottom lip until she moans.

 

When he pulls away, his expression is... stern. And it is electric, the thrill that runs through her at that kind of look.

 

Ben removes his charcoal-colored suit jacket and drapes it over the back of his chair, leaving him in the matching trousers and waistcoat, the white button-down, the navy blue tie. Rey's heart drums a mile a minute as she watches him place his wand on the desk and then— very slowly, very methodically— roll his sleeves up to his elbows, revealing those muscled forearms, those lean wrists. She is totally checking him out now, and he seems content to let her. His steps are more measured than they need to be as he walks over to the burgundy couch in the corner of his office.

 

He sits down, leaning against the backrest, one arm slung over it. His legs are spread a little far apart and, shit, why is a habit that she finds so annoying in boys her age somehow so attractive when he's the one engaging in it? Is it his tailored clothes, or the fact that his legs are so very long, or the way that he seems haughty and languid all at once, blurry shadows thrown on his form by the torchlight in such a way that it makes her think of oil paintings, of chiaroscuro...

 

"Miss Niima." His deep voice jolts her out of her reverie. His tone is clipped, his words commanding. "Come here."

 

She places her aspen wand on his desk and complies. It's as though she's walking on air with feet that are made of lead, his implacable dark gaze reeling her in.

 

Rey doesn't need to be told to take off her shoes. They both know she's going to end up on the couch. And Ben doesn't tell her to unbutton her blouse, either— once she's standing between his legs in her knee-high socks he reaches out, his large fingers skimming against her chest as they fiddle with the row of small buttons, popping the ones from her collar to just slightly above her navel open one by one. It's not long before he parts her white blouse as much as it can go while still tucked into her skirt, with the last three buttons still fastened, and—

 

— and he pauses for a moment, staring at her chest, his pale brow wrinkled.

 

Bollocks, Rey thinks, realizing too late—

 

"Are those nifflers?" he finally asks.

 

"Yes," she mumbles. The bra that she'd decided to wear today sports a print of the long-snouted black rodents. Some are holding pocket watches in their tiny, fleshy paws and others— including the ones plastered directly over her nipples— are frozen in the midst of dancing a jig.

 

"They're smiling at me." Ben says it like he's in a daze.

 

Rey's embarrassed. "I'll just take my bra off, then, shall I?"

 

"No need." He thumbs at her nipples through the cups. This, combined with what he growls at her next, makes her shiver, her embarrassment dwindling until it's nothing more than a distant memory. "You're going to be laying face-down, anyway."

 

Her breath hitches.

 

He pops her breasts out of the bra cups and seals his mouth over one nipple, sucking swiftly and harshly, before moving on the other and affording it the same treatment. Her knees go weak but, just as she's about to clutch at the back of his head— both to balance herself and to coax him further— he pulls away, looking at her all dark eyes and damp lips.

 

"I don't want you to enjoy this too much," he says huskily. "This is your punishment, after all."

 

Rey swallows and, silently, she lets him guide her into position. Lets those great big hands of his maneuver her body any way that he sees fit, like he's taken the lump of clay that is her form and is molding it into an object of his desires. Gentle tugs to her wrists, fingers on her waist, on the small of her back, until she's on her stomach, draped over his knees on the couch, her bottom sticking up in the air. She's covered in goosebumps, what feels like every single nerve ending in her body singing, all electric and sharp and reborn.

 

Ben pushes her knickers downwards until her knees are bound together by the cotton fabric. He palms one cheek and then the other, his hand moving beneath her pleated gray skirt, almost carelessly flipping it up past her hips. She's fully exposed to him now and it's so startling even though it's hardly the first time— there's just something about being vulnerable. About being unable to see what he's doing, guided by touch and her imagination alone.

 

He clears his throat. "Any time that you no longer feel comfortable, just tell me to stop, okay?"

 

"Okay," Rey agrees, although she doesn't think she'll ever take him up on that. Not when his voice is like gravel. She'd do anything to keep Ben Solo sounding like this.

 

The first slap is... well, it's more of a pat, really. It's some limp thing falling dully against the live wires that have been strung through her by heightened anticipation.

 

"Oh," she blurts out, a very profound disappointment welling up inside her, rendering her unable to stop herself from speaking. "Is that it—"

 

His open palm cracks against her backside.

 

She gasps.

 

It's a sharp, echoing pain, and it leaves her warm all over. Ben caresses her left cheek, where he'd struck, smoothing away the residual sting.

 

Then he spanks her again.

 

The right cheek, this time.

 

It's instinctive, the way her back arches. A hiss of air sucked in through the clench of her teeth.

 

"That mouth of yours landed you here, Miss Niima, and I have a feeling it's going to get you into even more trouble before this night is over." They could almost be a lover's sweet words, the way he murmurs them, but there's a vein of steely reprimand in his tone. It burns through her like fire just as much as the next collision of his palm against her ass does. "To think that I even tried to give you the easy way out. I've been too lenient."

 

Lenient... is not an adjective that Rey would use to describe Ben. She snorts, earning herself another smack. One that is bright hot, the echo of his hand on her bare bottom resounding through the quiet, torch-lit office. She flinches, her exposed breasts dragging against the rough fabric of the couch. The loop of her shoved-down knickers tightening around her knees.

 

And what she soon registers is her teacher's erection digging into her side.

 

Merlin, what a wicked man.

 

She is so wet between her legs. All soft and slick and thrumming. He slaps both cheeks in turn and then slides his hand down her ass until his thick fingers are skimming along her front walls. Rey bites down on a whimper, her hips canting, pushing back into his touch in a mindless bid for more stimulation. And Ben is so, so good at giving her what she wants, dipping two fingers into her entrance, curling them inside her as tears leak from the corners of her eyes at how amazing it feels. How not enough it is.

 

"You're fucking soaked," he hisses, sounding angry and fascinated all at once and there's something almost shameful about the way her cunt twitches around his fingers. "You like getting spanked, huh?"

 

"No," she says with a pout that, while he can't see it, is clearly evident in her voice. She has no idea what possessed her to respond that way even as she's wriggling against his hand as best as she can. She likes tempting fate, perhaps.

 

"Liar." Ben slips his fingers out of her and lands another blow on each of her buttocks in quick succession. Feeling bursts of pain immediately after waves of pleasure causes her senses to go haywire— it's as if her arousal folds over the hurt, transforming it into something that— that—

 

— that sings like gold—

 

And Rey becomes part of this hymn, a throaty moan emerging no matter how much she tries to suppress it.

 

God help her, she really tries, but it spills from her parted lips. Quavers through all of this shadowed space anyway.

 

Ben's clothed erection twitches against her ribs. His hand comes out of nowhere, spanking and then soothing.

 

Again and again and again.

 

Rey can't pinpoint the exact moment she closes her eyes. Or when she starts panting. Or when she starts trying to desperately grind her exposed clit on his rock-solid thigh.

 

That's the thing about delirium. It sneaks in when it's least expected. It completely muddles the passage of time.

 

"Should have known you'd like this." Ben is a voice above her, in the dark. "You've always been one of my smartest students. That also means you're smart enough to know what you deserve. The question is—" He wedges his left hand between their bodies so that his finger circles her clit, so lightly that she wants to weep— "do you deserve to come?"

 

"Yes," she says immediately, raising herself up on her elbows and knees to grant him better access.

 

He spanks her again, for all her trouble. "Yes, what?"

 

He's turning the tables on her. Giving her the chance to make up for what she'd done to him in front of the whole class.

 

There's no more room for pride left in her system. She just wants release.

 

And, somehow, she gets the feeling that he needs this, too.

 

"Yes, sir," Rey says softly. Too softly, given the situation. She says it with all the quiet adoration that can only have been brought about by five months of knowing someone like him. She says it with all the contrition that she can muster for what had happened earlier today— and the week before, when she'd walked out on him. This is the only thing he's asked of her even after all that, and she'll be damned if she doesn't give it to him. "I want to come, sir. Please."

 

Ben goes still for several long moments. And then he shifts position, as carefully as though not to jostle her on his lap, and her eyes fly wide open in surprise as his full lips press the ghost of a kiss to her nape. Before she even really knows that it's happening, he straightens up, increasing the pressure on her clit at the same time that his open palm bears down on her ass with another fleshy thud.

 

"Taking your punishment so well," he rasps. "Maybe you're not such a bad girl, after all."

 

She writhes from the sheer force of his next blow. "I want to be good for you, sir." Her tone is slightly higher than her usual pitch. Breathless even to her own ears. "I just need a little direction. Please spank me some more."

 

"Fucking Christ." Uttered like he hadn't meant to say it out loud. Followed by him complying with her wishes. More and more slaps to her already smarting bottom, more slow haphazard circles on her clit, his busy hands teasing whimper after whimper out of her as she claws at the upholstery. "If only you could see yourself now, Miss Niima," he continues in that hypnotic rumble. "Still in your school uniform for the most part, thrown over my lap with your skirt tossed up, your ass bright red, your cute little pussy dripping..." He slips two fingers into her once more, tucking his thumb against her clit even as his other hand metes out those sharp blows on her rump. "How much more can you take?"

 

"I—" Rey tries to answer. She really does. But whatever she's about to say is abruptly cut short when she realizes that she sounds so broken. There's a sniffling sound that she realizes is originating from her at the same time that she realizes tears are streaming down her too-warm face— but all of these realizations take place at a distance, like she's watching herself cry through a veil of fogged-up glass. She is no longer herself, with all the schoolwork that she's drowning in and that maze of social relationships that she has such a difficult time navigating and the childhood that had left irreversible scars. She is somewhere else, brought there by these hands of his that have wrought an onslaught of pain and pleasure and she can no longer tell which is which.

 

"Give me a number, Rey."

 

Ben punctuates his calm demand with another smack that, while markedly gentler than the others that had come before, is still so intense on her tender skin that she yelps out the first digit that comes to mind. "Six!"

 

"All right. Six." He caresses her sore cheeks and kneads her clit like it's a reward for her giving him an answer. "Can you count them for me?"

 

"Y-yes, professor," she hiccups through her tears.

 

"Good girl." He spanks her with such force that she practically seizes up.

 

"One," she manages to say. Her mind is as blurry as her vision— that has to be the reason she adds, "Thank you, sir."

 

His cock twitches at her side once more. He's actually really, really hard now. It is its own rush to the head, to know that she still has some form of power over him. Even when they're like this.

 

The next blow to her ass knocks an audible sob out of her gasping lungs. "Two," Rey groans. "Thank you, sir."

 

Ben starts to pump the two fingers that are inside her, tapping at her G-spot with each stroke. She's trembling all over, on the brink of orgasm, her little whimpers muffled into the couch.

 

Whimpers that soon devolve into a drawn-out whine of protest when he slows his pace.

 

"Four more, Miss Niima," he reminds her gently. "Then you can come."

 

"I'm going to die." She has long passed the point of having any idea what she's saying. "You're going to kill me, you tosser—"

 

He has the audacity to chuckle.

 

Then he spanks her again.

 

Her body moves with the strike, her toes curling in the socks that cover them, her nipples scraping against the couch. Her hips bucking into that cupped hand of his that's beneath her.

 

"Three," Rey sniffles. "Thank you, sir."

 

"I thought I was 'you tosser.'"

 

She narrows her eyes even though he can't see her do so. "How can you even joke at a time like—" His palm cracks on her right cheek— "aaah— four—" He fucks her faster with his fingers, his thumb nudging at her clit more insistently. Relief floods through her; she knows this rhythm well. He will build her up until she breaks and she's so ready for it. Salivating. "Thank you, sir," she moans again.

 

How is it possible for her body to feel so heavy and her soul to feel so light at the same time?

 

"Almost there, baby," Ben hums. "Just two more, then you can come. Shit, I think this is the wettest you've ever been, the tightest— you clamp down on my fingers every time I punish your ass." A darker streak emerges in his next words. "Should have started giving you detention in goddamn September. Imagine what a model student you'd be with regular spankings."

 

She can only babble some kind of nonsensical response that sounds like agreement. His hand rains yet another stinging blow on her bottom and she squirms, knees tangled in her underwear. "F-five," Rey stutters, barely able to hang on to speech as Ben's fingers flick at her G-spot and her clit at the same time. "Thank— oh— thank you, sir—"

 

The next and last blow is the hardest one. It's like he puts all of his strength into it. She all but wails in pain and then she comes— suddenly, violently, with all the force of an explosion, spasming around his hand, wires crossed between what hurts and what feels good, drowning in light and heat.

 

"Six," she hears someone cry out, and it takes her a while to realize that it's her own voice. "Thank you, sir—"

 

Rey collapses as the orgasm tears through her. The pleasure is so sweet after all that hurt— viscous, almost, like a haze of honey. She is teary-eyed and shuddering, draped limply over Ben's lap while he rubs her back and her poor, beleaguered bottom. His big hands bringing consolation and calm when they had lit her on fire only moments ago.

 

"You did so well, sweetheart," he tells her. None of the sternness that he'd adopted at the start of all this remains. He sounds reverent, and gentle, and sincere. "Took your punishment like a champ. Jesus, you're amazing. I'm going to fuck you now, okay?"

 

She turns her head to the side, peeking back and up at him as best as she can. He looks a little flushed himself, his pupils blown wide with arousal as he stares down at her like she's something that he wants to devour. She can't quite muster the strength to speak at the moment, so she nods instead, feeling very small and secure and sated. He could do anything to her now and she would welcome it.

 

Ben moves out from under her sprawled form. He wedges a couple of the couch's throw pillows under her abdomen so that her ass is still raised in the air despite her decidedly uncooperative limbs. Rey lets him do all of this, still powerless and twitching from her aftershocks, her breathing a ragged beat that slowly evens out against the soft cushions as she hides her face in her folded arms.

 

The couch dips and shifts in accordance with Ben's weight as he kneels behind her. There is the sound of a belt being unbuckled. A zipper being pulled down. There are fingers on her hips positioning her just so, and then her professor is pushing his cock into her dripping wet cunt.

 

Although she's slick and pliant from her recent climax— and still not totally over it, to be completely honest— Rey's legs are pressed together by the underwear around her knees. Thus, it's an incredibly tight fit. Almost even more so than usual. She and Ben both groan as he works his way inside her.

 

Sinking in, forcing her open, inch by inch.

 

She lets out a whimper when his hips finally settle flush against her rump. She is extremely sore there, and combined with the sensation of being split into two on his length— it's too much. She makes the strangest, most guttural, animalistic sounds as he ruts, his spread fingers digging into the couch on either side of her. She's sobbing, she's whining, she's begging— for what, she doesn't know, it's all too intense. Ben fucks her the way he'd spanked her, hard and deep and measured, letting her feel every single bit of it. They're both still wearing most of their clothes, and that lends a layer of desperate thrill to the scene.

 

"That's it, Miss Niima, take it like a good girl," he murmurs, his gravelly praise the only thing that she has left to hold on to, the only thing that can still ground her— however barely— in the real world. "So good for your teacher, letting me put my cock in you after I've spanked you raw— you're so fucking gorgeous—" He hunches lower, dotting kisses on the back of her neck, making her cry out again with a clever swirl of his hips before he lifts himself up on his arms again and increases the speed and force of his thrusts, eliciting even more cries from her. Thank Merlin for the Silencing Charms that always shroud his office, because this is the loudest she's ever been during sex.

 

And it's not long before she starts drooling.

 

Rey can't help it. At this angle, she's stuffed so full that she can hardly breathe, and the aftermath of everything that he's made her feel tonight has turned her into a quivering, overly sensitized mess. Her mouth hangs open and her tongue lolls out and her eyes all but roll into the back of her head as Ben rams into her from behind.

 

"You're going to come again, aren't you?" There's a conspiratorial edge to his question. A hint of smugness, and of mischief— like this, as with so many other things, is their little secret.

 

"Yes, sir," she chokes out, and he immediately switches up the pace and the angle so that he's plowing into her in just the perfect way and— "Yes, like that," Rey babbles, all of her self-control blown into mere wisps before a relentless gale, "right there, please, gonna come on your cock, professor—"

 

And she does. With yet another hoarse scream. Gushing all over the throw pillows propping up her hips.

 

When her body goes limp, yet another series of aftershocks rolling through it, she wonders if she'll ever be able to move again.

 

She wonders if she's going to pass out. It certainly feels that way, her eyes heavy, some velvety darkness beckoning her near.

 

Ben pulls out of her, still hard. She vaguely registers the unmistakable sound of his fist working up and down his length and the telltale laboredness of his breathing. A few moments later, she feels warm liquid splatter all over the aching cheeks of her ass, several drops trickling down the cleft between them.

 

He's coming on the red marks and bruises that his hand had left.

 

Time passes. Rey doesn't know how much, but it does. She's faintly aware of Ben pulling her knickers back on for her and asking if she's okay, but she's too out of it to formulate any sort of response other than a weak nod and a yawn.

 

Her eyes are half-shut when he stretches out beside her on the couch, gingerly turning her to face him while he curls his long, broad frame around her, slipping his arm between her head and the couch so that she can use it as a pillow. She winces as these movements jostle her backside, and in the flickering torchlight his features take on an expression of utter remorse.

 

"I got carried away," he mumbles, reaching around her to tug her hair free from the already disheveled buns. "I'm sorry, Rey, I—"

 

"No," she rushes to assure him. Forcing herself to find the will to speak despite her exhaustion. "You said to tell you if I wanted you to stop, and it never crossed my mind. I promise."

 

"You're too good to me." Ben runs his fingers through her loose hair, then presses a soft kiss to her exposed right breast and then the left before carefully tucking them back into her bra.

 

He's getting her comfortable so that she can sleep well, she realizes, and in this raw emotional state of hers tears threaten to well up once more. She inches forward just a little, just so that she's snug up against him, inhaling his scent, content to let his solid, unfaltering embrace lull her to sleep.

 

"That cute little butt of yours is going to hurt a lot tomorrow," Ben remarks. "I should cast a healing spell."

 

"No need." Rey latches her hand around his bicep to keep him where he is, wanting nothing more than to stay in the circle of his arms. "At least, not now."

 

"In the morning, then."

 

"Okay." She hesitates for a few beats, then adds shyly, "But don't go overboard. I think that I'd rather like to still be able to feel some of it tomorrow. It's... y'know, proof."

 

"Proof?" Ben echoes, clearly baffled. "What do you mean by that?"

 

Rey yawns again. Drowsiness has erased any semblance of her filters and what they've just done has made her a bit more honest— with him and with herself. A bit more brave. "You see," she explains as she drifts off, "sometimes I find it hard to convince myself that you're not just a dream."