As she walked into the Great Hall, Root looked around at the Christmas decorations. Hogwarts was always beautiful, but this time of year, the whole castle sparkled. Candles hung in the air above the tables, illuminating the garlands and ornaments suspended above the hall. On the small stage where the teachers sat, a huge tree glittered with its own ornaments and lights.
The ceiling showed the early afternoon sky, lazy snowflakes drifting down and fading to nothing. Outside, it was freezing, but inside the castle, it was warm and cozy. Root walked to the Slytherin table, her winter cloak flowing around her. She'd worn her uniform, even though classes had ended. It still felt wrong to wear muggle clothing around the castle.
Getting to her table, Root climbed over the bench and sat next to Shaw, travel mug clutched in her hand. It was the second day of the Christmas Holiday and she was ready to try an experiment. She'd found the recipe for Veritaserum in the restricted section on one of her late night visits. Technically, she wasn't allowed in after she'd summoned a lightning storm in her dorm room, but 'forbidden' had never stopped her before.
Root was going to trick Shaw into drinking it and then ask if she liked Root, if she like-liked Root. She grinned at Shaw, putting the travel mug on the table between them. Shaw winked at her, a half-eaten sausage in her hand. There was a Quidditch match after lunch, and Shaw was a Slytherin Beater. She needed the energy. Root looked over her food options and started filling her plate.
"Great news," Zoe said, sitting appearing across from them. "I found some old radio shows on vinyl and Headmaster McGonagall said she'd lend us her Gramophone. Not as good as a television, but it's something."
"Radio shows?" Shaw repeated with her mouth full. Rolling her eyes, she tossed the last bite of her sausage onto her plate. "Jesus, I might as well have gone to visit my grandmother."
"But then you wouldn't get to spend time with me," Root joked. She spread butter over a bread roll. It had been her suggestion to stay at school over the break. "I'm better than your grandma."
Shaw snorted, pushing her plate away. "That's debatable."
Root didn't take the insult to heart. She knew that Shaw liked spending time with her. That's why she was going to give her the Veritaserum. Shaw was interested in her; she just needed a little push. Root bit into her roll and smiled happily.
A hand lightly touched her jaw, turning her face. Shaw raised an eyebrow, her eyes glittering with amusement. Licking her lips, Root blushed at the feel of Shaw's firm grip. Tilting her head, Shaw picked up a napkin from the table with her free hand and wiped the side of Root's mouth.
"Butter," Shaw told her. She released Root's face. "You're a mess."
Root just took a giant bit of bread, making sure that even more butter covered her mouth this time. "Whoops."
"Wow," Zoe laughed. "You two are so gross. Get a room!"
Shaw picked up a piece of fish from the large dish in the center of the table and tossed it at her. Zoe dodged with a squeal. She glared at Shaw, dipping her fingers into her glass of pumpkin juice and flicking the liquid across the table. This time Shaw had to dodge, sliding away from Root to avoid the splatter.
"Watch the uniform!" Shaw grabbed her napkin again, wiping off the bench. "I have a game soon. I need to look sharp for my fans."
Shaw brushed imaginary juice from her uniform, and Root took the opportunity to look her over. She loved when Shaw played Quidditch, because the uniform suited her so well. The long-sleeve shirt accentuated her biceps, and the pants emphasized her thighs. She wore pants most days, instead of the usual skirt, but those were dress pants and these were flexible cotton, much more flattering.
She moved back into her place, her arm brushing against Root's. Resisting the urge to lean against her, Root looked at her travel mug. This wasn't the best idea. Root and Shaw had been friends ever since they'd both landed in detention with Professor Flitwick for starting a fire in his class. Technically, they'd been learning Lumos, but Root had bragged that she already knew Incendio and Shaw had dared her to prove it. Root couldn't say no to a dare.
That had been their first year. Now, they were sixth years and still just friends. Root wanted more than that, but she didn't want to risk their friendship. So, instead, she was contemplating a scheme that was actually a horrible idea. Shaw trusted her, and Root didn't really want to force Shaw into anything. They'd always avoided the subject of dating.
Root had never told Shaw that she liked girls, and Shaw had never said it either. She knew she did, though. A few times over the years, Root had caught her making out with girls in dark corners of the hallways. She'd caught her with boys, too, but that didn't make Root as jealous. It was seeing Shaw with girls that hurt.
Of course, Root had some doubt that Shaw liked her. It was impossible to know for sure. Without a truth potion, anyway. What if she did like Root, but didn't want a relationship? Would she even say anything about it in the Great Hall? Maybe this should be done privately. With a sigh, she decided not to go through with her plan. She used her napkin to wipe her face off and finished her bread.
"Are you coming to the game?" Shaw asked her. "It's a sure win for us. Hufflepuff's seeker is garbage."
Root smiled. "Of course." She gestured to her Slytherin scarf. "I have to support my girl."
An odd look crossed Shaw's face and she turned away to stare down at her plate. Root opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but a shadow fell across the table and distracted her. She saw their friends standing behind them and grinned.
Fusco was wearing his Quidditch robes, too, yellow and black for Hufflepuff. He was a beater, like Shaw. Reese, Harold, and Joss all wore Hufflepuff scarves, even though Harold was in Ravenclaw and Reese and Joss were in Gryffindor. Shaw looked at them and scowled.
"Oh, come on." She waved to their scarves. "I know you have to cheer for both of us, but why do you have to wear his colors?"
"Us guys have to stick together," Fusco told her. He jerked his thumb at Joss. "She owes me a galleon."
Joss rolled her eyes. "I'm going to burn this after the game."
"I'll help," Zoe joked, grinning. "We'll burn all the losers' scarves."
A bell rang from the tower above them, signaling the new hour. The Quidditch game was going to start soon and Fusco and his 'fans' hurried away, taking Zoe with them. Technically, the Quidditch season was over because of the winter break, but a game had gotten delayed after a bad flu had gone around the castle. After today, the castle would be almost empty as everyone who was only staying for the game went home.
Shaw sighed, picking up one last sausage and climbing off the bench. If she had the choice, Shaw would sit in front of feast until it disappeared. There was always the dinner feast, though. Shaw had also befriended the elves in the kitchen and she got snacks whenever she wanted them. She'd already asked them to pack a basket for the listening party they had planned later.
Root lifted her knees, holding her skirt as she swung her legs over the bench. Even after six years, she forgot that she wore skirts sometimes. There had been some embarrassing moments after late night study sessions or adventures, when she was too sleepy to care about modesty. Shaw smirked at her as she stood up carefully.
"Don't forget your mug," Shaw said, picking it up. She popped the lid open and sniffed it. "Did you put water in a thermos?"
"Yup," Root lied. She shrugged, trying to look casual. "It's got some, uh, herbs. For focus. Yeah, I need to do some studying today. Later."
Shaw gave her a skeptical look. "Studying? During the holiday? I can't let you be that nerd."
Laughing, Root relaxed, glad that the lie had worked. She held her hand out. "Can I just have my drink, please?"
Shaw lifted the mug, but Root leapt forward, snatching it from her hands. Panicked, Root chugged it. It burned her throat and she knew right away that it had worked. She lowered the mug, gasping for air after her long drink. Shaw was staring at her like she had a second head.
"Ok, weirdo." Shaw chuckled. She pointed a finger at Root, narrowing her eyes. "You're not using that focus to study. You'll focus on something fun, like Wizard's Chess or eating cake."
Root smiled nervously, trying not to speak. She wasn't entirely sure if Veritaserum made you blurt out the truth, or if it just made you incapable of lying. Either way, if Shaw asked her a direct question, then she wouldn't be able to get out of answering.
"Uh, Root? Is there something on my face?"
"No." Root realized she'd been staring at Shaw. "No. Sorry. Um, we should go. To the game. It starts in… an hour."
They left the Great Hall, heading for the Quidditch Field with the rest of the late lunch crowd. Shaw didn't start a conversation, and Root relaxed. She liked that they could be quiet together. Sometimes, Root needed to get away from people, but she never needed to get away from Shaw. They could spend hours sitting in the same room, absorbed in their own activities.
It's one of the reasons Root had fallen in love with her. It was so easy to be with Shaw. She never asked Root to be anything she wasn't, to be any less. They could talk about anything, and Shaw always seemed interested in her thoughts. Root was grateful to have found such a great friend and she was glad she hadn't gone through with her plan.
Now, she just had to make it through the night without confessing her feelings. Luckily, Zoe and Joss weren't leaving until tomorrow morning and they'd be a buffer. Root could just bring up a controversial topic, like what shop in London made the best kebabs, and the three of them would go for hours.
After a short walk through the snow, they got to the Quidditch Field, and Root gave Shaw a smile. She wasn't allowed in the locker rooms because she wasn't on the team. Rules didn't really stop her, but Martine was the captain this year, and she hated Root. One accident in Potions, and Root had made an enemy. Waving goodbye to Shaw, Root started for the steps to the stands, lifting her heavy winter cloak out of the way.
She was stopped by a hand on her arm and she followed it back to Shaw. "Something wrong?" she asked, frowning. She looked up at the tower the steps were in, seeing the familiar green and silver of Slytherin. "Am I in the wrong section?"
"No," Shaw answered. She pulled her hand away, running it along her ponytail. "I just wanted to say that you look good today."
Looking down at the same robes she wore most days, she laughed. "I look the same as I do every day. Do you suddenly have a thing for robes and cloaks?"
Rolling her eyes, Shaw pushed Root lightly toward the stairs. "Whatever, nerd. Just go."
Root watched her walk into the hallway that led to the locker rooms, wondering what that was about. Shaw never complimented her in such a straightforward way. It was usually "copying my style? At least you look good in ponytails" or "Want to do our homework together? You're the only one in our year I can stand." Root had gotten really good at de-coding what Shaw meant, and it was strange to get a clear message.
Shaking her head, Root hurried up to the stands, finding Zoe. They didn't really like anyone else in Slytherin besides Shaw, and they spent most of their time in the Gryffindor common room, especially now that Joss was a prefect. She gave them the password every time it changed.
Quidditch was always fun to watch, but Root loved when Shaw was playing. She was so confident in the air, and with a bat in her hand. Her ponytail streamed from her helmet as she flew, whipping in the wind. Occasionally, she'd glance at Root, winking or just grinning. She loved to show off, hitting beaters clear across the pitch. When they played Hufflepuff, she'd always aim for Hersch.
The game was over in two hours. Slytherin won by an embarrassing number of points. They'd had nearly 200 by the time Harper caught the Snitch, a clear win no matter what. Fusco gave Shaw the middle finger instead of a handshake and Shaw whacked him in the arm with her bat, nearly knocking him off his broom.
After following the crowd down the stairs, Root leaned against the wall outside the Slytherin locker room, turning her travel mug over in her hands. She hadn't been able to talk to Zoe too much during the game, but she'd tried a few times to lie. Zoe had asked her the name of the Hufflepuff Chaser, and Root had tried to say Fusco, but when she opened her mouth, 'Hersch' had come out instead. She'd also been unable to say the wrong score, or that she needed to leave and go study.
Clearly, she'd made a good potion. Veritaserum was pretty advanced, and usually only N.E.W.T students knew how to make it. It had been easy for Root. The hardest part was waiting a whole month for it to finish maturing. Patience wasn't her strong suit.
The locker room door opened, and Root looked up. Shaw saw her and nodded, hiking her bag on her shoulder. She'd showered, apparently, her long hair loose and hanging around her shoulders. Her uniform was also gone. Instead, she wore muggle clothing, black sweatpants and a thick Slytherin sweatshirt.
"You look great," Root said instead of a normal greeting. She blushed. "I mean, you obviously showered. You smell really nice."
She felt her face heat up even more and looked away, cursing herself silently. Sticking her travel mug under her arm, she wrapped her cloak around herself and walked toward the exit. It was warm in the hallway by the locker rooms, but it would be freezing outside. The sun had just started setting and it was taking the meager warmth with it.
"Thanks," Shaw muttered behind her. She moved to Root's side and followed her out into the snowy grounds. "I know that Zoe hates when I get sweat on the Common Room's couches."
"Zoe also hates when you leave your stinky socks lying around," Root said, smiling. "That never stops you, though."
Shaw snorted. "No, it doesn't."
They walked back to the castle, talking about the game, and Root somehow managed to keep herself from complimenting Shaw again. It was going to be hard to keep her thoughts to herself until the potion wore off. She could distract them until they started the radio shows. Then, knowing Joss, there wouldn't be any talking allowed.
Once they got back to the castle, they made their way down to the dungeons and the Slytherin common room. Since it was just a girls' night, Joss was coming to them. Root led the way up to their room, thankfully shedding her heavy cloak and hanging it on the coat rack.
She kicked off her shoes as Shaw dropped her bag onto her bed. They'd been roommates since first year and knew each other's habits well. Shaw liked to empty her bag before she got comfortable, putting her uniform in her clothes hamper and her shoes in the wardrobe. Then, she'd disappear into the bathroom for a bit, coming back out to fall on her bed and wait for someone to make her be social.
Root liked to change into comfortable clothes immediately. She started undressing, feeling better with every piece gone. Once she was only in her bra and underwear, she moved to her wardrobe, opening drawers until she found her pajamas. They were thick flannel, red gingham, and the most comfortable thing she'd ever worn. They'd been a gift from Shaw three Christmases ago, after her final growth spurt.
She finished buttoning the shirt and dug her wand out of her cloak pocket before climbing into her bed. Her travel mug sat on her side table, taunting her. She waved her wand at it, turning it to dust. Being in bed, wearing her pajamas, made her want to just go to sleep and wake up once the effects had gone away.
Shaw came out of the bathroom and dramatically flung herself up onto her bed. Rolling onto her back, she let her head hang off the edge, staring at Root upside down. Root lay on her stomach, feet kicking in the air as she waited for Shaw to say something. With another flick of her wand, she conjured spectral butterflies.
They watched them flicker around the room until one landed on Shaw's nose. She swatted it, turning it to smoke. With a sigh, she rolled over onto her stomach, too, looking around the room.
"When is Joss coming over?"
"I don't know," Root answered truthfully. She remembered to watch her words. "Zoe didn't give us a time."
"Great," Shaw mumbled, rolling her eyes. "That means she wants to spend hours making out with Reese. God knows when we'll start the shows."
"I would never kiss a boy," Root said, unprompted. She gasped, her face warming up. Licking her lips, she tried again. "I like girls."
Shaw stared across the room at her, face unreadable. Root stayed as still as possible. She felt like she could spook Shaw if she moved too quickly, or said anything else. Over the years, Root had learned that Shaw had a very strong fight-or-flight reaction. She hoped she hadn't ruined their night.
"Boys are gross," Shaw finally said, looking away. "Reese even more, so. I'd rather die than kiss him."
Root laughed, the tension draining from her body. "Zoe just likes that he's tall."
Shaw shrugged. "I like tall people."
"I'm tall," Root blurted out before she could stop herself. Shaw tilted her head, giving her a thoughtful look. Taking a breath, Root opened her mouth to just tell Shaw that she liked her, but Zoe walked into the room and she lost her nerve. "Zoe!"
Shaw sat up, apparently distracted by Zoe's entrance. "When are we doing this? It's almost dinner time."
"Hold your horses," Zoe told her, crossing between their beds to get to her own. "Joss is going to come down after the feast and we'll set up in here." She stopped at her desk and pulled out a small scroll. "It wouldn't be much of a girls' 'night' if it started before it was even dark."
Sitting up, Root looked down at her pajamas and sighed. "It's not acceptable to eat dinner in pajamas."
"Since when has 'acceptable' stopped you?" Shaw asked her, grinning. "Everyone's gone, anyway. Just put the shoes on."
Returning her grin, Root scrambled out of bed to her wardrobe. The pajamas had come with a pair of bunny slippers, large ears standing straight up. Root hardly wore them because she didn't want to get them dirty, but now seemed like the perfect time. She dropped them to the floor and slid her feet into them, wiggling her toes to move the ears.
"I love when you give me gifts," Root said, happily. She closed her wardrobe and turned to face the other girls. "I like knowing you think about me."
Zoe gave her an amused glance before continuing to write on her scroll. She was probably writing down a piece of gossip she'd just heard so she wouldn't forget. Realizing that she'd said something weird again, Root sighed, rubbing her forehead. Maybe she should just stop talking altogether. Looking at Shaw, she met her narrowed eyes. She seemed to be thinking about something and Root gave her a nervous smile.
"Dinner?" she asked them, pointing at the door with her thumb. "I'm hungry."
Shaw nodded, sliding off her bed. She picked up her wand from where she'd tossed it on her pillow and slid into the front pocket of her sweatshirt. That reminded Root to get hers and she picked it up off her bed. There weren't any pockets in her pajamas and she wasn't sure where to put it.
"Here," Shaw murmured from beside her. She took the wand from Root, their hands brushing. Shaw's hand was callused from riding her broom, and her soft touch always accentuated rough skin. She put Root's wand in her pocket with her own. "I'll hold it."
She walked away before Root could thank her, disappearing out the door. Root rubbed her hands together, trying to save the feeling of Shaw's hand on hers. Zoe put her note back in her desk and headed for the door. She hooked her arm through Root's, dragging her out of their bedroom. They caught up with Shaw quickly, the three of them ready for dinner.
As they walked, Shaw kept a close watch on her. It made Root hyper aware of herself, and she made an extra effort not to speak. Zoe chatted idly about Joss and her new boyfriend, but Root barely heard a word of it. All of her focus was on keeping herself from saying something embarrassing.
When they got to the Great Hall, Zoe peeled off to sit with other friends and Shaw and Root made their way to their usual spot at the Slytherin table. It was weird to see the Great Hall so empty, even though Root had spent every holiday break at the castle. It was always packed during the school year and the quiet of the holiday was loud in the large space. There were even fewer people than there had been at lunch. Apparently, the Quidditch game ending caused a mass exodus.
They sat down and Shaw immediately started stacking food on her plate. Root laughed, taking food at a reasonable pace. Shaw was a bottomless pit, always hungry and never gaining weight. Root had been watching her exercise for years, and knew how many calories she burned. Taking a large bite of turkey sandwich, Shaw shifted in her chair, pulling up a leg and facing Root.
"So," Shaw said with her mouth full, "I have a theory."
"Yes." She narrowed her eyes, squinting dangerously at Root. "I think something is different about you."
Root's eyes widened and she busied herself cutting a piece of steak into bite-sized pieces. "Something is different about me." She closed her eyes, cursing herself. She quickly tried to think of something that was different about her other than 'I can't tell lies.' "I… usually wear my skin color hearing aid, but I'm today, I'm wearing my black hearing aid."
She stuffed a piece of steak into her mouth to avoid saying anything else. A glance at Shaw told her that her excuse wasn't good enough. Shaw took another bite of her sandwich, chewing slowly as she looked Root over. If Shaw asked again, Root could say she was wearing pajamas at lunch, or she'd forgotten to floss.
"That's not it." She put her sandwich down, leaning her arms on the table and sweeping her eyes over Root again. "You're acting weirdly."
Root clenched her jaw and didn't answer. Anything that came out of her mouth right now would be bad. She chewed with determination, staring down at the table. Swallowing, she picked up a glass of water, taking slow sips.
Shaw's gaze landed on the glass and a slow smiled spread across her face. She shook a finger at Root, clicking her tongue. Chuckling, she leaned toward Root and lowered her voice.
Root frowned, surprised at Shaw's conclusion. She put her glass down. "I'm not drunk."
"Don't deny it," Shaw teased, winking. "That wasn't water in your travel mug, was it?"
"No," Root answered, sighing. "It was not just water."
Shaw laughed, clapping her hands. "You dog! I can't believe you didn't share! I didn't even smell alcohol. Was there a charm on it?"
"No," Root said again. She shook her head. "It wasn't alcohol. I'm not drunk. I promise."
"Then what?" Shaw demanded, crossing her arms. "Something is going on. You never compliment me."
Root frowned. "I compliment you."
"No, you don't." Shaw shrugged. "I don't care. I'm just saying that you don't."
"I think you're wonderful. You're beautiful, smart, talented, and a great friend. I think about you constantly, and you look really hot in your Quidditch uniform."
Root gasped, slapping a hand over her mouth. She couldn't believe she'd just said all that, unprompted. The other compliments had been casual, and she could pass it off as friendship, but friends didn't call each other hot. She could feel her face and neck grow warm, and new she was completely red. All this blushing was going to give her a headache.
Shaw just scratched her chin and looked away, turning back to her food. "Thanks."
Taking a deep breath, Root looked around the Great Hall for an out. She wasn't sure what was worse, Shaw turning her down or Shaw only saying 'thanks' to her compliments. It didn't have to be a big display, but Root would like a clue into what she was thinking. Sighing, she reached across the table for a cinnamon roll, deciding she felt more like dessert than dinner.
"You're pretty hot, too."
Root's hands froze as they tore the roll apart. The sentence had been so quiet that she thought she might have imagined it. Shaw was eating her sandwich again, not looking at Root. It had never felt awkward to be together, but Root was about ready to run away. She wasn't sure what to do, and just sat still, her fingers still inside the cinnamon roll.
"If it wasn't alcohol," Shaw mumbled around her food, "what was in your mug?"
Shaw's eyes widened and she coughed, dropping the last piece of her sandwich on to her plate and hitting her chest with her fist. Root handed her a glass of water, watching her gulp it down. Gasping, she put it on the table and wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
"Veritaserum?" she repeated, surprised. "A whole mug of-"
"No! I'm not an idiot. It was just a few drops in water."
"Still," she breathed. She crossed her legs in front of her on the bench, facing Root fully. "That means you can't lie right now, right?"
Root nodded, pushing her hand behind her ear. "It only lasts twelve hours, so I'll be back to normal tomorrow.
Shaw counting on her fingers and grinned. "I have until one am to learn all your secrets."
"Oh no," Root laughed, holding her hands up. "Don't take this as a challenge."
Another odd look crossed her face, and she licked her lips. "Do you keep a lot of secrets from me?"
Taking a deep breath, Root wasn't sure how to answer. She didn't know what the truth was. There were things she hadn't told Shaw, but did that mean they were secrets? Shaw didn't know about her feelings, or her late night trips to the Astronomy tour to stargaze, or the bone deep need she had to prove her worth and skill. Root didn't talk about that, about how much she ached to be an adult and really explore the limits of her magic.
"Only a few," she said, giving her a small smile. "I like having something of my own."
Shaw nodded sharply, her lips pursed. "Yeah. I get that."
Root licked her lips, fiddling with the stem of her goblet. It felt like she should offer a secret to Shaw, but she didn't know what to say. There should be a spell that made you say the right thing at the right time. Shaw would love that. Root smiled, and tapped on Shaw's knee.
"Here's a secret," she breathed, leaning close. "I saw you kissing Kelly after a Quidditch game last year."
Shaw sniffed, shrugging. "Did you? Whatever. I'm not embarrassed."
"You never are." Root tapped her knee again, grinning. "I like that about you."
"Ok, drunkie," Shaw snorted. She pushed Root away half-heartedly. "You're the one without shame. Wearing gingham pajamas and bunny slippers to the dinner feast?"
Root gasped, her mouth dropping open. "You told me to!"
"I know," Shaw joked, her nose crinkling with mirth. "Gotcha."
They laughed, and Root felt relieved that they were still joking. Whether or not she admitted her feelings tonight, she wanted to have fun. It was nearly Christmas and midterm exams had been difficult. They deserved to have a good time over the break.
"Hey," Zoe said, appearing on the other side of the table with Joss. "Ready?"
Root nodded, and climbed over the bench, grabbing her cinnamon roll. "For the road," she told Shaw. "I don't like wasting food."
"Well, in that case…" Shaw spread out a napkin and put a sandwich in the middle of it. She carefully placed two bread rolls, and two sausages on top and tied it into a neat package. Picked it up, she winked at Root. "For the road."
By the time the four of them got to the Slytherin Dormitory, Shaw had eaten almost everything she'd packed away. Root's cinnamon bun was gone, too, and she licked her fingers clean, savoring the sweetness. There was a pack of cookies beneath Shaw's bed that Root might bring out later. Nothing said 'Christmas' like sweets.
They walked through the Common Room to the dorms, and Root looked up. The Slytherin Common Room was below the Great Lake, and Root loved to watch the various creatures that lived in the lake. She'd made friends with a few merfolk who knew sign language, and sometimes when she couldn't sleep, she'd lay against a glass wall and watch them tell stories.
"Want the last sausage?" Shaw asked, bringing Root's attention back to their group.
She shook her head, following the others up the stairs. "No, thanks. You eat it."
Shaw nodded, finishing it in two large bites. Root laughed at her, amazed as always by her bottomless stomach. She climbed onto Shaw's bed, kicking her slippers off and pulling the covers up over herself.
Zoe was setting the Gramophone up on her desk, carefully handling one of the vinyls she'd found. There was a large basket on Shaw's trunk from the house elves. Shaw rubbed her hands together excitedly and opened it. She pulled out various Christmas cookies and cakes, putting them onto Root's bed.
"Tonight, we dine like kings!" Shaw announced loudly. Joss came over to look at the selection and Shaw grinned proudly, as if she'd made it all herself. "I love Hogwarts."
"Me too," Root agreed. She burrowed into the blankets, pouting at Shaw. "Bring me cookies?"
Rolling her eyes, Shaw picked up the package of snickerdoodles and climbed onto her bed. She gave them to Root before taking her shoes off, putting their wands on her nightstand, and getting into bed, too. Scooting close to Shaw, Root took a cookie from the package, taking a bite and humming with pleasure.
"Alright," Zoe said, winding the Gramophone. "The first one is a murder mystery."
The night passed uneventfully, with jokes and kebab debates. Root almost forgot that she was still under the effects of Veritaserum. They listened to old radio shows for hours, eating sweets and laying in bed. Like Root had predicted, Joss kept them quiet during the shows. Shaw didn't even try and get any secrets out of her.
Root found herself dozing off around midnight, warm and comfortable in Shaw's bed. They'd fallen asleep in the same bed before, and Root always said that Shaw's bed was better than hers. It must be bigger, or have a better mattress, or some enchantment that made it nearly impossible to leave. The best benefit to being in Shaw's bed was, of course, Shaw herself.
Throughout the evening, Shaw and Root had gotten closer, and now Root lay in the circle of Shaw's arms, their legs tangled together, and her head on Shaw's chest. She couldn't bring herself to feel shy or nervous. It felt so right to be held by Shaw like this, and Root just wished she could press a kiss to Shaw's collarbone.
She was almost asleep when the last record finished and she groaned as Shaw shifted beneath her. "No," she mumbled into Shaw's sweatshirt. "I want to fall asleep against you."
Shaw stiffened for a moment before settling back into the bed. She pulled away for a moment and then came back. Her arm moved and Root opened her eyes just enough to see the food on their bed floating back over to Root's. Smiling, she wrapped her arms around Shaw, brushing her face against thick fabric.
"I'm going to sleep in Joss' room," Zoe said quietly. "Have a good night."
Root didn't hear Shaw answer, so she just stayed where she was, relishing the closeness. They'd never fallen asleep like this before, and she wasn't sure if she'd wake up to find Shaw gone. Yawning, Root pushed her hands under the back of Shaw's sweatshirt, pressing them against her skin, slightly sweaty from the hours of lying in bed.
"I still have 15 minutes."
"Hmm?" Root sucked in air through her nose, struggling to stay awake. "Til what?"
"Until you can lie again," Shaw answered. She brushed a hand over Root's hair, tucking it behind her ear. "Did you think I forgot?"
Root had hoped she did forget. No one had talked for a while, and she'd managed to keep her mouth shut. Shaw's fingers ran through her hair again, nails scratching lightly on her scalp, and Root melted into the bed.
"Your hands feel amazing," Root breathed. "Keep touching me."
Shaw's hand stilled. "Can I ask you a question?"
Root felt her stomach drop, the warm, sleepy mood leaving her. She nodded against Shaw's chest. "Of course."
"Do you…" She took a slow breath. "Do you… like anyone?"
Chuckling, Root looked up at her. Shaw almost looked scared, her jaw clenched and her eyes narrow. She wasn't really scared, and even if Root said no, she'd be fine, but it was nice that she wanted to know if Root liked her. When Root didn't answer right away, Shaw clicked her tongue and smoothed her face.
"Whatever. I don't care. It doesn't- "
"I've been in love with you for four years." Root sighed, closing her eyes. She hadn't meant to say that. So much for playing it cool and just saying she had a crush. "Since you fixed my nose after Martine broke it second year."
Shaw's eyes widened. "Four years? Why didn't you say anything?"
"Well, you started kissing people the next year, and I figured if you liked me, too, you would say something."
"I thought you would say something!" Shaw pulled away, scooting down the bed so her head was level with Root's on the pillows. "You never hold back when you want something."
"I'd rather be your friend forever than lose you." Root sighed, taking her arms back and pulling the blanket up to her chin. "I hate seeing you kiss other girls. You should be kissing me." She smiled. "See, it's the truth."
Shaw rolled her eyes. "That's not how Veritaserum works. It just makes you say what you think is true. Doesn't make it a universal truth."
That hurt her. She knew how Shaw was, blunt and unempathetic, but it still didn't feel good to hear her say they shouldn't kiss like it was obvious. Root blinked, fighting back tears. She thought this would be her best Christmas ever, but it was starting to be her worst. Pushing the blankets down, she sat up.
"I'll sleep in my own bed," she whispered. "Forget I said anything."
"What?" Shaw sat up, frowning. "Why?"
"You don't like me back. It's ok. It just really hurts." She started getting out of the bed. "I'll be fine tomorrow. We can pretend this never happened."
Shaw grabbed her arm, keeping her in the bed. Closing her eyes, Root didn't look at her. If she saw Shaw looking even the tiniest bit apologetic, she'd break completely. She took a deep breath and tried to tug her arm away, but Shaw wouldn't let it go.
"Root," Shaw said, pulling on her arm. "Don't be an idiot. Of course I like you back. Just because I explained how Veritaserum works doesn't mean I don't want to kiss you. You're so dramatic."
Root laughed, wiping her eyes with her free hand. "I'm not dramatic. You just can't read an emotional situation."
Her hand dropped off Root's arm. "Is that bad? You've never said anything about it."
"I don't care." She looked over her shoulder now. Shaw was frowning at her, eyebrows drawn down. "I don't care about any of it. I like that you're always clear-headed and observant. It's refreshing, and honest. It just gets annoying sometimes."
Shaw stuck her tongue out playfully. "Well, your relentless optimism can be annoying, too. Try finishing a scroll with you at two in the morning. I'd need five cups of coffee to keep up."
Root got back into bed, pulling the covers over her legs. Instead of laying down, she rested her back against the headboard, gazing down at Shaw. "So, what now?"
"What do you mean?"
Rolling her eyes, Root tugged on Shaw's still loose hair. "Are we girlfriends? Are we pretending this never happened?"
Pushing herself up, Shaw close the distance between them, kissing Root and climbing onto her lap. Their bodies pressed together and Root opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, her eyes fluttering closed. Shaw's hands tangled in her hair, and she wrapped her arms around her waist.
The kiss was better than she'd imagined, somehow familiar and dangerous at once. It felt like the start of something new, a new way to grow and change. At the same time, they were still the same. Still best friends, roommates, partners. Shaw pressed one last kiss to her lips and pulled away.
"Why did you drink Veritaserum?"
Root blinked at the sudden question. "Just an experiment."
Looking at her watch, Shaw sighed. "Two minutes passed one. I'll never know."
"It's the truth!" Root laughed, relieved that she was free of the truth potion. She'd answered truthfully anyway. "Trying to test my skills."
"Oh," Shaw chuckled, winking, "we'll test your skills."
They kissed slowly, like they had all the time in the world. After all, they were only sixteen and had their whole lives ahead of them. Once they graduated, there would be Ministry training, and work after that. Whatever they did, and wherever they went, they would have each other. That was the best Christmas present Root could ask for.