“Hey, Tonks, wait up!” Tonks turned around; Luisa was out of breath, but smiling. “Have you got any plans this weekend?”
Tonks ran a hand through her hair. “Why, have you got something in mind?”
“There’s something I want to show you.”
“Oh. A surprise, then?”
“Yeah. How does tomorrow evening sound?”
“I assume we will be breaking the rules.”
“You shouldn’t expect anything less.”
After dinner, they walked to the lake. The air was rich with the smell of soil and algae. For a while, they contented themselves by wading shin-deep along the edge of the water, watching the dance of the sun’s rays on the relaxed waves. Luisa then led Tonks into the forest, assuring her that she knew where she was going.
At last, they ended up in a small clearing, a tiny haven among the dense trees. Luisa peered up at the dappled foliage above them, stepping a bit ahead with her hand raised to shield her eyes from the sunlight.
Tonks felt warmth pour through her, a profound comfort in Luisa’s familiar silhouette. Her frame—nearly straight, apart from the gentle curve of her breasts and hips—stretched into the earth itself, equal among the trees, and as still.
Tonks forced herself from remaining apart and approached Luisa, who was now clenching and unclenching her toes in the dirt. Briefly, Tonks watched her repeat the motion, a steady and indulgent interaction with the ground. She moved her gaze to Luisa’s face, stirred by knowing Luisa came to the forest to experience something profound and private, and wanted to include her.
This was the strongest feeling of friendship Tonks had ever felt.
Luisa turned to look at her. “I want to show you the Thestrals, as they are among nature, not simply pulling the carriages.”
“You’ve seen them out here before?”
“I have. In third year, I was processing everything that happened the summer before and decided to look for them in the woods.”
Luisa had been with her father when his friend was killed by a Blast-Ended Skrewt. She was already exposed to stories of the dangers of being a Magizoologist in the field, but it shook up her perception of the reality of it.
“Some days I think what happened makes me too afraid of death, other days I think it makes me too unafraid.” Luisa fell silent and very still. “There’s a Thestral over there.”
Tonks followed her finger and could make out the slightest rustling in the leaves to indicate its presence. She held her breath, waiting, unsure if she would rather be able to see the Thestral or not.
“And another one. They’re quite beautiful, really. Imagine a horse crossed with a bat.” Luisa slowly took a step forward. The movement in the leaves stopped. “They’re not dangerous, just misunderstood. People fear what they can’t see, or what seems different from the norm.”
Tonks might have assumed her inability to fully participate would irritate her, but as Luisa took her hand and guided it along the Thestral’s side, she felt connected to that invisible something, grazing the beauty that Luisa could identify while Tonks could only feel.
“Let’s ride them,” said Luisa quietly, as though the Thestrals could overhear. A loud huff of air from the Thestral they were touching was the only warning Tonks had before Luisa grabbed her arm and pulled her sharply to the right, causing them both to stumble and land in the dirt.
Once the sound of the Thestrals faded, Tonks helped Luisa up. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine.” Luisa looked around, and, seeing nothing, looked back at Tonks. “Merlin, you’re filthy! I’m sorry if that scared you. The Thestral looked ready to rear up and attack. I shouldn’t have pushed our luck.”
“Don’t worry about it, really.” Tonks held back a laugh at Luisa’s disheveled appearance. “And you’re covered in dirt, too. Have you got any cleaning spells in mind that we could use?”
“Why don’t we go to prefect’s baths?” Luisa wiped the grime from her forehead, grinning.
“Will anyone be there?”
“It’s late on a school night, so I doubt it. I can lock the door anyhow, in case someone walks in.”
Walking back up to the school took forever, a trek through the stillness of midnight. They had to use a Disillusionment Charm to conceal themselves from Filch; it was easy, as they had years of experience.
“We’re here. The password is—you’ll think this is funny—‘squeaky clean.’”
Inside, the room glowed with warm light, illuminated candle-filled chandelier in the center of the arched ceiling. Everything was made of white marble, including what resembled an empty, in-ground pool in the floor. What must have been a hundred golden taps stuck out all around the pool’s edges, each with a differently colored jewel set into its handle. Long white linen curtains hung at the windows; a large pile of fluffy white towels sat in a corner.
Tonks’ mouth had fallen open in awe. “It’s beautiful. But, er, it’s all one room…”
“What do you mean?”
Tonks knew they should be entirely comfortable with one another, so sensing that nudity was no problem with Luisa made her feel petty, small.
Luisa caught on. “But you’ve seen me naked before.”
Tonks struggled to articulate why she was making a big deal out of it. “Sure, when you’re changing clothes. That’s different.”
“And I’ve seen you naked before.”
Tonks flushed. “Okay, but—I dunno, I…”
“We can go to the dorm showers. I don’t mind.”
Tonks did her best to appear nonchalant. “It wouldn’t be worth it, we’ve come all the way here, haven’t we? It’s fine, really.”
Luisa’s grin told Tonks she was convinced. “I’ll turn on the faucets, then.” She drew her wand and waved it, turning on the larger faucets at the front end of the bath. Hot water flowed out, filling the bath in only a few minutes.
Luisa kicked off her shoes, pulled off her socks, then started at her waistband.
Tonks turned away slightly, then stripped as quickly as she could before sliding into the bath.
Luisa stepped in after her, sighing as she lowered herself into the water.
Tonks closed her eyes, feeling instantly flushed and sleepy from the hot bathwater. Soon the silence had stretched too long, so she opened her eyes again.
Luisa was smiling, head back, lifting her arms out of the water. “Ah, this feels good…” Luisa stretched, breasts rounding with the flex of her arms before they fragmented under the water and she sank further beneath the surface.
Shit. Why are you staring at her? Tonks turned her gaze away, hoping the color rising in her cheeks was obscured by the heat.
“I only come to the baths every once in a while. To make it a special occasion, you know. You’re the first person I’ve brought, though.”
“Oh. I suppose I’m special, then?” Tonks tried to convey she was teasing, but her words came out more seriously.
“Of course you’re special, Tonks. You’re the best friend I could ask for.” Luisa arched her head back to submerge her short hair in the water, then raised it out, purple strands plastered on her head like a cap.
“You look silly like that.”
“Is this better?” Luisa ran her hands up the sides of her head, sticking her hair into a mohawk.
“Yes, much. Very punk.”
“What about this?” She shook her bangs so her eyes were covered.
Luisa grinned, eyes still hidden. For a beat, her smile faded, and Tonks felt a strong urge to kiss her. The moment passed, Luisa pushing her hair out of her eyes, laughing, but Tonks’ heart still raced. Why did she feel like Luisa had expected her to kiss her then? Tonks felt she was making this awkward. It wasn’t supposed to be awkward, they were just two friends going to bathe together…Okay, perhaps it was odd, but still—they were just friends.
“It’s so relaxing here. During the day, the sunlight streams in through the windows, everything is cast in this golden glow…”
“Mhm.” As Tonks studied the window panes, she realized that Luisa was starting at her. Despite the temperature of the water, Tonks shivered slightly under Luisa’s gaze, feeling it travel over her stomach, her chest (which she instinctively filled with air, to steady herself but also knowing how it would make her look, as though signaling to Luisa that she knew she was studying her), her collarbone, her neck, her eyes—
“You’re beautiful, Tonks.” Luisa’s words echoed in the tiled room, and Tonks stiffened momentarily, instinctively afraid someone would hear.
“Thank you.” Tonks thought quickly for something to say in return. “Er, you are, too, of course. I mean, everyone knows you are. You’re probably the most—well, you’re really pretty, yourself.”
Luisa laughed. “You’re sweet. You’ve got to learn to take a compliment, though.” She turned and, using her legs, propelled herself from the wall over to the faucets on the deep end of the bath. “We should probably do what we came here to do, right?”
Something in Luisa’s tone made Tonks’ mouth drop open in surprise. Once she realized what Luisa meant—standing to dispense soap into her palms—Tonks remained in place to wallow in embarrassment.
“I can bring you some, if you’d like.” Luisa left the faucet on until soap dripped from her cupped palms, then waded to Tonks and poured some for her.
Luisa rubbed her palms together, and, starting at her neck, began to scrub herself clean.
Tonks forced her gaze away and began to wash herself, too. The only thing she could look at was the mermaid in the glass window, who had been brushing her hair luxuriously and now made eye contact. It was hard to make out the mermaid’s exact expression, but her movements were clear: she put down her hairbrush and tossed her hair behind her back, exposing her chest. Tonks looked away at once, pretending to survey the tiled walls; she told herself it was in case Luisa saw their interaction and got the wrong idea.
Tonks crouched down in the water to rinse off, soapy bubbles trailing her movements. Luisa dipped her head back and shook her it in the water, then said, “Can you look, do I still have shampoo in my hair?”
Tonks moved closer, visually tracing Luisa’s hairline to be sure. “No, you’re set.”
“Thank you.” Luisa held her stare, her brown eyes familiar, but not memorized; Tonks saw the precise shade, the fractals of light and color enhanced by the candles and wavering bath surface.
They were no longer speaking. Luisa raised her hand out of the water, droplets echoing in the vast room, obscuring the nervous exhalation of Tonks’ breath as Luisa’s fingers grazed her cheek.
“Can I kiss you?”
Tonks knew she nodded because she felt the shift of her face beneath Luisa’s fingers, and had leaned forward, and tilted her face, and their lips met.
Tonks had never truly kissed someone before. When she imagined kissing boys, it was always at night, always unexpected, sort of like this. But because it was in her imagination, she knew what to do, and it was sweet, tame. Now, although her mouth felt clumsy and unsure against Luisa’s, she realized the intensity of the contact, how incredible it felt with someone she loved rather than with a passing crush or a faceless fantasy.
She opened her eyes a crack as the press of Luisa’s lips lightened to see that Luisa moved to position herself in front of her. To make room, Tonks straightened her legs so they lay flat against the tile at the bottom of of the bath. She was overwhelmed with a desire to have Luisa as close to herself as possible, and if she were not so caught up in a desperate wanting, how good it felt to be consumed by it, she might have been annoyed by the water between her hands and Luisa’s body.
Luisa kissed the skin under Tonks’ breast, then the swell of it, and finally the nipple, her hands moving with a trembling desperation, one feeling the softness of the other breast, one trailing Tonks’ spine.
Tonks watched her in an out-of-body euphoria, as though everything in her life had led up to this moment, for someone to touch her, to be touched by Luisa, to give herself over to pleasure. Luisa’s hand brushed the inside of her thigh lightly, then the other thigh, teasing.
“Please…” managed Tonks, arms trembling with the urge to take Luisa’s hand and guide it to where she wanted.
“Am I going too fast?”
Tonks shook her head. “No.” Her mind cleared momentarily and she realized she had suppressed her questions for the sake of the moment. “Will it hurt?”
Luisa kept her hand on Tonks’ inner thigh, but stopped running her fingers along the soft skin inches away from the core of the aching, needy sensation. “Have you touched yourself before?”
Tonks’ mind raced. Should she have? Had Luisa? “Only over my pants.”
“Hang on, then.” She let go of Tonks, reached over the side of the pool for her wand, muttered a spell, and returned, fingers on her right hand glossy. “Let me sit behind you.”
Tonks nodded and moved forward, though she was unsure of what Luisa meant. Luisa pressed herself against Tonks’ back, then reached under her arm, placing her palm over Tonks’ curly hair, which was now bright red.
Luisa started slowly, strokes less concerned with precision than surveying the area, soft skin trailing even softer skin.
Tonks felt as though whatever it was that had been caged within her had been released, or as though lava poured out inside her, leaving fire in its wake. She turned her head to the side, and Luisa pushed closer to her, kissing her neck, jawline, the edge of her mouth. Tonks tried to kiss her, but the angle was too difficult to pull off, and she wanted to watch Luisa’s fingers.
The sensation had changed before Tonks could catch her breath, and she felt closer to the edge than she anticipated she could be. “Ah…holy shit…”
Luisa’s voice was in Tonks’ ear, warm with self-satisfaction as Tonks gripped her legs tighter. “Does that feel good?”
“Yes—hah…” Tonks could no longer speak properly, words blurring into moans. Luisa’s fingers had always been on the edge of intimacy: brushing Tonks’ hair into place, testing the solidness of the ridiculous noses Tonks tried out, curling around Tonks’ arm if they had a close brush with Filch after curfew. She had assumed that whatever Luisa wanted, she took.
But she hadn’t, had she? “Merlin…” Those glances at Tonks when she thought she didn’t notice, the nights they would accidentally fall asleep in the same bed after studying, the annoyance Luisa tried to conceal when Tonks told her about boys she fancied. “Yes, God, holy shit…” Years of waiting, though for how long, she wasn’t sure. How long had Luisa wanted to end their adrenaline-filled nights like this? To touch her this way, to make her feel wanted, to envelop her in ecstasy—
Tonks’ entire body trembled all over, and she exhaled, hard. Luisa lifted her hand away, washed it, then reached back around to hold her tightly, skin against skin, as Tonks hazily watched the ripples moving away from them.
Luisa spoke first. “How was that?”
“Amazing.” Tonks’ torso still strained against Luisa’s embrace at every inhalation. “Christ, you’re good. Can we do this again sometime? I mean, how many hidden spots do we have around the castle? A lot, probably.”
Luisa chuckled. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re easy to please, though I’ve had plenty of practice.”
“What? Who with?” Tonks twisted around and looked at her.
They laughed, then Luisa said, “But I’ve been with a few other girls.”
“Yeah?” Tonks tried to look nonchalant, but knew Luisa would see through it.
“You’re the first I’ve really fancied, though.” Luisa leaned closer and kissed her once before saying, “I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time.”
Goosebumps crawled up Tonks’ arms. “Me, too. Wanted you to kiss me and wanted to kiss you. I don’t think I realized it, you know, I couldn’t picture it, exactly. I didn’t know what I was feeling.”
“Do you know now?”
“Yes, now I’ve got a fairly good idea.” Smirking, Tonks added, “We could snog a bit longer just to be sure, though.”