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Linus Paddock

I didn't know that I was starving till I tasted you

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The summer of his Fourth Year was, by a fairly large margin, the most interesting one on record. Linus had left Hogwarts feeling rather invigorated, to say the least. Despite and otherwise lackluster season, Gryffindor had ended on a high-note with a win against Ravenclaw. This was especially important since it had also been Dolly's last stint with the team, and she had put so much effort into making sure that Gryffindor Quidditch would be left in capable hands that she forgot what winning felt like. Linus wouldn't have let his good friend and mentor graduate from Hogwarts on such circumstances, and so the win served only to put a huge exclamation point on the year.

 

Moreover, some antics by the commentator booth towards the end of the game made the usual rounds around the rumor mill. Linus had, rather aggressively, kissed Karen Davies in an attempt to get her to not be such a loudmouth, a strategy that had worked, but had perhaps been too forthright. However, since the year had been winding down, the incident hadn't been allowed to pick up too much momentum, so his reputation remained at a rather neutral state. Still, it had been quite a moment in the spotlight. Linus only really regretted it had come at the cost of estranging Briar just before being let out for the summer hols.

 

So then why was this the most interesting summer in his mind?

 

Because despite that, he and Briar had started dating some number of weeks afterwards, and it couldn't have been better for either of their spirits. In case there are any uninitiated reading, the two had been tip-toeing around one another's feelings all year. There had been some moments here and there where things had almost come to a boil, but for the most part they were both extremely skilled at avoiding the topic of how they felt for one another. For his part, Linus was honestly just oblivious. Briar was a close friend of Kaelyn's, which meant he was obligated to keep her at arm's length. But also, he hadn't really started to look at her as more than a friend until they had spent that one day in Hogsmeade together.

 

Since then, Linus had developed an attachment for the girl. They even spent more and more time together outside of just the Gryffindor Commons and the Great Hall. And slowly, Briar seemed to come out of her shell, which drew Linus to her even more.

 

Fast forward to today, Saffi had fluttered through his bedside window with a letter from Briar. It was short, but to the point:

 

"My parents are out of the house. Come over!"

 

This method had become somewhat of a ritual of theirs. Briar's parents were a little strict, and so, for reasons he still did not quite understand, she was constantly grounded. Unable to leave her house, Linus made the honest attempt of trying to see her as often as he was allowed by sneaking in through her window. He had become so good at scaling the walls of their Victorian home that he could do it even in the dead of night. Or, more accurately, he could traipse back down them at that hour, since he was more often leaving at that point than arriving.

 

Pushing his head through a clean shirt, he hobbled across the room on one leg as he quickly tried to lift his jeans past his knees. Hurrying down the stairs while simultaneously trying to lace his shoes, he passed both his parents on the way out.

 

"I'll be back for dinner!" he yelled as they threw him concerned looks.

 

Using a nearby chimney in Buckinghamshire (since Briar's own chimney had been sealed due to muggles frequenting her family estate), he leapt through and huffed down the street towards her house. His parents were only vaguely aware of his going-abouts, and his sister knew better than to ask questions, so Linus had more freedom than he was accustomed to. This led him to feel like he was a little lighter on his feet, his head clearly in the clouds.

 

Or maybe that's just how Briar made him feel.

 

Passing through the side gate with ease, Linus looked up at the white columns that raced up towards Briar's room. Making sure to give a wide birth to the rose bushes just outside her room, he climbed all the way up without losing a breath. The ornate trimmings provided perfect grippage, while the relatively straight walls provided little to block his way, straight to the small window box that served as an ideal perch for when he tapped on her window.

Finding it already open, he slipped in with a quiet, "Briar?"

 

"Briar, where are youuuuuuuuuu?"

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When Briar tried to drive Chester's car and crashed it into the garage door two years ago, Chester and her mom "grounded" her, but the punishment didn't have much effect. Briar still had access to her phone, computer, and got all of her Christmas gifts. Her mother took her out shopping to spend her Christmas money and even let her watch a few movies at the theatre.

 

But when Addison and Briar were caught smashing Chester's fancy sports car with an axe and hammer (and a new golf club), the parents knew better. This time, Briar was stuck without a phone, her computer was blocked from the Internet, cutting off connection to her friends on Realm of Raddigast, and Albert, their butler, was given priority duty to keep an eye on her. Any time Briar snuck out her room to fetch a snack, steal her mother's lipstick, or try to leave the house without permission, Albert knew and informed her mother and stepfather. Al was also given special duty to watch for Addison around the premises, not because she was a bad influence, but because apparently Briar was a negative influence on Addison.

 

In short, life sucked. Briar moped around for the first day, cleaning her room and picking up dog hair, and continued to mope around the second morning. But in the afternoon, a familiar hoot greeted her at her window with a letter -- Linus! And, as if living in the dark ages, Briar communicated with him through his owl, leading her out of her dark ages of boredom and possible death by boredom.

 

On the fifth day of her journey of death (punishment), Matilda and Chester decided to go out with some friends to do something apparently important (Briar hoped they were setting up a trust fund for her). They left Briar in her room and baby Isaac downstairs with Albert to watch over him. Albert needed a raise.

 

And so Briar sent over a message to Linus because he'd never seen the brand new artwork in her room or met her dogs and cats. Plus she was extremely bored and lonely, and had no method of contacting Addison. She went to her bathroom (which was connected to her room only, so thankfully Albert couldn't track her bathroom trips) to put on a little bit of makeup because she looked like a sunburnt rat, and as she pinched her cheeks she heard Linus's voice traveling through her room.

 

"Hi Linus!" She greeted him cheerfully as she bounced out of her bathroom, feeling more alive than she had for the past few days. It was so refreshing to see someone who wasn't either extremely old (as in 30s-40s) or a few days past being an egg (as in 1-2 years old). "There's no need to whisper. Nobody's here except Albert, who's taking care of my dead brother. Just kidding, he's not dead, but he's just as useless. He poops himself a lot. Oh, can I borrow Saffi to send Addie a message? I'm actually dying without her. And if I'm dead then I... wouldn't be... a good... girl............friend??" Was she even a living girlfriend (emphasis on the girlfriend, she was obviously alive). "Do you like my room? I just cleaned it." Hopefully he would forget her stupid second-to-last question.


Edited by Briar Naaktgeboren

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Laughing, Linus slid over to Briar and said, "No, I guess you wouldn't be a good girl-friend if you were deceased."

 

Teasing her by elongating the individual syllables of the word, Linus wrapped his arm around her. Tipping his head so that he had his forehead pressed against her hair, he whispered into her ear,

 

"And we wouldn't want that, would we?"

 

Kissing her quickly on the head, he launched himself onto her much-too-large bed. Even for Linus, who lived in relative comfort back in Canterbury, Briar's accommodations never ceased to impress him. Although, she often made her room seem smaller by neglecting to tidy up after herself, which, fortunately, was not the case today.

 

"Yea, yea, go ahead and send her off. Saffi doesn't mind, do you Saffi?"

 

His little owl was perched on one of the high posters above Briar's bed, also somewhat uncomfortable in the new setting. As a simple messenger, his owl was without equal. She could send little notes and letters, traveling them relatively great distances with haste. But anything else besides? Pretty much useless.

 

"So what did you have in mind today," he asked, turning over and leaning on his elbow to get a clearer view of the girl, "You invited me over after all."

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Feeling Linus's face close to her own, a shiver went down Briar's spine and, suddenly aware of Albert's presence somewhere in the house (and hopefully not outside her door), she turned bright red and wriggled free from his arms. As Linus made himself at home, Briar hugged herself sheepishly, trying her best to hold back a smile.

 

After years of complaining about being alone, she finally had someone other than Addie to rely on. She hadn't opened up to Linus about her family life yet but knew that when the time came, he would be understanding because he had a genuinely good heart. Just as he was caring and patient when he taught her how to fly, Linus would be the attentive and open set of ears she needed when Addie wasn't around.

 

Days that Briar couldn't communicate with Addison left her physically uncomfortable -- she needed to jump around and scream about the latest teen pop sensation, sprinkle glitter everywhere, and try on fifteen dresses before Addison would give her a tired: "Yes, that one's fine, it looks the same as the rest of them." Not being able to do these activities left her body strained as if she'd implode from holding in too much enthusiasm for glitter.

 

Thanks to Linus, however, Briar could save herself from being human soup. "Thanks Linus! And you too, Saffi!" She hopped over to a corner of her room with a huge sparkly box filled with magazines, makeup and brown hair dye (Addison had blonder hair than Briar did and that was unacceptable). "This is the box. I think there's a letter in there somewhere... anyway, Addison needs these soon. I bet she's been growing a mustache without my care!" That was probably true. "Umm I don't actually know Addie's address... I think it's like 8 Cardboard Lane or something?"

 

After securing a lid to the box, Briar leapt onto her bed, her head nearly crashing into the headboard. She played with the threads of her throw, feeling a bit silly for forgetting a plan for the day. She'd been so excited at the prospect of seeing Linus that she'd forgotten they couldn't do much in her house. "Well... I just got six new headbands! And I need to organise them in my closet. My headbands have their own shelving! But the whites and creams are starting to mix and it's kind of scary because what if one day I try to wear cream and navy, but then I accidentally wear white and navy?" She was breathing heavily -- headbands were not to be taken lightly.

 

"I'm sorry there isn't that much to do... I mean..." Briar glanced at her window. The weather was truly lovely: the sky was clear and blue, the sun bright, and the breeze calm and warm. "...it would be nice to go outside but I've never climbed out my window before. I-I'm kind of scared of heights... as you know, I guess."

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Ever the Chatty Cathy, Linus was unsurprised to find that his girlfriend had quite a lot to offer in terms of what she had been up since last they had spoken. He had gotten used to the way she tended to ramble, but he knew that the real trick was in catching bits and pieces of her racing comments, and to reiterate them. He had gotten so good at this, in fact, that he was doing it even now while lying on Briar's comfy bed,

 

"Such a sparkly box... and Addison, right, right... I think you've mentioned Cardboard Lane before, yes..."

 

So long as he didn't commit too strongly to any one point, the facade was kept intact. Some might call this misleading, but every relationship had its compromises. In what he lacked in communicative skills (a common trait between all those of the Paddock line), he made up for with considerable patience and energy. Where Briar was prone to seeing the worst, Linus managed to keep her spirits high. Being apart from her best friend, he considered it his own duty to help fill that void, to clear her mind of the lonesome four walls of her room.

 

"You want to go outside?" he asked, suddenly sitting upright.

 

He looked out the window and acknowledged the clear, bright skies beyond. The Gryfindor loved nothing more than the outdoors, as exampled by the dozens of vacation pamphlets regarding discovering brave new lands out in Africa and the Pacific Islands. He'd had less and less time for that due to Quidditch, but maybe that would change this summer. Maybe he'd steal Briar away on these adventures, never again to be held hostage in this stuffy (and messy) room.

 

Running over to the window, he leaned past its pearly white frames and peered into the garden. A-ha! Just as he suspected: a broom closet. And what are kept in broom closest, you dare ask?

 

"Hold that thought..."

 

Hopping out the window (a dangerous prospect for most), Linus latched onto one of the outside columns and slid down it. Hitting the ground with a thump, he raced across the grass and opened the doors of the shed dramatically. Moments later, he was in the air with a rickety, but capable broom carrying him straight up to Briar's window.

 

"Ask, and you shall receive!"

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"Well -- I mean --" Briar grabbed Linus's hand, instantly regretting mentioning the outside world. She wanted to leave her house but the end wasn't worth the means. She didn't care about lying to her parents, especially since they were a pair of tyrants at this point, but she also didn't plan on having her parents return home to find their teenage daughter dead on a bed of roses outside her bedroom window. "-- I'm too scared." She said sheepishly, letting go of his hand and curling up on her bed. If she couldn't even jump out her window, what would she do for the eternity that she was grounded?



Briar began to dramatically visualise the next ten years of her life: rotting away in her bedroom as Linus visited occasionally to bring her mince pies and roasted potatoes; Linus pulling Briar up from her bed to find the girl had literally melted into her bed and that she was now one with her bed, human meat and silk merged into one; Linus calling Addison, who'd say "sorry, got Irene, bye"; Linus sadly detaching the girl's liquefied putty form of a body from her bed and adorning the bed's body imprint with roses.



....as she awakened from her hideous and horrifying thoughts, a soft thud sounded outside her window. Briar hadn't noticed Linus left her room -- could he hear her thoughts? She dashed over to her window in time to catch him jumping on a broom. "What the heck? We own brooms?" Briar thought Albert brought all of his brooms from home -- but then she realised Albert lived with them. And then she remembered Albert didn't clean their house, and that muggle brooms and magical brooms were different. Briar thought Chester had gotten rid of all of their magical items in order to "mugglefy" themselves, but it seemed he kept a souvenir for himself. "Wait what? You want me to get on that? Ummm..."



She slowly backed from window, crossing her arms and shaking her head no. "I thought we were going to do something fun! I mean, not that this isn't fun, because I know you like flying. And it was fun when you taught me. But we were only like a little bit above the ground. And now we'll have to go high above to hide from the muggles. And if we fall we'll die!"



Although she verbally protested, her body betrayed her mouth as she inched closer to the window again, swung her legs over, and sat on the ledge precariously. "I can't do this! Can't we just play I Spy in my room?" She reached over and wrapped her arms around Linus's waist, her heart racing and her body turning numb. "What am I doing? Why am I doing this!" By the end, most of her body had transferred onto the broom while her feet remained firmly planted on her window ledge. It was nice to hold onto Linus -- it felt more like a loving hug than a necessity (so she didn't DIE) -- but Briar wasn't sure if it was worth floating over ten metres in the air.



Edited by Briar Naaktgeboren

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As Briar wrapped her arms around his waist, Linus felt a familiar blush spread from his cheeks to his ears. No matter how affectionate she became (intentional or otherwise), the to-be Fifth Year still couldn't quite believe it. Linus had always heard of the often times debaucherous lifestyles of those around him. One of the most scandalous, of course, had been Ellie Thanrion and Hank Chamberlain, who were rumored to have been quite lewd in many different rooms in the castle. Then there were all those boys Kaelyn strung along at any given point throughout the year. The point is, Hogwarts was wrought with these flighty (and often steamy) relationships. Linus had never considered himself amongst their company, but he could definitely see how such affections could go to one's head.

As she had been during their last time on brooms, Briar was hesitant to leave the relatively safety of her windowsill. He often took for granted that most people weren't quite as proficient as himself with the old-fashioned travel option, especially since after the first year at Hogwarts it was more or less abandoned for more worthy subjects.

 

"Just hold on," he reassured her.

 

Pulling away from her room, he managed to keep them both stable despite the awkward way she chose to sit. Although he was aware that this was her preference owing to her ladylike sensibilities, Linus still found it amusing; just another Quidditch-born overestimation.

 

"You'll be fine. Everything will be fine, just close your eyes. You trust me, don't you?

 

Hovering idly, he waited for his words to reach Briar before floating slightly lower. Mischief twinkled in his own eyes, and, with as much speed as the broom could spare, he flew loops in Briar's backyard, wheeling swiftly, but carefully here and there. After a minute or so of flying, he led her back to a bright green patch of grass and brought them to a quiet landing.

 

"Okay... we're here. You can open your eyes now."

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Squeezing her eyes shut, Briar let her feet slip off the windowsill, a familiar sense of dread filling her as her lower half dangled in the free air. She wasn't sure if keeping her eyes shut made things better or worse. There was something calming about moving around without knowing her exact surroundings, especially when pressed closely to another body. Conversely, not being able to predict when something terrible would happen (meeting a huge boulder, flying into a plane propeller, dying, etc.) made it difficult to relax entirely.

 

Surprisingly, the ride was actually quite pleasant -- maybe because she had her face buried in Linus's side -- and it felt really short. Any time something was dreadfully boring or tiring or frightening, the seconds stretched into minutes, so surely the speed of this ride meant something positive? As Briar's feet grazed the ground below, the Gryffindor opened her eyes to a familiar sight: well-kept grass, a rose bush, a gated garden, and the exterior walls to her house.

 

With a small smile, Briar hopped off the broomstick, her heartbeat slowing down as she reacquainted herself with the feeling of feet planted firmly to the ground (like normal people). "I do trust you," she responded belatedly, knowing now that she fully meant every word. For a second in the air she'd been worried about flying over her hometown; she didn't know of any other magical families and most people in town liked to gossip and spread rumours. But, ever so sensible and thoughtful, Linus knew her safe spot.

 

"Do you want to go into the garden?" Briar asked, pointing at the steel gate covered in vines near them. "It's locked but the key is literally on the gate. Che -- my step-dad doesn't let me go in there which makes no sense because it's not his garden... it was my grandma's project before she, um, died. I don't know if it's really being taken care of anymore but Mumsies tells me it's filled with roses! We really like roses. My middle name is Rose. What's your middle name?"

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Attraction was a powerful sentiment, one Linus was not very familiar with. Certain trains of thought led him to believe that how he felt about Briar was a simple response to how she behaved around him, that her mere act of liking him compelled him to reciprocate. Other times, he found even the smell of her intoxicating, as if he'd gone his whole life without a sense of smell, and she was the first thing that have occurred to him. So, as her arms slipped around his waist, he felt a familiar pang pulse through him. It started, as it often does, at the point of contact, and quickly tingled up his side to his neck and hair. He suddenly felt warm, warmer than even the summer sun beating down on them.

 

It was hard to qualify this feeling, but Linus knew that he liked it. He knew that he liked Briar for making him feel this way, and that it only served to make him like her all the more. As they touched down from their little broom ride, she invited him to see her family's secret garden, an opportunity he was flattered to have been offered.

 

"Rose, huh? It suits you. Meanwhile, mine's just Christopher. Boring, right?"

 

Without thinking, his fingers laced through hers. Gripping her hand, he led her to the gate and tried to peer past the thick overgrowth that had settled on it. And although Linus wasn't always this discerning, he didn't miss the irony of the moment: he had rescued Briar from the confines of her room, only to bring her to another private, enclosed space. It hadn't even occurred to him how much trouble she could get into if her parents or Albert caught them in the backyard like this, let alone that it might look all the worse since Linus was a boy they'd never met before. And maybe all this just meant he was a bad influence on Briar, but he liked to think they were a bad influence on each other.

"Well, after you!"

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"Christopher's not boring!" There wasn't a single thing Briar found boring about Linus. Every minute spent with him, she discovered something new about him that made her like him even more: just a few minutes ago on her bed, Briar had noticed the shadow of his eyelashes exaggerated by the sun through her window and stopped to admire the darkness and length, before her eyes trailed down to the slope of his nose, the softness of his lips.

 

The things she noticed were trivial and superficial, but she couldn't help herself; Briar could actually admire a boy up-close without him scrambling to file an report to keep her away, and as timed passed by, she began to view Linus as everything she wanted. That didn't mean the only things she noticed about him were physical attributes, however.

 

Linus, who'd begun as a thought ("Kaelyn has a brother??") to a picture (digging through Kaelyn's trunk, of course) to a physical being (that had almost become victim to a poorly concocted love potion) to a friend who taught her how to fly, or at least hover, to a boyfriend who made her giggly and a bit useless, but an overall better person. Briar had become a bit more sensible and a bit less crazed because she had someone else to focus on. And as she focused on Linus, she realised he was more than a crush-turned-boyfriend but someone she wanted to hold onto for a long while. He was kind, clever, fun, and other words her 14 year old brain couldn't think of (affable? delightful? she was stupid).

 

Once they managed to unlock the gate, which took a few tries because the key had rusted from the changing weather, Briar kicked aside some of the overgrown fern covering the path and led Linus around, although she herself felt lost in the green wonderland. The last time Briar had been in the garden, she was nine and her grandmother wasn't dead. Now she was fourteen and the flowers were bursting with life, vines climbing something (it was hard to tell because there was so much greenery -- also, Briar aka I am dumb and don't know anything about plants).

 

"Do you want to sit somewhere?" She asked, looking around for a spot. Every soft patch of ground, she knew, would immediately sink a few centimetres; most of it was covered loosely by plants. "Or, like, I don't know, I think there used to be a bench here somewhere... or I mean, we could just, like, stand. I don't know, I guess that's weird. But like, I guess it's also weird we're in here because this is kind of my grandma's home. And my Nana is dead." And then Briar stood on her tip toes and gave Linus a quick kiss because she flowers were romantic or whatever (although her grandma dying certainly wasn't romantic...or was it...???).

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Simply glad to be in Briar's company, Linus didn't mind that they were essentially just hanging out in her backyard. Despite the warm summer they were enjoying, and perhaps all the other things they could be doing, the Gryffindor was glad only to hold her hands and laugh with her. And now, being led into a garden that had assuredly been neglected for many years, Linus saw only opportunity.

 

"You know, if your parents never know that the lock's been undone, this could be our little secret..."

 

Although it was a small garden, the branches of the trees above them weaved diamonds with the light that passed through them. The grass was cool to the touch, and the seclusion of the place felt cozy. Not that Linus minded Briar's room, but he felt so much more at home here. It was green, and open, and could be more than just a garden for them: it could be their retreat or hideaway. He took her sudden kiss as a confirmation of this sentiment, and he felt like he was tingling all over.

 

"Look, come here," he said, busying himself outside his thoughts.

 

Taking some rope that had been once used to portion off parts of the garden for different vegetables, he pulled it taut to ensure it had retained its strength. Next he walked over to the fence that bordered Briar's neighbor and splintered a plank off the top that had been overgrown with vines. With these in hand, he thought for a moment, looking up for steady branches. As he was tying one end of the wood up, he walked briskly past Briar and gave her small kiss on his way to grabbing the broom he had used to whisk them down from her room. Elevating without so much as a pause, he pulled the length of the rope across the main branch of the largest tree in the garden, then came down and finished tying the other end of the plank.

 

He had just made a swing.

 

"Here, sit! Try it out!"

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This could be our little secret. Briar didn't have many, if any, secrets. Everybody who knew her knew she was a lunatic. She didn't try to hide anything, not that she didn't try -- she just couldn't keep her fat mouth shut. Secrets were fun. They were things to whisper about during sleepovers and to share spit through handshakes. Briar didn't have anything to tell Addison about (family life didn't count because her family sucked and wasn't important). Just to have something to talk about that would make her more interesting than a hardboiled egg, Briar agreed cheerfully, "Yeah, it can be our little secret." Surely Linus knew by now that "our" meant his, hers, and Addison's.

Lost in her thoughts about secrets (she was now fantasizing about secrets galore: Linus and Briar rescuing six dogs together, Linus and Briar flying off to a foreign country and having a holiday, Linus and Briar adopting Addison because she needed non-cardboard guardians, etc.), she was completely shocked by the makeshift swing Linus was now pointing at. "Wow, I can't even make a paper airplane and you can do this!" She enthused, clapping her hands excitedly. "I love swings!" And then she kept clapping because she was too afraid to get on the swing.

 

There was something about not having her feet planted firmly on the ground that made her stomach drop, and not in the good way. Although being on a swing wasn't that similar to being on a broom, both gave Briar the feeling she would hurl. At least when she flew, she could hold onto Linus. The two of them couldn't get on the swing or they'd break it (probably).

 

After a prolonged session of clapping, Briar pointed at the bed of grass next to the swing. "Let's sit... like, stay on the ground. Or like lie down, and stay on the ground. Or just... like, not float for a while." Hopefully Linus wasn't too attached to his creation.

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Sometimes, Linus couldn't help but be impressed with himself. When the disparate items he had grabbed had come together to make a swing, he hadn't even really formed the idea of it in his head. It was as if there could have been no other solution, no other possibility that existed in this garden beyond that, and that Briar would be ecstatic to use it.

 

But when she nervously declined (even after saying she loved swings?), he wasn't really that disappointed. If anything, he was glad that she thought it was cool, but should have been prepared for such a response. Briar was basically useless on a broom, which was a far more common wizarding apparatus by comparison. Linus smiled as she invited him onto the grass, though; indeed, this seemed a far more inviting choice.

 

Walking over, he spun around her playfully, wrapping his arms around her in a hug. With a smile, he leaned back, still holding tight, so that they both fell onto the grass together. A laugh escaped his lips as she landed on him, and he looked at her closely as they lay there. He hadn't said anything in a few minutes, and neither had Briar. It was a rare, but much welcome quiet. It was in the shade of that large tree that provided the centerpiece to her grandmother's garden that they both began to drift into and out of their daydreams. And just as his eyelids began to grow heavier, Linus gently moved Briar's hair out of her face so that he could see her all the better.

 

"Today was a good day, wasn't it...?"

 

And with that they napped, alone together in their secret garden.

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