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Josephine Tindall

You've got a white hot heart

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Josephine Tindall

The month of October was passing by quickly but a hint of summer warmth lingered in the air. It was these moments that Jo held onto, seeking company with whichever friend would indulge her that day. Today it was Bitsy that had accompanied her to the lakeside and, as Jo settled comfortably on the ground away from the other groups of students taking sanctuary from the confines of the castle and classes, she offered her friend a crooked grin.

 

Crooked just like her personality.

 

The trees surrounding the outskirts of the forest and fringing on the lake were a mix of a turning brown and golden the freckled Ravenclaw glanced down at her arms, the fading freckles a reminder that her summer was over and when she returned to Hackney again in the winter she'd be a stranger once more. 

 

The thought made her wrinkle her nose in displeasure. 

 

Toes free and boots discarded to the side, Jo flopped backwards and blinked green eyes up the sky. The real sky, not the enchanted one of their room. Usually she preferred that one, but lately the Ravenclaw went out of her way to avoid it. Often coming up with excuses as to why she couldn't meet her friends or just not turning up at all and shrugging it off later.

 

They should be used to her indifference by now.

Edited by Josephine Tindall

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Bitsy Pollen

Like Jo, Bitsy had flopped onto her back. Only, there were a number of steps the Slytherin had taken before she’d met earth. Firstly, Bitsy had checked which bits of ground were the most amenable to sit on, being so close to the water (which was a practical measure anyone should take prior to lakeside fun). Second, she’d removed each shoe with some moderate exactness; lain them adjacent to their fall, and faced them Northwards: towards the castle, to home. 

When Bitsy did rest, it was thirty seconds later, her skirts pleated. Despite all precautions, she looked a bit like a turtle at a ball.  

 “Hey.” At least her language was… super chill?

 

Shaking her head, the girl sighed. She settled against the grass (open, beige, like a shawl of muted light). It had taken Bitsy the better part of two years at Hogwarts to learn that she didn’t need to be so stuffed, but habits were hard to break. Sometimes. 

 

 “That one looks like a Demiguise!” Bitsy pointed up at a cloud. Action was a current Bitsy had always been able to summon, even when she didn’t mean to—didn't want to, shouldn't, couldn't—whatever her accessible steps. But, here, today, the sky above them was almost entirely blue, semi-clear with clouds, all shapes floating glass. Happy, still heart-charged with the heat of nearby cornflowers, the fruit from breakfast, Bitsy poked at Jo. To the turn of her head, Jo was a bullet of something darker than her hands (hair, robes, disposition) in that last flicker of summer. The other was rough, like stone, she thought, staggered under the blue. 

It was wonderful.

 

“Y’know,” Bitsy snorted (forgivable), “except that Demiguises are invisible creatures, so you wouldn’t be able to see one–even if it WAS a cloud. Or could be.” 

Bitsy nodded, only to herself, so her chin puffed against her neck. Turtle for real. “I have yet to read of animals changing their matter without the help of transfiguration.” 

 

She smiled, too, because Bitsy was not indifferent or crooked (or cool). Bitsy was a raw nerve. Each day, her intentions reached out like belly of a jellyfish; her oceans screamed.  

Edited by Bitsy Pollen

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Josephine Tindall

They were at that glorified Summer School that had felt more like a prison to Jo. Depriving her of her last summer in Hackney as one of them, depriving her of the life she had grown so accustom to, the life that fit her like her favourite sweatshirt—the oversized one, grey in colour (Jo only did muted colours) with some emblem she didn't really understand but loved anyway because it was something one of her idiot older brothers loved and almost all her clothes had once belonged to them. 

 

It was at that place she first met Bitsy.

 

She remembered the moment that this shiny blonde girl stood up and demanded everyones attention. Clean, polished and speaking with an eloquence that was like a foreign language to the girl from Hackney (Born and Raised).

 

Jo hadn't liked her back then. 

 

"Hey," she replied and that was that, green eyes still blinking up at the foreverness of the blue. 

 

It was the second time when Bitsy had been part of that hysterical scene with Magda (and Lucas, a shared connection that had surprised Jo) that she had seen something she liked—no it was more than liked, she had seen something she respected in this girl from worlds away.

 

Bitsy was still shiny and blonde, poised (only sometimes) and eloquent but not. 

 

Jo had glimpsed it that day but now had seen more, scratched under the surface to where people were real, raw and exposed to find that what was beyond the cover was even better. Now she knew what people mean't when they said 'Don't judge a book by it's cover.' 

 

And as Bitsy rambled about a creature that Jo didn't know she laughed, head rolling to the side and catching Bitsy at an angle that wasn't at all flattering that made Jo laugh harder from the depths of her belly.

 

"You are so weird." Jo announced, stated as fact and delivered with affection. She pushed herself up onto her elbows and peered down at the Slytherin. "What about a caterpillar? They change."

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Bitsy Pollen

 

“A caterpillar?” Bitsy echoed, blinked. She was not so much startled by the other’s laughter. It was that she hadn’t considered the possibility of a non-magical creature before Jo had suggested it.  

 

“I hadn’t thought of caterpillars!” Bitsy admitted brightly. With each year, Bitsy was learning (more and more) that there were ways she could falter. Yet, there were also new ways in which she could grow! Before Hogwarts, Bitsy had often been alone. If she’d met others, it was within the confines of some meticulous schedule, and with a sect of more calculated, established companions. Five-course dinners. Elaborate balls. She’d always known how to perform in such circumstances. Beatrice Pollen did not often do it well—stumbling and bubbled with her same ocean's churn—but she knew the square of a youngest daughter. Primed and not primal, she avoided the topics she'd fail.  

 

On her own, here (laying in the wetness of wild grass), Bitsy had met with another ill-performance. Josephine Tindall was not someone she knew how to answer. The other was a body that slipped: her needs wriggled like a fish caught live in a hand. Bitsy had scoured the Atlantic in her youngest years in some similar yearnings, attempting the miracle of a raw catch. She’d be a hunter, she’d thought! A master of all she beheld, and any who attempted to evade her: even the missile of a ladyfish, the squish of a smalleyed ray.

 

Any missing bottle could belong to her. 
 

When she'd gone home empty-handed, she'd had to learn, too, that there were things you could not capture. Predict. It should have been a discomfort that Jo seemed to be one of them, but it wasn't. Strangely? What was it, then, to say the wrong thing and not have it matter? To be 'weird' and not really care? 

 

Bitsy didn’t get to her arms, but kept looking upwards—smiling, snuggling closer into the earth. Still a bellied turtle, and totally thrilled. “I suppose I haven’t done as much research on the animal, given that my background is magical.

“I loathe to admit it,” Bitsy confessed, “but my education up until now has been predominantly magic-focused. As required.” 

 

Ah, right, it was all because Jo wasn’t required. She was a friend she had chosen, and they were both shoeless. Together! Free! Discussing the theories of the universe at large! What a wonder. (What a gift.) 


“All things considered, all living things change, though. Magical or otherwise. Even humans! We change, too!” Or, Bitsy was changing. She could feel it. They were children, had been children, and would continue to be children, but each heartbeat steered them both forward. Each day was a treble of potential, and Bitsy counted each magnificent thrum.

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Josephine Tindall

Bitsy Pollen used the word loathe and it sounded normal.

 

For it was Bitsy.

 

It was so innately her

 

Jo looked at this prim and proper girl (who wore lovely white gloves to Hackney!) and thought she was looking at some sort of mythical creature. Bitsy was everything Jo would never be and yet—could never be—and yet she felt an odd kinship, similarities that ran deep beneath the surface that she couldn't quite explain or put her finger on. But it was a feeling, a knowing and Jo was glad for it. 

 

She bit the inside of her cheek, suppressing another laugh and hiding her wolfish grin. The blonde Slytherin girl with the double chin (the angle was so humorously unflattering that she could not directly look at her friend without feeling a laugh brewing in her belly desperate for escape) was laying in the grass confessing to her and Jo felt comfortable—happy and warm—with the sharing.

 

She didn't feel the need to escape. There was no frantic searching of her mind looking for an excuse to cut and run because sharing was uncomfortable and it mean't being exposed—vulnerable

 

Josephine Tindall didn't do vulnerable.

 

At least she hadn't until now. 

 

"Right? And my education has been undecidedly non-magical," Jo added, picking at a few blades of grass and holding them in her palm. She watched as the light breeze attempted to take them away, failing due to it's weakness. "The same but opposite. Or something," Jo murmured. 

 

She sighed, letting the blades fall along with Bitsy's words.

 

"This is true," Jo agreed. "Our change isn't as instant though. Like caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. We don't just hide away and then return...beautiful. It's more," she paused, wrinkling her nose as she considered her words. Did she need to consider them with Bitsy? Did she need to be careful? Had Jo been laying in the grass with either Winston or Lucas (even Magda or Brooklyn who had yet to experience this change) this was not a conversation she'd entertain having at all. "It's more gradual." Yes, gradual. Jo nodded, happy with the choice of words.

 

"Some things though," Jo cleared her throat, glancing down at her chest. "Well...y'know?" Did she know? 

 

"I kind of wish some things didn't change because I want certain things to stay the same." Jo admitted, flopping back into the grass and turtling herself into the ground. 

Edited by Josephine Tindall

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Bitsy Pollen

“Oh.”

 

Oh.

 

Bitsy may have been prone to as much book learning as the next nerd, and, as she’d admitted, she didn’t often read social cues as well as she did the dates of Wizarding History, the names of the animals they’d mentioned in full. Still, Bitsy didn’t need a textbook to determine the root origins/implications of Josephine’s tone. Jo’s nose tilted downwards, the brown bridge briefly sharp with light, and Bitsy followed, and Bitsy knew, and Bitsy understood her. 

 

Because if both girls were turtles, they were turtles with MASSIVE—

 

Bitsy flipped over and onto her front. The fall was cushioned, if you get what I saying (I’m sure you do, because, let’s cut out the Huffledung here, we’re all adults)—because Beatrice Pollen was recently thirteen, and she’d had a whole summer to contemplate what came with these changes. Bitsy wasn’t a butterfly either. She hadn’t stored herself away inside her sister’s greenhouse, cradled in some lightness of silk, peeling. She had not split and re-emerge in new symmetry. Instead, teenaged Bitsy had bubbled up like two eggs on hot cement. Burst like a stovepot full of water, set on high. She—

 

“I hate it.” Bitsy looked at her friend decisively: needled her blue into green. She could have drawn blood.

 

“I can’t run at the beach the same way. It hurts too much. Tulip, my House Elf, spent the summer re-stitching my blouses. Mother says I have to launch on society now. Launch! I’m sorry, am I some sort of ship? My body’s betrayed me!” A vessel of suffering! “Honestly, I look like Winona now. I look–”

 

Bitsy stopped, crushed in a thought she could not name, suddenly very much aware how she’d busted out a monologue, complete with Shakespearean run-time (hark, what breasts through yonder puberty break? They are both melons, like really big suns). See, this is what Bitsy meant by the whole current she couldn’t control bit from earlier. The whole not cool thing she had going on constant like some Muggle refrigerator, screaming cold noise into the kitchen. Buzzing white smoke long past bedtime. The door was open. She’d flooded the whole damn room. 

 

“Not that you have to have the same problems as I do,” Bitsy rushed, again, released her gaze, too fast, too much, too—“or that I need you to take care of mine.” Crup, crup, crup—“You’re so cool, Jo”—Jo Tindall was from Hackney!—“so like,” frantically, Bitsy brushed a blonde strand from where her lips were quivering, forming those vague bursts of language and gut. She looked down. Her chin went back to its slump. “I’m sure you’ve made sense of all of this already. I don’t need you to pity me.”

 

Bitsy was changing, and she wanted the change—she wanted to change, grow stronger, better, the best that she could possibly be!—and she trusted Jo with her embarrassments, but, snatched in the moment, a younger Bitsy wished she could still. Since everything in life was either action or waiting, Bitsy theorised the impossible: that if they lay here for long enough, the world, too, would stop, and her shame could float from her hands like steam. Both girls could dissolve into the high grass, sugar on the landscape’s tongue—eternally watching the cycle of the clouds, bent to the hum and the crush of nearby bugs; their bodies whispering, still. They’d never grow up. 

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Josephine Tindall

“I hate it.”

 

Three words that when strung together were negative, toxic—poisonous words! Nothing good should come from such a sentiment and yet here was Jo, flopped while Bitsy had flipped, and blinking green into the blue of the sky and feeling relief. The knot of anxiety that had twisted and turned in her gut when these changes had grown (literally!) was dissolving.

 

She laughed, raspy and joyous. Not much delighted Josephine Tindall, a girl who’s emotions were contained and always controlled (constructed, minimalist in their ways) until the storm inside became too much and she broke. Usually it was a flood of anger or sadness, the red and blueish grays of the world. This though, it was green eyes crinkling at the corners and her vision spotted as she the bright sun interrupted them.

 

“I hate it too!”

 

She hated it so much.

 

But at least she wasn’t alone.

 

Summer had been feeling uncomfortable in her own skin. Tugging nervously on hems, pulling at her sleeves. It was her body wrapped in the sticky heat of Hackney with the eyes of strangers following her—a girl, just a girl.

 

Jo might’ve been a woman in the eyes of god but she was a girl a small leap from her fourteenth year, and she wasn’t nearly as cool as her leather jacket made her seem. She certainly wasn’t cool that night at the end of summer when Dean had pressed his lips to hers, his hand brushing the hair from her face and resting on the nape of her neck.

 

She had spent the subsequent days wondering if he’d done because of those changes or because…

 

No! Jo shook her head furiously, unwilling to let her mind go back there.

 

“What the hell is a launch?” A weird pureblood thing, perhaps? Jo gaped, wondering what it could possibly be but Bitsy's words continued. “You still look like Bitsy to me,” Jo offered. To be fair she’d only ever glimpsed Winona or heard Winston speak of the older Pollen sister. “I mean…sure other parts are bigger, but you’re still Bitsy.” She laughed, soft and earnest. “Restitched blouses and pretentious vocabulary included.”

 

And she was still Jo…or was she? Because the Jo prior to changes would never have kissed her brothers best friend.

 

Her brow furrowed at Bitsy’s words. “Huh?” She pushed herself back up onto her elbows, glancing down at the blonde next to her. Jo listened to her erratic ramble. Like a ride on a dodgy London bus, Jo held on for dear life and waited it out. Pity her? She could never. Bitsy could be fumbling and awkward at times but she was smart, sharp and quick like the crack of a whip.

 

“I don’t…what makes you think I pity you?” She shot up, twisting to look at Bitsy and clumsily whacking one of her own new assets in her haste. She winced for a moment and then reached a hand out to flick the turtling Bitsy on the forehead. “I am not cool,” she said, exasperated but the shadow of a smile on her lips. “But…ugh…I have made very little sense of it." Very little was essentially nothing and Jo pressed her lips together, huffing and thinking of the best way to say enough without saying too much. “It’s actually bloody messy when I even try.” So she’d opted to not. “But we’re friends.” Jo didn’t ask this, it was stated as fact because they were friends. Jo had invited Bitsy to Hackney and into the gritty parts of her life and now they were here, laying in the grass and sharing. “We help each other with our problems, even if they’re embarrassing. Two minds is better than one, right? Which is totally something you would say.”

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Bitsy Pollen

“Hey!” This time, the word was rightly informal as Jo reached out to twck a hand to the other girl’s head. Bitsy had laughed, too, however. Compared to Jo’s, her throat was more twittered like a bell, often clocked like a gong, but still, Bitsy had been laughing. Embarrassed, uncertain, Bitsy Pollen still laughed.

 

"If you're not cool than I'm not pretentious," she chided. But, trust Jo to both praise and knock her out of her own self-obsession. For what it was worth, Bitsy hadn’t meant to turn the conversation to her own insecurities (thus, the pity), but perhaps she’d risk believing they were shared…

 

‘Cool’ or ‘not-cool’--with a finger strayed to the outside of her skull, skin darker-freckled with summer weather--to Bitsy, Josephine Tindall had made an injection. The stub of her nail was tipped with friendly poison. Transmit: longing, loneliness, loss. We both have them. Infected under the macro-big blue, both could share (learn) what it meant to be girls in a world that wanted them women. Young, of course, but still posed for public display.

 

“I don’t know what to make of it either,” Bitsy confirmed: not a thing that Bitsy did not think of, but a thing she did not know. The Slytherin sat up with Jo as she measured it, blinked in the direction of Jo's angular shoulder, smoothed over bone like glowing driftwood. Delivered to doors of their homes (Hackney or Cornwall, Hogwarts or Nowhere or Bath), puberty was parcel neither knew how to unwrap. Puberty! The physical process through which a child matures to adulthood: a signal of hormones for the brain, bones, muscle, skin, and other more capable organs to grow. Less specifically, it was a permanent wolf-turn: change of human into human, with understanding of the animal: fleshy, grotesques, gorgeous, mouth pitching upwards, catching moonlight, asking for blood.

 

Bitsy studied, prepared. Of course she’d read of hunger. But,


 

It was different to taste.


 

Bitsy wanted and she wanted, fruit bitten down to the pit. Physical changes were one thing, but the mind could reach too. Sometimes, Bitsy looked to boys. Darker corridors. A mirror. A split-open sea. And Bitsy wanted. Did Jo understand? What it felt to want to name a snake a snake, open teeth stained purple with blackcurrant, the resin, unforgiving the juice; each lip bitter-sweetened, fingernails reaching, each digit hallowed as it tore through the skin. Growing, Bitsy had dreams which hung clumsily inside of her jaw. When she woke from them, her skull sank in beat-stuccato, blinked through remainders of sound, taste (want). She looked at the sun and understood what it was to burn something unholy--


--and Bitsy had always been ambitious. I want, I want, I wish, I will, I do. This was not a new motto. What scared her was that this particular infection of girlhood had given her a more dangerous mouth. There were things she was beginning to want that she wasn’t allowed. There were things she did not know how to want. There were no rules for the ways she needed; or, if there were, they could not be practiced with authority.

 

Jo had said that she was still Bitsy, but she had to wonder…

 

Two minds is better than one, right?

 

“Yeah,” Bitsy decided. Her voice was as soft as sand in postcards. “Yeah!” It was a quick turn to exclamation, but Bitsy was always known to gather speed. They were friends. "And you’re still Jo.” Bitsy knew this explicitly, so… Logic had to extend that Bitsy was herself, too. Right? No matter what came next, because:

 

“Whatever you look like, you’ve never needed magic to turn the world on its head.” That was something that hadn’t changed from before, from when she’d met her (and she wanted forever), so. Bitsy smiled, let her chin rest against her friend’s shoulder. Her neck wasn’t squished any longer. Bitsy was no longer a turtle, and neither was Jo, but the girls would be okay in this change, too. Because Jo was an anchor. (Nestled near the earlobe, Bitsy thought she was warm.)

 

“We can deal with it together. Whatever happens.” Jo was a friend that she’d chosen. She’d choose her every time.  


“And I’m always here to listen, or research!” More books! She leaned backwards to poke Jo's head in return, not a full hand, but purposeful, direct. Injected her own virus into the skin, the index settled there. And, and, and,  “And if you want me to steal Winston’s glasses from the dorm until you’re more comfortable, or mess with his assignments so his name reads WINST--” its obvious, “I will!”

 

Most days, Bitsy was trying to be cool but instead she turned the heat up. Teenagehood would be no exception.

Edited by Bitsy Pollen

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