Brave At Heart

They protect
our families.

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  2. Brave At Heart Meaning
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  5. Cigna E4e Relief

So let's protect theirs.

Brave at Heart Preschool has a well-rounded curriculum with elements of Montessori, Emergent Curriculum, Multiple Intelligence, Creative Curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, Brite Kids, Whole-Child Approach, Love and Logic, and more. We strive to meet the children where they are and help them grow and develop at a personal and age-appropriate rate. Brave at Heart: The Life and Lens of Walter Victor Hardcover – July 1, 2007. Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. The 'brave heart' refers in Scottish history to that of Robert the Bruce, and an attribution by William Edmondstoune Aytoun, in his poem Heart of Bruce, to Sir James the Good Douglas: 'Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart, As thou wert wont of yore!' , prior to Douglas' demise at the Battle of Teba in Andalusia.

  1. Brave at Heart Preschool has a well-rounded curriculum with elements of Montessori, Emergent Curriculum, Multiple Intelligence, Creative Curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, Brite Kids, Whole-Child Approach, Love and Logic, and more. We strive to meet the children where they are and help them grow and develop at a personal and age-appropriate.
  2. Providing equine-assisted activities and therapies with teams of expert staff, dedicated volunteers and therapy horses at multiple safe and caring facilities.

The New York Life Foundation is matching all individual contributions up to $25M.

Start the grant process by verifying your eligibility to apply for a Brave of Heart Fund grant.

About the Fund

Together, New York Life and Cigna, through our foundations, created the Brave of Heart Fund, dedicated to providing healthcare workers and their families with peace of mind. The Fund is designed to provide financial support in the form of charitable relief grants to support the families of healthcare workers who lose their lives to COVID-19.

In addition, Cigna behavioral health will provide emotional support and services.

If you have lost a family member who is a healthcare worker to COVID-19, please verify your eligibility to apply now.

Start the grant process by verifying your eligibility
to apply for a Brave of Heart Fund grant.

Coping with COVID-19

Cigna has made available a range of resources to support behavioral and emotional health and well-being. Available to anyone facing challenges related to COVID-19, these resources include advice for coping with stress, fear and anxiety, living with grief and loss, building resiliency, self-care and relaxation techniques, as well as finding childcare and financial best practices in uncertain times. Special topics and on-demand webinars are created especially for healthcare workers.

Find more at Cigna COVID-19 Resource Center

Mindfulness program

Front-line workers can suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety, especially during times of crisis. That’s why Cigna launched its Mindfulness for Healthcare Workers program.

It provides training in mindful stress management, acceptance and compassion for all healthcare workers and families.

Brave At Heart

Live guided-relaxation by telephone will be available.

Tuesdays, 4:00 PM Central Time.
Call-in number: (866) 205-5379

An automated voice will ask you for a passcode: enter 113 29 178 then press #.

Pre-recorded podcasts are available here.

$100 M+

With support from individuals and organizations, our goal is to provide more than $100M in financial assistance.

$50 M

Brave of Heart Fund, powered by E4E Relief, seeded by $25M contributions by the founding donors, the New York Life Foundation and Cigna Foundation.


The New York Life Foundation will match the first $25M in individual contributions to the Fund.

Should you be donating through your company's third-party workplace giving provider, please contribute to the Brave of Heart Fund by searching first for the host charitable partner, Foundation For The Carolinas (an independent 501(c)3 public charity) and note the gift for Brave of Heart Fund in the memo field or designation field.

Our Supporters

In addition to the New York Life Foundation and Cigna Foundation, contributions to the Brave of Heart Fund come from many other individuals, foundations, and corporate supporters. With their help, we'll ensure that the families of front-line workers are cared for in their time of need.

Responders ($500k - $2.499M)

Grief Resources

For 175 years New York Life has helped families in times of grief, and now is no exception. That’s why we're providing a variety of resources to assist grieving families.

Research shows that families who lose a loved one wish they had more support available to them. As a corporate leader in providing childhood bereavement support, New York Life stands ready to help both financially and emotionally, having donated nearly $16 million to educational and bereavement programs in 2019.

Share, Love and Support

Please spread the word - especially with those you know on the front lines - and help us take care of those who take such good care of us.

Making News

The Brave of Heart Fund is making an impact - and local and national media has noticed. Browse the media coverage of our Fund.

Don't hate me if you were expecting an update to I Love You, Bye. It's coming, I promise. But this got a lot of attention on tumblr and a request for me to put it up on here was made, so I wanted to make it accessible beyond tumblr.

The plan is to turn it into a multi-chapter. We'll see how fast that goes.

By the way, I'll defend my House choices. Fight me.

Night is falling on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and for the first time since May, the castle is alight with noise and excitement as students gather for the opening feast of the school year. Professor Regina Mills settles into her seat at the head table as all the young wizards and witches file into the hall, laughing and chattering with friends long lost to the lazy days of summer.

She sends a few smiles to students who wave at her as they take their seats, proudly filling up the Gryffindor table. The front most place settings are left empty for the new first years yet to be sorted in their houses, but that doesn't stop her rambunctious pupils from elbowing each other to get seats closest to the head table. She nods at Elsa Frost, the new Head Girl and former Gryffindor Prefect, as the fresh seventh year takes her place nearest where the first years will soon sit. Miss Frost is diligent, intelligent, and quick- an obvious choice for Head Girl (and how proud had Regina been when Merlin told her a student from her own house would be chosen for such an honor).

'And another school year begins,' a sweet voice sighs. Regina turns just as Professor Mary Margaret Nolan takes the place beside her at the long table.

'And so it does. We're going to need a lot of alcohol with this seventh year class,' Regina mutters, reaching for her goblet of wine.

'Oh, I know,' Mary Margaret agrees, scooting her chair in. 'It'll be a miracle if any of them pass their NEWTs.'

'Do you have many students in your NEWT class this year? I only have seven in mine.'

'I have eleven which is more than I was expecting,' Mary Margaret replies. 'David has twenty-three, but he accepts students with 'Meets Expectations' on their OWLs, so I guess he'd naturally have more.'

'Maybe I should change my pre-requisite from 'Outstanding' to 'Exceeds Expectations,' Regina muses. 'Might increase my enrollment a little bit.'

'I did that last year and only got a few more students. Of course, Muggle Studies isn't exactly required for a lot of careers, so that could be why.'

'What do you teach in a NEWT-level Muggle Studies class?' Regina asks. 'I've always wondered.'

'Oh, stuff like how electricity works, muggle medicine, basic muggle philosophies,' Mary Margaret lists off. 'It can be quite difficult for students who come from purely wizarding families.'

Regina hums her understanding and takes another sip of wine. Personally, she's always found Muggle Studies to be, well, a tad boring. Not as boring as History of Magic (bless Professor French's heart), but certainly not as exciting as Charms or Transfiguration or, of course, Potions.

'Did you hear about what happened to poor Professor Midas?' Mary Margaret gasps suddenly and a bit too dramatically.

'No, I didn't. I haven't seen her yet.'

'That's because she's not returning,' Mary Margaret explains, lowering her voice. 'She had a terrible accident on the pitch last week. A bludger knocked her right in the head. Poor thing can barely remember her own name.'

'Oh, that's awful,' Regina sympathizes. She's always liked Professor Midas. The quidditch madam is sharp and diligent and rarely takes shit from anyone- qualities Regina both admires and emulates.

'I know. It's a shame, isn't it?' Mary Margaret sighs, shaking her head.

Regina resists the urge to roll her eyes. Mary Margaret is a sweet person, but it's no secret she doesn't like Kathryn Midas. And it's no secret Kathryn Midas has had a crush on Mary Margaret's husband David for years, so as devastated as Mary Margaret may seem, Regina suspects she's not actually all that heartbroken over the quidditch master's departure.

'Any word on who's filling her role?' Regina asks.

'Not that I've heard, but it's only been a week. Can't expect Merlin to have found someone so quickly.'

'I've learned not to expect anything from Merlin. Mostly because everything he does is unexpected,' Regina replies, jumping when something fuzzy brushes against her arm. 'Oh, Dumbledore's beard, Anton! You scared me half to death!'

The large and hairy man laughs jovially as he sits down next to her, robust stomach pressing into the table's edge. 'Sorry 'bout that, Professor Mills. Didn't mean to make ya jump.' Anton leans forward a bit to smile at Mary Margaret. 'Professor Nolan, how are ya?'

'Wonderful, Anton, how are you?' Mary Margaret answers with a smile.

'Been better if I'm being honest. Had a heck of a time gettin' the students offa the train.'


'Well, you know Violet Kaylor, o' course.'

Regina nods needlessly. She does indeed know Violet Kaylor. The young girl had made quite the impression last year after being sorted into Gryffindor- not only was she extremely bright, but she helped reveal the evil intentions of former professor Isaac Heller who had wanted to steal the Sorcerer's Stone in a misguided attempt to revive… You Know Who. She's one of the most promising Gryffindors Regina's ever had the pleasure of teaching. 'I can't imagine Miss Kaylor causing trouble on the train,' Regina says in surprise.

'Oh, she was putting up quite a fuss,' Anton explains. 'Saying somethin' 'bout how Henry 'n Roland didn't get on the train 'n that somethin' musta happened to 'em. They're probably just upta trouble again.' The small giant chuckles hartily. 'You know how much trouble those two can get upta, 'o course, Professor Mills.'

Regina sighs and nods. Henry Colter and Roland Knight are two of her more headache-inducing students. They could be brilliant students if they put as much effort into their studies as they put into their mischief making. Somehow, they managed to rope Violet Kaylor into their group and it always seems to be the three of them getting into some kind of trouble together. Or rather, Henry and Roland get into some kind of trouble and Violet has to get them out of it. And even still, Regina herself has had to step in to make sure they don't do anything that could permanently harm themselves or someone else. They often don't mean to cause problems, but given Henry's… unique circumstances, he's more often than not pulled into things beyond his control.

Brave At Heart

Still, given their track record, Regina would bet ten galleons that Mr. Colter and Mr. Knight are up to absolutely no good at the moment, much to Miss Kaylor's annoyance.

'And what kind of trouble do you think they're getting into presently?' Regina asks Anton suspiciously.

The giant coughs as he takes a drink. 'I dunno, professor. Could be anythin' wit those two,' he answers innocently.

Regina narrows her eyes. More often than not, Anton is privy to the mischief making of Colter, Knight, and Kaylor and occasionally has a hand in their troublemaking as well. But she doesn't get to question him further on the matter because just then, the double doors at the back of the hall open and Professor French comes striding in with a gaggle of nervous first years following behind her.

'I hope you get a good group,' Mary Margaret whispers as the Great Hall grows quiet. 'David has been fretting that he'll hardly get any new students. Hufflepuff's been having a bit of a drought lately.'

Regina nods once, eyes fixed on the Sorting Hat resting on a stool at the front of the hall. David has a tendency to air on the side of the dramatic. And yes, there have been fewer Hufflepuffs in recent years, but every house goes through a dry spell. Personally, she's amazed her own house hasn't dropped in numbers lately, considering… well, considering she's the head of it.

The first years congregate in front of the Sorting Hat, looking at Professor French, around the hall, at Merlin studying them approvingly from his grand chair. It's silent, only the shuffling of feet and occasional cough break the quiet as everyone waits. And then:

'Oh, you may not think I'm pretty

But don't judge on what you see

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black

Your top hats sleek and tall

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.'

Regina smirks as several first years jump, startled by the song ringing loudly from the mouth of the battered, patched hat before them. Muggle-borns, no doubt, unaccustomed to the many strange sights they're about to encounter.

Anton taps his foot jovially beside her, bobbing his head in time with the Sorting Hat's singing. Mary Margaret smiles pleasantly at the first years, her fingers tapping her knee in the same rhythm as Anton.

All the students sitting at the four long tables seem to also be enjoying the annual song, erupting into cheers when the Hat sings the accolades of their respective house. Ravenclaw shouts a chant with synchronized clapping, Slytherin stomps their feet, and Hufflepuff starts the wave. When the Hat begins its verse about Gryffindor, Regina's students create quite a ruckus- banging on the table, clanging plates and bowls together, hooting and whooping. Several of them look at her as they cheer and she tries to smile in return, but her lips are tight.

The Hat waxes eloquent about being brave, courageous, and valiant, and Regina holds her breath. She's none of those things. She's never been any of those things and yet, here she sits, head of Gryffindor House. What was Merlin thinking, putting her in such a position? She can't… she can't lead these students who are brave and courageous and valiant. She'll let them down, she'll mislead them, she'll fail them, she'll-

A hand on her shoulder makes her jump, and she whips around at the unexpected touch, frowning immediately when she sees who stands behind her.

'Professor Gold,' she says lowly, coolly. 'Is there something I can help you with?'

The old man looks surprisingly happy. Giddy, almost. 'Oh, yes, Professor Mills, there is indeed something you can help me with,' he answers with a nauseating smile. 'I believe I've found some of your… belongings.'

Regina raises an eyebrow, unimpressed. 'Going through my drawers again, Gold? What, did Professor French finally kick you out of her bed?'

He ignores her barb and practically giggles. 'If I recall correctly, the power to expel students is left up to their Head of House, is it not?'

Regina narrows her eyes. 'Yes… it is.'

'Well, then come along, professor. It's time you put that authority to good use,' Gold says, barely waiting for Regina to stand before he's turning and walking back the way he came.

Regina rises slowly, eyes still narrowed as she drops her napkin onto the table. She glances up at her students, most of whom are still engrossed in the Sorting, but she catches the eye of one Violet Kaylor who is watching her with rapt, almost panicked, attention. Regina breathes out slowly as she turns to follow Professor Gold out of the hall. Anton had said Miss Kaylor had been fretting that Mr. Colter and Mr. Knight hadn't gotten on the train. Dumbledore help her, she can only imagine what trouble Gold's caught them doing now.

'A flying car?!' Regina cries as they descend their way to the dungeons and Gold's office.

'A Ford Anglia to be exact,' Gold confirms cheerfully, half skipping down the stairs.

Regina takes a deep breath, knuckles white as she grips the banister. 'And they were seen?' she sighs.

'Oh, yes. By six or seven muggles at least.'

Regina scowls. 'Considering this is a pretty dire situation, you could at least try to not appear so pleased about it,' she snaps.

'But I've been waiting for this moment for over a year,' Gold replies as they reach the bottom of the stairs. 'I only wish I had the honor of expelling Colter and Knight myself.'

Regina purses her lips as she follows Gold to his office door, resisting the urge to light more torches on the walls. It's so… dreary down here. Dreary and wet and depressing. As a student, she always hated the walk to Potions class for the sole reason of having to walk through the dungeons. How anyone can get any work done down here- Professor Gold or otherwise- is beyond her.

It's much the same in Gold's office when they enter- very little light, very little windows, and very little warmth to be found. The only difference between the corridor and Gold's office is the palpable feel of anxiety strangling the air inside the cluttered room. Anxiety that is visibly radiating off the two young boys sitting in the chairs before Gold's desk.

Henry Colter stands immediately when his professors enter, probably a million and one explanations and excuses on the tip of his tongue. He's grown over the summer, Regina notes. His robes are a size too small and his brown hair is an inch too long, but it hides his scar almost completely and she'd bet he's quite pleased with that. He's lost weight and a lot of it, no doubt a side effect of living with his horrible aunt and uncle. Still, he looks so much like his father. So, so much…

Henry opens his mouth, but Regina raises an eyebrow and not a word passes his lips.

Regina reaches into her robes and pulls out her wand, ignoring the flinch of both boys as she lights a fire in the severely neglected fireplace behind Gold's desk. She looks at Henry and then down to Roland who has yet to move a muscle. He's grown over the summer too, but not nearly as much and not nearly enough. Poor thing. He's young. Over a year and a half younger than the other students in his class and it shows. He's short and skinny and still has that cherubic quality in his cheeks that screams youth. He shouldn't even be at Hogwarts yet, but Merlin had insisted he start early and not for the first time, Regina wonders if that was the right decision.

She looks back at Henry. 'Sit,' she orders shortly. Her eyes flicker back and forth between them. 'Explain,' she commands, hands going to her hips.

'Professor Mills, it's not our fault,' Henry begins immediately. 'We were at King's Cross and the barrier to the platform was closed somehow so we couldn't get through -'

'Yeah, we ran right into the wall!' Roland interjects.

'And we missed the train,' Henry continues. 'We didn't really know what to do, but then Roland remembered his foster mum had driven her car to the station the day before last when she took a train to East Horseley for the week and so we thought we could just fly ourselves to school because the car has an invisibility feature and so we figured there'd be no harm in it, but halfway in, the invisibility charm malfunctioned and… well, I guess you've seen the papers by now. But we didn't mean to have muggles see us and we certainly didn't mean to hurt the Whomping Willow. If anything, that dumb tree hurt us more than we hurt it, and-'

'Enough,' Regina interrupts, holding up a hand. She levels Henry with a raised eyebrow and he shrinks into his robes, swallowing heavily. She shouldn't be surprised. She really, really shouldn't. Colter and Knight getting into trouble and having several thousand excuses as to why they didn't mean it? Nothing new there. But what they've done is inexcusable this time. It's beyond just simply breaking Hogwarts rules. They've violated international wizard law. Exposed the wizarding world to muggles. Stolen magical property. Driven enchanted machinery without proper licenses. Gold, as much as it pains her to admit, is right. What they've done is grounds for expulsion.

Regina glances at the impish little man smiling giddily behind her. His thrill makes her sick. He may hate Colter and Knight for whatever twisted reason, but Regina certainly does not and she certainly does not find joy in their misfortune. And he does not have authority in this situation. She does.

Regina exhales slowly through her nose. 'Why did you not think to send us an owl?' she asks sternly, looking at Henry. 'I do believe you have an owl, Mr. Colter?'

Henry blinks once and then deflates. 'I- I didn't think-'

'That is quite obvious,' Regina interrupts. She turns to Roland. 'And you, Mr. Knight, surely there was someone you could have contacted to sort this out, instead of stealing your foster mother's car.'

Roland shakes his head, moppy brown curls flying. 'No, ma'am. Ms. Henning is away, as Henry said. And I haven't seen Mrs. Smirt- my caseworker- in weeks. I… I didn't know what else to do.'

Regina closes her eyes for a moment, then opens them. 'I have never been more disappointed in a pair of students before,' she says in a dangerously calm voice. 'And to think that two Gryffindors- two of my students- have done something so horrendous- I just cannot even articulate how disappointed I am in the both of you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.'

Henry hangs his head, guilt and defeat plain on his face. Roland sighs heavily and stands, shoulders slumped. 'I'll go get our bags,' he mutters, turning for the door.

'Whatever for?' Regina snaps.

Roland turns back, confused. 'Well, you're expelling us, aren't you?' he asks.

Regina exhales shortly. 'Not today, Mr. Knight,' she says.

Roland and Henry both gape at her and then at each other, eyes wide, not believing their luck. Gold, on the other hand, looks like Christmas has just been cancelled. Regina ignores him. 'You will not be expelled, but I must emphasize the seriousness of what you have done. Both of your respective guardians will be receiving letters about this and you will each serve a month's detention with me. And I will warn you now- if you put one more toe out of line, I will have no choice but to expel you. Understood?'

Both boys nod vigorously. 'Yes, Professor Mills. Absolutely.'

Regina nods once. 'Good. Now. Hurry on to the feast. It should just be starting and I'm sure you're both famished.'

They don't need to be told twice. Henry and Roland scurry out of the room as fast as they can, not daring to look back and no doubt still oogling at their miraculous good fortune.

Gold watches them leave and then whirls around on Regina, furious. 'You had no right-'

'Save it,' Regina snaps. 'I will not excessively punish two otherwise good students just because you don't like them.'

'Excessively punish?' Gold sputters incredulously. 'They broke international wizarding law! Simply expelling them would be a blessing! They're lucky they haven't been summoned to the Ministry yet!'

'Well, I'm sure if they are summoned, you will be the first witness to testify against them,' Regina hisses, moving to step past him.

Gold holds out his walking stick, blocking her path. 'You think this is going to win you brownie points?' he says coolly.

Regina glares. 'What the hell are you talking about?'

'You and I both know Colter and Knight should be expelled right now, but you didn't have the nerve to do it because you don't want to be the one to cast Henry Colter out of Hogwarts. What would people think of you then?' he goades.

'You know as well as I that Hogwarts is all either of those boys have,' Regina shoots back, pushing the walking stick out of her way. 'I'm not about to take it away from them over an honest mistake.'

'Spoken like a true Gryffindor,' Gold replies sarcastically. He tilts his head in faux interest. 'Tell me- how is your forearm?'

Regina stares at him hard for a long moment, clenching and unclenching her fists, wand just begging to be brandished. 'You leave my students alone,' she warns quietly. 'And stay away from me.' She brushes past him, and he lets her go, but they both know his words will sting all the way back to the Great Hall.

By the time Regina makes it back to her seat, the Sorting is long over and the feast already dug into. She quickly scans over the newly filled seats at the Gryffindor table and reaches an approximate count of eleven new house members. Not bad, considering the total number of new first years. Even better, considering… well, considering her.

'Do I want to know why Mr. Colter and Mr. Knight showed up twenty minutes late the feast?' Mary Margaret asks as Regina takes a long gulp of her wine.

'Oh, I won't have to tell you. Just open the latest edition of the Prophet,' Regina mutters.

Mary Margaret's eyebrows shoot up. 'The Prophet? What did they do?'

'Have you ever seen a flying car?' Regina asks.

'Uh, no… what-'

'Well, now seven muggles in London can say they have,' Regina says bitterly, reaching for the potatoes au gratin with a little too much force.

Mary Margaret shakes her head even as her mouth hangs open. 'My goodness,' she marvels. 'They must be in a world of trouble.'

Regina snorts a 'You have no idea,' just as Merlin rises from his grand chair and steps up to the podium. The Hall slowly grows quiet as student sush and cease their chattering, some of the first years craning their necks to get a view of their headmaster.

Merlin smiles warmly as he looks around at his students. 'Good evening,' he begins. 'And welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. We are thrilled to have each and every one of you with us for what will be a most excellent term. A few announcements, if you please. Firstly, I'd like to introduce you all to your Heads of Houses. Heading Ravenclaw, we have Professor Belle French.'

Ravenclaw erupts into cheers as their Head stands, blushing, and gives a small wave before retaking her seat.

'Heading Hufflepuff, we have Professor David Nolan,' Merlin goes on, extending a hand in David's direction.

Mary Margaret claps along with the students as her husband stands and nods. Regina rolls her eyes.

'Heading Gryffindor, we have Professor Regina Mills.'

Leave it to her students to be the loudest and most riotous. Regina stands and gives a small nod, biting back her smile as Kristoff Rein, a rambunctious fifth year, takes two serving tray lids and bangs them together.

'Thank you, Gryffindor,' Merlin says after Regina's students carry on for several moments longer than necessary.

Mary Margaret nudges Regina's arm. 'You have quite the fan club,' she whispers.

Regina smiles fleetingly. It's no secret her students like her. Too bad she's going to let each and every one of them down.

'And finally, heading Slytherin, we have Professor Alastor Gold.'

Gold doesn't stand, even as his House stomps its feet and a few students clap. He sits coolly in his chair, hands folded over the top of his walking stick. Regina peers down the table at him, feeling both satisfaction and anxiety at his obvious displeasure.

'First years, I hope you were paying attention,' Merlin continues. 'You will get to know your Head of House very well by the time you leave Hogwarts.' He clears his throat. 'Now, continuing with the announcements, we'd like to extend a warm welcome back to Professor Mary Margaret Nolan as she returns to her post as Muggle Studies professor after being on maternity leave last semester.'

Mary Margaret smiles and blushes, giggling an, 'Oh my,' as the Hall claps to welcome her back. She leans over and whispers, 'I wasn't expecting that,' when the Hall quiets once more.

'Secondly,' Merlin continues. 'I am happy to announce that our very own Anton Little will be taking over the long-vacant position of Care of Magical Creatures professor.'

The students erupt into much more riotous cheers at that, several of Regina's own tossing out whoops and 'Yeah, Anton!'s as the half-giant stands and waves out to the crowd. The applause goes on for much longer than necessary and Regina tugs on Anton's sleeve after awhile, pulling his attention from his adoring fans. 'Oh!' he startles, hurrying to sit down. 'Sorry, Professor Mills. Got a little carried away there,' he apologizes with a laugh.

'And finally, it is with deep regret that I announce that our quidditch madam, Professor Kathryn Midas, will not be returning to her post this year. She suffered an unfortunate accident on the pitch last week and is unable to perform her duties at this time.'

Whispering travels through the tables, no doubt lead by each House's quidditch team, wondering what such news means for their season.

'However, I am pleased to announce that the post of quidditch master will be filled this year by our newest staff member- Professor Robin Locksley.'

The whisperings turn into outright chatter, cries of excitement bursting forth from all throughout the Hall. Students stand and crane their necks, searching the head table for the new quidditch master who is not there. Anton huffs out a, 'How'd we manage to bag him?' and Mary Margaret gasps, 'What a minute… isn't that…'

Regina hears none of it. Barely sees any of it either, her brain short-circuiting for a minute. It can't be. It can't be. Merlin wouldn't… he couldn't… how could he? Her eyes laser in on Henry Colter, sitting at the Gryffindor table- her table- looking around excitedly with all the other students. He looks just like his father. God, he looks just like his father. And Robin, here, now, after everything, all these years-

Regina swallows and chances a glance down the table. Gold turns his head as she looks, a sinister, knowing smile inching across his face. He ever-so-subtly pushes up his robe sleeve and coasts a boney finger up and down his forearm.

Regina's stomach pitches and she lurches to her feet, bumping the table with her knee as she stands. Her only saving grace is that Merlin had restarted the feast and the students' attention is no longer on the head table.

'Regina, are you alright?' Mary Margaret asks, turning around in her chair as Regina half-trips her way past.

She ignores her. She ignores Mary Margaret and Anton and David and anyone else who asks after her. She needs to get some air. She needs to breathe. She needs get on a broomstick and fly far away from here. She stumbles out into the corridor, past paintings who also ask if she's okay, through the archway and into the courtyard. A stone bench saves her from landing on the ground as she drops down, her knees shaking too much to carry her weight. She inhales, exhales, again, again, tries to breathe, and tries to forget. One out of two isn't bad.

The feast is almost over, surely. It must be. She's been out here long enough. The moon is high tonight, higher than usual, and possibly brighter. The harvest must be coming soon. She'll have to ask Professor Jones. He'll know. Based on the moon, he'll probably also be able to tell her how good the harvest will be this year and if the muggles will have surplus or-

'The feast is inside, Professor Mills.'

Regina looks up, only slightly startled at the sound of Merlin's voice. She hadn't heard him coming, she never does, and she figured he'd find her eventually. He always does.

'I'm not hungry, sir,' she answers, clearing her throat.

Merlin nods and takes a few slow steps, hands clasped behind his back. 'No, I reckon you wouldn't be,' he says calmly. He stares up at the moon for a long moment, and then down at her, dark eyes full of understanding and mystery at the same time.

Regina looks away, suddenly feeling much younger and lifetimes away.

'Am I correct in understanding that Henry Colter and Roland Knight were seen driving a flying car by muggles?'

Regina looks back up, surprised. That's not at all what she expected him to lead with. 'Uh, yes, sir, they were. They also managed to damage the Whomping Willow a great deal.'

Merlin smiles. 'If I know that tree like I do, I'd wager it did a great deal more damage to them than they ever did to it.'

'That's what Colter said,' Regina says, trying to sit up to her full height and falling several inches short.

'And you chose not to expel them?'

'Sir, I couldn't-'

'I know,' Merlin interrupts, nodding. He looks back up at the moon. 'Hogwarts is all those boys have. It would be cruel to take it from them.'

Regina nods. She knew that. She knows that, it's why she didn't expel them in the first place, back when she was able to keep her shit together. Damn it, Mills, get your shit together. 'Will they be summoned to the Ministry?' she asks.

Merlin shakes his head. 'No, I don't think so. And if they are, I will ensure no punishment comes to them. A month's detention is sufficient, I believe.'

Regina nods, not bothering to ask how he knows what punishment she dealt out. Merlin just knows. He always does.

Silence lingers for a long minute, the elephant in the room just waiting to be acknowledged.

'I take it Professor Locksley's appointment was a bit of a shock for you?' Merlin says finally, bringing his hands around to clasp them in front.

Regina laughs once, unsmiling. 'You could say that,' she manages.

Merlin nods. 'Yes, I figured that's what took you out here. I wanted to tell you earlier, in private, but it happened all very suddenly. Today, in fact, and then the students started arriving and it just got away from me.' He looks at her quietly. 'I apologize for blindsiding you.'

Regina shakes her head and looks away. 'It's fine,' she murmurs.

They both know it's not, but they both ignore it. 'How long has it been?' Merlin asks softly.

'Since the funeral,' Regina whispers. 'Since… since Daniel.'

Merlin nods again. 'I imagine seeing you will be quite a shock for Robin as well.'

Regina inhales and exhales shakily. 'Yeah,' she breathes.

Silence passes again, long enough to have Regina wondering. 'Merlin?'

'Yes, Regina?'

'Does… does Henry know?'

'About Robin and Daniel?'


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Merlin shakes his head. 'No, I don't believe he does. But I'd imagine he'll be quite thrilled to meet his father's best friend.'

The first day of classes is always the craziest. Students trying to find their way, first years getting lost, the Booth brothers- August and Jefferson- setting off fireworks in the third floor corridor. Chaos, mayhem, disorganization- it's everywhere. And it's starting to make Regina itch.

She directs students as best she can in the hallway, shouts for Kristoff Rein to get down from that statue right now or he'll be on the first train home, and tries to steer first years far away from Peeves and his pranks. After ten minutes, though, she's starting to long for the quiet and organized neatness of her office and private chambers.

She fares better than Professor Swan, at least. After getting accidently shoved by one too many students, Emma pulls out her wand and simply levitates herself over the throng in the corridor. As she passes overhead, she shouts for Regina to stop by the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom when she gets a chance

Regina can only throw up a hand in acknowledgement as she tries to answer four first years at once.

The crowd dies out, thankfully, as more and more students manage to find their first classes and eventually Regina is left alone in the corridor with only a few stragglers rushing to their classrooms. She exhales a short breath and smooths out the front of her robes (simple black, but tinted with crimson, the red shining through when the light hits the fabric just right. Gryffindor pride, after all).

'Don't have a first period, Professor Mills?' Professor Ruby Lucas asks breathlessly as she scurries down the hallway.

'Not today,' Regina answers. 'Thankfully. Who do you have first?'

'Hufflepuff and Slytherin fourth years!' Ruby exclaims as she passes. 'We're transfiguring pillows into clouds!'

'Try not to make it rain this time!'

'No promises!' Ruby calls as she disappears around a corner.

Regina shakes her head and pulls out her wand, pointing it at all the loose papers now littering the ground and levitating them into the air with ease. The papers start stacking themselves as they float towards her and Regina reaches out for them just as new voices sound from around the corner.

'You should see what they've done with the Astronomy tower,' a male voice- Professor Jones, she realizes- says, growing louder. 'It's spectacular.'

'You always did spend ungodly amounts of time up there,' another male voice replies, but this one has Regina's stomach flopping.

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She swallows and reaches for the stack of papers hovering in the air before her, tucking them into her arm just as the voices round the corner. A deep breath, in and out, find your courage, Mills, Gryffindors have courage. She turns and comes face to face with eyes she hasn't seen in eleven years.

Robin stops walking when he sees her, mouth open mid-sentence, and he stares. He stares and he blinks and then he shakes his head. 'Regina?' he says, voice full of disbelief.

Regina tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. 'Hello, Robin,' she returns, fingers tightening around the stack of papers in her arm.

Robin shakes his head again, a smile coming to his lips. 'What are you doing here?' he asks.

Killian makes a face. 'She works here, mate,' he answers, as if it were obvious.

'You do?'

Regina nods. 'And you do too, now. Or, so I've heard.'

'Yeah. Yes. I mean, it's my first day,' Robin answers. He's still staring at her, hasn't looked away yet, and Regina fidgets slightly under his gaze. 'Dumbledore's beard,' he breathes. 'It's been a long time.'

'Eleven years,' Regina says, voice shakier than she intends.

'Eleven,' Robin echoes. He looks down, finally, looks away from her, and Regina breathes again. 'That means… God, has it been that long already? Daniel's boy- he's here, isn't he?'

'Henry,' Regina supplies, though most likely Robin already knew his name. Everyone knows Henry's name. 'Yes, he's here. He's in his second year.'

Robin nods and blows out a breath. 'Wow. I, uh… hadn't realized how much time got away from me. How long have you been teaching here?'

'Eleven years,' Regina says again.

'Potions, I take it?'

Regina smirks suspiciously. 'How'd you know?'

'You lived in the Potions lab,' Robin chuckles. 'And you were the only one in our entire year who could brew Felix Felicis without blowing something up.'

Regina fights against her smile. 'You and Daniel blew up two cauldrons each, if I remember correctly.'

'Gold wanted to skin us alive for that one,' Robin laughs. 'That old imp retire or did you kick him out?'

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Regina starts to shake her head, but stops when Emma pokes her head around the corner. 'Oh thank god,' she exclaims. 'Mills, you need to get in here. Some of your first years are having a meltdown.'

Regina sighs and adjusts the papers under arm. 'Right. I'll be right there,' she promises, satisfying Emma enough that she ducks back around the corner. Regina looks back at Robin. 'I've got to-'

'Of course,' Robin insists. 'We'll… catch up later, then?'

Oh, she should say no. She should absolutely say no. She should say no and put space and distance and the entire castle between them, but instead, she says, 'Sure.' Like an idiot.

Robin smiles. 'Great.'

And then Emma shouts, 'Mills!' and Regina hurries off to deal with her Gryffindors.

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