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“Then why didn’t you tell me?” Peter demanded.  I wasn’t accustomed to seeing him upset like this, with the colour rising in his cheeks and his deadened, angry eyes.

 

“Because I was afraid you would act like this—like how you’re acting now.  It’s not a big deal, I just—you said we shouldn’t keep secrets, but…Well, at the time I didn’t want you to blame me.”

 

“Well, did you kiss him back?”

 

Tears sprung to my eyes.

 

“And I didn’t want you to say that.”

 

“Well, did you?”

 

“Of course not.  I was head over heels for you.  I still am—I can’t believe you would—look, I didn’t mean to tell you like this.”

 

“You didn’t mean to tell me at all, then,” he said.  I hated the way Peter got angry.  He would glare dully and make every word sting.  He turned into a different person; he made me feel like the enemy.  I was a different sort of angry, a gentler, coaxing angry, and I could never really understand where his mean streak came from.

 

I tried to reason with him, “No, I knew you had to know eventually.  Peter, come on.  James was a wreck over Lily at the time—he didn’t even mean it, and he made me promise not to tell you.  How would telling you have made it better?”

 

“It would have made me trust you, first of all.”

 

“Don’t you trust me?  I’ve told you now.”

 

He said nothing.

 

“Peter, that's all over now.  Please don’t be mad.  It was just a stupid Hogwarts thing—I didn’t even do anything.”

 

He began to soften.

 

“I know you didn’t,” he said, “But James…we’ve gone back for so long, I can’t believe he would do something like that.”

 

“He wouldn’t,” I said, “I mean, not anymore.  That was just a dumb mistake, he didn’t mean anything by it.” 

Though of course he probably
had meant something by it.   I could still hear the malice in his voice, talking about Peter and me as if it was all my transparent plot to get into his (James’) pants.  Still, I rather wished more than believed that James had grown up since then.

 

“I don’t know,” sighed Peter.  He seemed to struggle with something and then said, “Sometimes I hate James more than I like him these days.  It didn’t used to be like this.”

 

I looked at him.  James and Sirius were his world; he had never criticized either of them in his life.  I felt, somehow, that it was the end of an era.

 

“It’s okay,” I said, “Friends grow apart all the time.  Look at me and Nancy.”

 

“I guess,” he admitted, “But it’s worse than that.  I mean he—he went after my girlfriend in Sixth Year!  That was nearly four years ago.”  He looked at me desperately, “Doesn’t that mean something?”

 

“I’m sorry I brought it up,” I said.

 

“No, you were right to.  I’m glad I know.  And after all I told him about you, too.  I asked his advice, I confided in him, for God’s sake!  And then he…”

 

“Just forget it, sweetie, it’s over.”

 

He looked at me, “You know you’re my best friend, Hestia.  You’re not just a girlfriend.  Sometimes it’s like you’re all I have.”

 

I smiled and crawled into his lap.

 

“You’re going to let this go, right?” I asked, “It was a million years ago.”

 

“How can I let something like this go?”

 

“I know, but what good’ll it do?  Why burn bridges?”

 

He sighed.  “You’re right.  You’re always right.”

 

“I know I am.”

 

“I’ll never look at him the same, though.”  He inhaled sharply, “It’s disgusting.”

 

“I know, I felt the same way at the time, believe me,” I said.

 

He looked at me with newfound appreciation.

 

“I’m sorry you had to put up with that, Hest.  You’re amazing.”

 

I grinned, and said again, “I know I am.”

 

 

Seventh Year came with all the confusion that comes from being at the end of an era.  Lily and James instantly got back together and people were already talking busily about graduating and future plans. Halfway through the year, I had already set up an internship at St. Mungo’s.  Peter, with a lot of coaxing from me, submitted both cartoons and writing samples to London publications (conveniently the city where I would be working).  I got up the courage to finally write my dad about a loan for a place to live.  The future streamed out ahead of us.

 

But for now, we were Seventh Years.  We owned Hogwarts.  McGonagall had always muttered that our class was wild, but I finally realized what she meant.  In between studying for NEWTS and running the Potions Club, I attended every party and Quidditch game I could.  Sirius Black became an expert bordering on genius at organizing Inter-House parties after hours in ever-changing locations of the school.  As for the Hufflepuffs, our Head of House never left his room after eight at night, so we survived on Sleepless Steamers and Keep-Awakes and other energy potions popular at the time, and then would stay up all night playing crazy games, and laughing and talking (I also happen to know that I was the only Seventh-Year Hufflepuff with her (or his) virginity intact by the end of the year).  All our NEWT scores may have suffered a little in the process, but we’d never had more fun.  It’s so easy to be yourself when there’s no one older and scarier bearing down on you.

 

My relationship with Peter seemed to improve with time.  I think he understood that I wasn’t comfortable around his friends, though his old devotion to them held fast, so we spent more alone time, or time with my friends, than ever before.

 

One day, as graduation drew nearer, Peter pulled me aside with a look of dead seriousness and said, “Hestia—I need to ask you something.”

 

I couldn’t help giggling at his solemn face. “Yeah?”

 

“Will you still go out with me after we graduate?”

 

I laughed again, “What else would I do?”

 

His smile returned, and everything was settled.

 

That night, I was already far beyond half asleep when Nancy’s loud whisper awoke me.

 

“Hestia!  I just thought of something!”

 

I grunted to let her know I was listening.

 

“The Seventh-Year Surveys just came back in.  You and Peter and James and Lily tied for the Cutest Couple category.  So I just put you guys.”

 

“Me and Peter?  In the yearbook, you mean?”  I was smiling already.

 

“Yeah, so just remind me to get your guys’ picture one day—preferably on a good hair day,” she said.

 

“Yeah, no problem.  Thanks, Nan.”

 

“You’re very welcome!  You know my opinion of James Potter.  If it’s up to me he wont even get a picture…”

 

Graduation.  It came so fast.

 

Each student starts out in robes of their House’s colour, which change into the traditional black with their first touch of their Hogwarts diploma, symbolizing that we leave no longer divided by petty house differences, but united by our common Hogwarts education.  Otherwise the ceremony passed by simply and all too quickly.  I couldn’t get comfortable in my still yellow robe and I kept mussing with my fringe (my hasty attempts to curl it before the ceremony had turned out awkwardly). 

 

Hair aside, I tried to focus on the important things, as I sat in that little white chair on the bright green Hogwarts lawn under a threateningly overcast sky.  I was leaving this place.  My father was probably not in the audience, and I was leaving this place for good.  My true family—my friends, and Peter, all ready to up and leave each other.  I didn’t feel full of promise.  I wondered if that promise would ever even evince itself.  Who said it had to?

 

Lily Evans’ speech was unlike anything I’d ever heard; she devoted one sentence to each graduating Seventh Year, concluding with reflective words of our unity.  I remember she said about me, “Hestia Jones…your smile is by far the cutest, and I will never forget that time in Defense class you turned the Boggart into a whale and made the whole classroom evacuate.”

 

I had to laugh, I had to cry.  But I guess everyone has to move on.

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