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Beginnings and Their Consequences

Sitting near Albus induced the kind of awkwardness that June had read about. But it seemed so much more romantic when she wasn’t the victim.

Like that scene where Hattie and Daniel are chosen to be partners for Charms, June mused. They hated each other, but by the end of it, Daniel had saved her from accidentally hexing herself and then –

Nothing similar seemed to be happening. Mrs. Potter, who was as kind as Lucy had promised, was still in the middle of a story between what’d once happened when she and June’s mother had practiced Quidditch together. June was half-listening, contentedly staring at Albus, who was reading.

He’s so handsome – if only he’d look at me – I’d be so happy. He looks exactly like the Prince Charming girls always think about and he’s sitting right next to me! If he looked at me, I’d –

Albus looked up, then sideways at his mother, then at June. Her insides bubbled excitedly, but she contented herself with giving him a small smile.

He frowned. Then, still glaring, he went back to his reading.

“ – and Heather was nearly beside herself that we’d snuck out to go play Quidditch at midnight, but Vicky never cared about that.” At Mrs. Potter’s pause, June nodded politely. “Your mother was lovely, June. Very funny, very determined and pretty odd.”

“Everyone says that about her,” said June, who’d heard this description a tiresomely frequent amount of times. “Except the odd part.”

“That only I know,” said Mrs. Potter, eyes twinkling. “And Heather too, I suppose.”

“What happened to her?”

“Heather’s in Canada, I think. We’ve lost contact. That’s probably the only reason she hasn’t tried contacting you yet. I’m sure you’ve wondered.”

“Yeah,” said June blankly, still looking at Albus. What was he reading?

“Not that I blame her. You know, Vicky, Heather and I would always say that we would keep in touch after Hogwarts no matter what and for a while, we did. But of course, Victoria got married and there was so much trouble after that, and the war had just finished – there was just too much happening.” Mrs. Potter gave a strained, guilty smile that June didn’t return. “But I was there for your first two birthdays, though. You probably don’t remember – ”

“I don’t.”

“Albus and James were there too, of course, and Lily wasn’t yet born. Do you remember anything, Al?”

 “Why would I?” came the reply from behind the book. Mrs. Potter rolled her eyes.

“But I was going to have Lily and Heather transferred to Canada around that time and we all lost it, I suppose.”

“Thank you offering even though you don’t really know us so well,” said June.

Mrs. Potter gave a dismissive wave. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you’ll have to stay with us. I promised your mother I’d take care of you if anything happened. I know she’d have done the same for me.”

June was still staring at Albus from the corner of her eyes, though Mrs. Potter hadn’t yet seemed to catch on. He was so brilliant – always reading – and now she’d have the chance to live with him! It wasn’t permanently and only during the holidays, but the thought of it. It was like a happy, glorious butterfly had come to take residence in her -

“How long will she have to stay?” Albus’s voice sounded irritated.

She gave him a furious stare back. “As long as she’ll need to. That’s none of your business.”

“It’s our house, isn’t it? I happen to live there as well.”

“Don’t mind him, June.”

It was hard not to, June thought, but she gave Mrs. Potter a nervous smile all the same.

After Albus had gratified his seemingly insatiable thirst for subtle glares and pointed silences, nothing of particular circumstance occurred after (or so June thought). He effectively buried himself behind his tombstone of a book and his mother spoke for a little while longer. Soon after, there were hasty goodbyes as Mrs. Potter gave June an awkward hug and Albus hovered over her.

“Write as soon as possible so we can have you in with us and get everything sorted out,” said Mrs. Potter kindly. And with that, she gave June another one of her confident, ringing smiles, brushed the hair out of her face, and hastened into the early evening crowd.

Albus gave June one last irritated look, before following his mother and leaving her standing in the now emptied ice cream parlor.

*

June navigated mechanically back to the Leaky Cauldron, her head still pounding.

It hadn’t gone as well as she’d hoped.

She did have a place to stay now, but Albus hadn’t even bothered to smile at her!

Everything had been so much easier for Harriet! Daniel hadn’t been so awfully surly.

Well – there had been that incident on the Quidditch Pitch where he’d humiliated her, but really, that’d been out of affection, really -

But, June supposed, it added to the mystery. He seemed so tormented somehow – the dark genius, really -

“June, you idiot!” Next to her, Priscilla had jumped out of the way to avoid the impending collision between them.

“Hello,” said June airily, still reeling from the experience that was Albus. She took a seat beside the irritated beast that was Priscilla by evening. Priscilla was eyeing June warily. “Why’re you still here?”

“I waited for you. How’d it go?”

 “Oh, fine. Completely fine.”

“How’s Mrs. Potter?”

“Lovely. Completely lovely.”

“And Pothead?”

“Entrancing – completely en – don’t call him that! I’m going to be living with him now! What if he finds out?”

Priscilla snorted. “Oh, I’d be thrilled. Maybe it’d puncture that head of his.”

 “Stop saying that!”

“You’re right, that would never get through to his massive head. I’d need to have a go at him with an axe. I’d be Priscilla the sarcasm slinging mad axeman.”

“I’m going upstairs to pack,” said June waspishly; one could only take so much of Priscilla without feeling the overwhelming need to tear one’s hair out. “Thanks for waiting for me.”

“Anytime,” said Priscilla. “Although, June, all of my usual wittiness aside, I’d be careful if I were you. I know you think Pothead’s a prince, but he isn’t. He really isn’t and he hasn’t got much tolerance for your little daydreams. He’s an insensitive wart at the core of it. I know you’ve got big expectations for the idiot, but when he lets you down, I hope you’ll take the fall gently.”

“Why do you think you know so much about him?”

But Priscilla said nothing and instead gave June one last meaningful look before making for the fireplace to Floo home. Much later, after packing and listening to her father’s snores, June thought it was only because Priscilla was so very much like Albus, even if she would never admit it.

*

The early morning came with rudeness in its haste. After a largely nonexistent breakfast, June, Mr. Bernard, and a shamefully small amount of suitcases and boxes made their way to the Potter household. June Apparated there in several trips, each time feeling even more pathetic as she appeared with nothing but luggage as her companion. On the final trip, Mr. Bernard reluctantly gave her his hand, cringing all the while.

“You’re sure it’s safe? Absolutely safe?”

“Yes, Dad,” she said patiently. “It’s completely safe. I’ve Apparated loads of times.”

“What if we disappear from here but don’t appear there?”

“That isn’t going to happen,” said June, who had never thought enough to ponder the question. “I think…well, it’s never happened with me before.”

“We could just take the train – or even walk – walking’s excellent – “

“We’re not walking, Dad. All of our luggage’s there! What d’you suppose they’ll think if they find a pile of luggage outside their door and then we show up hours later?”

“Oh, if we must…” With that, Mr. Bernard passed her a sweaty palm and they disappeared into the brightness of the early morning.

*

When they arrived, the luggage was still leaning against the front of the gate where June had left it, though the doors had now opened to reveal a smiling redhead.

“Good, you’re here! I thought I saw you, but you were off again before I could get downstairs!”

“Hi Mrs. Potter,” said June, whose stomach was now growling unflatteringly.

Mr. Bernard, still huffing and looking quite green from the trip eyed Mrs. Potter, before smiling politely. “Ginny! Ginny Weasley!”

“Hello Albert,” said Mrs. Potter, smiling in return. “You look exactly the same as I remember.”

Mr. Bernard mopped sweat off his forehead. “Not quite, I’m afraid. Definitely gained a bit of weight here and there.”

“Oh, I can’t tell.”

“But you look just as you did eleven years ago! Doesn’t she, June?”

“Erm…I suppose so…” squeaked June, who was taken aback at having to remember a woman she had last seen when she six.

“Either way, let me get Albus to help you with your things. Harry’s away at the moment on assignment, so we’ll just have to do.” With that, she disappeared behind a large wooden door. They could hear her calling, “Albus! Get downstairs now!

Within seconds, June’s heart began beating exponentially faster.

Albus emerged sullenly, gave the sunlit surroundings a long suffering look, before his eyes finally rested on June.

“Hi,” said June. It came out even more idiotically than she’d imagined it – like a squeal.

He looked unimpressed.

“Albus, help her with her things while I get Mr. Bernard here settled upstairs.”

“Why do I have to carry – we can just levitate – “

Mrs. Potter had a conspirator-like waver in her voice. “Mr. Bernard’s looking a bit sick.  Better get him inside. You two can come later – whenever – take as long as you need. Motion sickness as always, Albert?”

“Afraid so,” wheezed Mr. Bernard, and Mrs. Potter marched him into the house, leaving a nervous June, an exasperated Albus, and the ever romantic cluster of luggage between them.

“We’d better begin,” said June as cheerfully as she could muster. “There’s a lot to do, I’m afraid and I’m not good at – “

She broke off at the sight of Albus’s green eyes narrowing.

“Look, let’s make this clear.”  He advanced towards her, then broke off as he reached the luggage, sparing the pile a contemptuous glare. “I don’t want you here. My house is not a charity case.”

June’s mouth was rapidly drying. “No – of course – ”

He held a palm up. She fell silent immediately.

“I know what my mum thinks she’s being discreet about, and frankly, I’d rather that neither of us get involved.”

“I – ”

“During your stay here, do whatever you want, but leave me alone. Don’t expect me to help you. Don’t expect us to interact. I don’t want any of the rubbish from Hogwarts happening here, understand?”

Possibly the most pregnant pause of June’s life was occurring.

Her cheeks were flaming.

What. A. Git.

“Fine,” she said coolly; it was a rare moment of clairvoyance. She surveyed him angrily. June Bernard was, admittedly, an idiot, but the territory did not come entirely devoid of a sense of dignity. “Fine. And I don’t need your help carrying all this in.”

The impassive, irked look on Albus’s face wiped off, to be replaced by an amused smirk. “I don’t see how.”

“I can do it.”

She threw a hopeful glance in his direction; maybe he’d leave her to her suffering. There really was no way she could manage to carry everything inside, but at least he didn’t need to see her struggle.

Instead, he took a step forward and crossed his arms across his chest. “Alright. Try.”

“Fine,” she huffed and made a beeline for a small trunk.

The utter lack of any muscle in her body was never as jarringly pronounced in her life as it was in that one, horrifying moment.

Absolutely nothing happened.

Albus was grinning even more.

She switched to an even smaller trunk and tugged.

Again, failure.

The nonexistent muscles in her arms were groaning.

 “Can you do it?”

“I’m trying,” she said through her teeth.

As she continued tugging, she heard him say, “I thought you said you didn’t need my help.”

“I don’t.”

“Right…”

“I can,” said June, blushing even more furiously.

There were two things to be derived from this situation:

1) Albus Potter was talking to her. The. He was handsome and brilliant and he was talking to her.

2) He was distinctly less of a Prince Charming and rather more like what Priscilla had described him to be. If only June had listened.

But June never listened.

“As fascinating as this is, I’d like to get inside sometime soon.” With that, Albus yanked the trunk out of June’s hands and began making a smooth path for the house.

June followed him, still burning with embarrassment.

Why – why – why do I have to keep embarrassing myself? Why does he hate me so much?

The inside of Mrs. Potter’s house was enormous. It shamed June to think that she had arrived from the mess of the Leaky Cauldron and before that, an ugly flat in a long line of other ugly flats.

Mrs. Potter was sitting patiently on top of a long set of staircase that winded upstairs. June looked resolutely at the stairs, determined not to absorb anything about the house beside her.

The more she saw it, the more she would feel like crying.

Albus had set down all the luggage beside the door and without a look at June, made his escape up the stairs, past his mother and down a corridor. June could hear a door slam.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh, don’t worry about him,” said Mrs. Potter, sparing her son’s closed door an irritated glance. “He’s usually like that.” She arose and began walking down a long hallway of closed doors. “Your father’s lying down in the guest bedroom. Let me show you your room.”

“My room?” echoed June.

“Actually, it’s James’s old room,” said Mrs. Potter apologetically. “But I’ve removed his Quidditch posters and redecorated it a bit to make it livable. You’ll be in between Albus and your father. Lily’s room is the one on the far left. She and my husband are out right now, but you can meet Lily later in the evening.”

“Where are they?”

“Lily’s out with friends. Harry’s on assignment for a bit abroad.” Mrs. Potter stopped beside a large white door and gave it a sturdy push. “This’s your room.”

The first thought that enveloped June was that it was rather…pink for having been a boy’s room.

The walls were a light pink, with a large four-poster white bed at the center and a small lavender desk to the side. There was a large door on one wall that opened out to a balcony. It was, unquestionably, the most feminine room she had ever inhabited.

“This used to be James’s room?” asked June, wondering precisely what type of character Albus’s older brother was.

“I wanted to redecorate it,” said Mrs. Potter. “His room was an absolute mess most of the time he was living her and I wanted an excuse to buy new furniture. And I liked the color of the paint on – ” She broke off. “Do you not like it?”

But June smiled up at her and said, “Oh, no, it’s lovely.”

Better than any room in a flat, anyway.

Mrs. Potter gave her an approving smile. After Mrs. Potter left, June went downstairs, levitated her luggage up and slowly began unpacking, keeping as quiet as possible the whole while. The thought of who was sharing the wall with her was both unbelievable and intimidating.

*

After her clothes had been put away and the few surviving drawing materials had been tossed into the cornerside desk, June sat down on the bed; the mattress indented as she seated herself and stared blankly at the walls. She sighed deeply, before falling backwards into the mattress and closing her eyes.

What a day.

This was all becoming one long headache.

She could hear a tapping noise and jerked herself awake.

Her father and his motion sickness! She’d completely forgotten to look in on him!

She leapt off the bed and ruffled through her luggage until she found what she needed. With the small bottle of pills pressed into her palms, she dashed outside the room, opened the door to her immediate right and entered. She turned to close the door behind her.

“Dad, you forgot to take your medicine and you know what the doctor  – ”

As she turned to face the room, she broke off and reddened.

“Um, sorry, I didn’t mean to – ”

Albus was looking at her skeptically and she blinked. This was the first time she’d had any kind of even…vague personal contact. So this was what his room was like. A blue bed in the corner. Two large wooden bookshelves covered in books. A desk. A sofa in the corner, where he was currently seated, his eyes peering over the edge of yet another dictionary-sized book. The effect wasn’t wholly unpleasant.

“ – sorry. I’ll just go now…”

He stared pointedly at her until she fumbled for the doorknob, before going back to reading.

“Don’t come back here, understand?”

“Yes, fine. Sorry.”

With that, she slammed the door closed behind her and hurried to the guest room, two rooms to the left. After forcing the medicine onto her father, she returned to her own room and lay back down on the bed, exhausted with the whole venture until she was called down for dinner.

*

Dinner was quite possibly the most awkward affair June had ever sat through. Lily Potter was already sitting in a chair when June made her way downstairs, her brown eyes narrowed in premeditated disapproval. At June’s arrival, Mrs. Potter clapped her hands together.

“Alright, and that’s everyone. June, this is Lily. Lily dear, this is our new guest. Albus must’ve told you about her on the way in.”

“Oh yes,” said Lily, brushing her fingers through her hair. “He definitely did. So you’re June Bernard?”

“Um, yes. Hello.”

As soon as June was seated, she realized how oddly dressed Lily was. She was wearing a tattered black shirt over the baggiest trousers June had ever seen and her hair was tied up in a jumbled red mess. Beside her, Albus was getting closer and closer to resembling ice. And the other brother – James – was the apparent owner of a room that would embarrass a princess.

She was surrounded by lunatics.

Through dinner, a gaping, awkward silence ensued. Mr. Bernard and Mrs. Potter were fondly remembering memories that had no relevance to June, Lily or Albus, leaving the other three isolated in one corner of the table.

Albus was eating slowly while solidifying his position as the second coming of Voldemort. Lily was glaring at June after every mouthful, with seemingly no explanation, as if she was pondering doing the same.

Never in the short lifespan of June Vivienne Bernard had stabbing everyone in the vicinity with forks and running out the door screaming ever seemed so tempting.

Finally, as dinner quieted, Mrs. Potter scanned the table, beaming.

“Albert, why don’t you go rest for a while?”

“Oh, let me help you with all of these, Ginny,” said Mr. Bernard, motioning to the slew of empty plates around the table.

“No, don’t be ridiculous, go and rest. Al will help me, won’t you?”

“If I have to,” said Albus stiffly, seeming to be caught off guard. His eyes narrowed in suspicion at his mother. “Do I have to do all of these?”

“No, of course not. June, why don’t you help him?” The conspiratorial gleam had reappeared in Mrs. Potter’s eyes.

“Lily can help,” said Albus, after a pause. Lily looked up at him, frowning.

“Like hell I will! Don’t dump more work on me because you want to avoid her!”

“Upstairs now, Lily,” said Mrs. Potter, glaring.

Lily huffed, pulled her hair out of her face and pushed herself up. “Fine!”

As Lily stomped upstairs, Mrs. Potter rolled her eyes and then walked with Mr. Bernard back to his room.

That left the dining room in a miserable state: one Albus Potter, now looking between the pile of dirty plates and one horrified and clueless June Bernard as if deciding which one he ought to begrudge more. Finally, he carried half the plates to the sink and opened the tap, spilling water over them.

After a moment’s pause, June carried the other half to the side of the sink currently left unoccupied.

For a while, the only noise audible was the gush of water hitting the plates. June could feel her skin wrinkling slightly under the warmth of the foamy water. Albus worked beside her methodically, never once facing her.

June let the silence stretch and stretch. When did life become like this?

Two weeks ago, she was worried about moving into another flat. Two weeks ago, the biggest problem seemed to be whether she could be bothered to spend part of her holiday being bothered with the inconvenience of moving. Apparating from once place to another with boxes.

Why had that seemed so difficult?

And even the small rooms and ugly walls.  Why had they seemed so unattractive?

At least they would have been hers alone. At least she would have some peace of mind about it all and not worry about who didn’t want her there and who hated her for simply existing.

Priscilla had been right. Albus wasn’t much of anything. Lucy had been right. Coming here hadn’t been a good idea at all.

There had been many moments in her life when June had felt stupid - potions projects bungled, several test subjects nearly accidentally poisoned, one time when she hadn’t been paying much attention to the Blast-Ended Skrewt she was walking and it had nearly lit up Iris Bosworth up like a candle…but nothing seemed as idiotic as coming here with all the hopes in the world.

There were only a few more plates left.

As she reached for the dishcloth, she could feel Albus’s fingers accidentally graze over her own in the hot water. She retracted her hand and stared down at the small whirlpool of floating dinner scraps in the sink.

On the last plate, she murmured, mostly to herself, “I’m sorry about all of this.”

Albus seemed to stir with a start and stared crossly at his plate. “What?”

“Sorry for the trouble with me and my dad moving here.” She didn’t tear her gaze from her fingers. “I think we’ll be moving out as soon as possible. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Whether or not he had a reply seemed unnecessary to find out. She washed out the final plate and set it aside, before wringing her hands free of all the stresses of the day. She could feel Albus staring after her as she trudged exhaustedly upstairs, but the conflicted feelings all wavered and dimmed as she shut the door, grateful at last for the peace.




 

Author's Note: Please don't kill me for the long wait! I really don't have much of an excuse other than I've been horribly busy and I hope you'll all forgive me! 

Any thoughts on the new chapter and Albus/June? Al isn't exactly what she particularly expected. Please let me know by reviewing!

Celeste

 

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