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The Art of Iciness

Through the few remaining days of her holiday break, June found herself apologizing.

Apologizing for Mrs. Potter for managing to lose herself in London and prompting everyone to comb through the streets, looking for her.

Apologizing to Lily for the same reason. Who now managed to hate June even more.

And avoiding Albus. Conscientiously avoiding Albus ever since ‘the incident of the telephone booth whereupon they ended up Apparating on to the sofa in a big puddle’. Since then, June had been confined to her room, absent-mindedly drawing and to occasionally looking in on her father. Never, in recent memory, had she looked forward to returning to Hogwarts so much.

But in slightly more cheering news, it had begun to snow. The thought that weather-related news could be the only cheering thought she could muster sank June further into Potter-induced depression.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Potter seemed to be hosting some kind of New Years’ party for the Weasleys. And judging by the vast amount of gold streamers that were now floating around the house and the constant smell of something or the other baking (or burning), it seemed as though an embarrassingly large amount of people would be downstairs as June locked herself in her room.

Mrs. Potter announced her arrival into June’s room with a gentle knock.

“Hello, June! Will you be all ready for tonight?”

June set down a stubby piece of charcoal and smiled up at Mrs. Potter. “Am I supposed to come?”

“Well, of course you are. It’s New Years’ Eve, isn’t it? Are we supposed to hide you upstairs the whole time?”

“What should I do? Should I help with – ”

Mrs. Potter waved her aside. “It’s all almost ready. The last thing I have to do is buy Lily some proper clothes. All you need to worry about is having a nice time. Lucy’ll be there, of course, if that’s of any comfort.”

June exhaled in relief. “Oh, okay then. I’ll be down whenever you need me to. Will Mr. Potter be back?”

“Yes, he’ll be back for New Year’s. James will be dropping by as well.”

As soon as Mrs. Potter had smiled complacently and left, June hurried over to her father’s room.

“Dad! Dad!” She pushed the door open and walked in to the sight of Mr. Bernard surrounded in a sea of multicolored papers. “What’re you doing?”

“Looking over recipes,” said Mr. Bernard, squinting at a paper beside him. “I’ve memorized most of these – but still, if we reopen, it might be a good idea to have some new – ”

“When can we move out?”

Mr. Bernard set down the paper and smiled up at her. “Well, you’ll be off to school in a few days, won’t you? So you’ll have nothing to worry about.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to keep coming back here for the holidays.”

“Now, Ginny would feel hurt if she heard you – ”

“She’d understand,” said June tersely, “she’s absolutely lovely, though.”

“She said she likes having us here, June. Gets too quiet without her husband around.”

June sighed. “Moving – ”

“Ah, yes, yes, alright, let’s see. Well, we’ve got the restaurant boarded up a fair bit, so it’ll take me a few days to remove everything and get it all swept and neat again. And I’ll have to get a loan for some new plates, since the ones we kept at home are all gone.”

“Why don’t you hire help?”

“Help,” said Mr. Bernard, slightly agog. “Heavens, I’ve never really hired help before. Other than the cleaning – and that was only once in six months – I did everything on my own, you know.”

“I know. But maybe it’d help us, expand, Dad. We could get some more profits.”

“It’s a family business, June! I can’t just get other people in it. What would Victoria say?”

“Mum would be happy, honestly – ”

“It’s called Victoria’s Corner, isn’t it? And we said when we opened it that we’d run it between each other until you grew up and handed it to you. It’s a Bernard business.”

 “Yes, I know.” Though between her and her dad, it could hardly be called a business. “At least hire someone to come in and clean twice a week. And maybe some waitresses or something too could help.”

There was no way that June would ever allow anyone to dump Victoria’s Corner on her. There were only a few times in her life in which she had been allowed to cook and many of them had ended with something (and once, someone) on fire.

She cleared her throat, sat down on the ground among the papers and began putting them into a pile absentmindedly. Her mother and father’s handwriting were scribbled all over them; there were lines where there were large eraser markings and entire sentences had been crossed out. Some of them were yellowed and others were past saving. A familiar scent of irises and freesia wafted off them, and in the background, June could smell cooking oil and hear pots and pans clanging.

This was her childhood. Summers spent cleaning, taking orders, reading Fifi LaFolle when nobody came in. She turned over a recipe for something that vaguely looked Italian.

“Dad, didn’t mum ever miss magic?”

There was a pause. Mr. Bernard began shuffling through papers.

“Your mother made many sacrifices for us, June.”

“So she lived like a muggle?”

“Not always. Sometimes she still had that wand of hers around, but she – ”

“I don’t remember her doing any magic,” said June, frowning. “I didn’t even know she was a witch until you told me.”

“Well, there was a chance that you wouldn’t be…like her, you see. Like me, instead. In case that moment came, she never wanted you to feel like you had anything less than a normal life. Or that you’d disappointed anyone.”

June sighed. “I wish she’d told me.”

Mr. Bernard patted her hand. After another long silence, he smiled at her. “Well, let me get back to looking through this, alright? We’ll have the place opened in a few weeks’ time.” Clearly growing uncomfortable with the nostalgic talk, Mr. Bernard squinted out the window.  “Oh look, it’s snowing! Isn’t that nice? You always did like snow.”

“Thanks Dad.”

She gave her father a smile, and tip-toed out of the room.

*

June had less than a few minutes’ peace before Mrs. Potter reentered.

“June, dear, just letting you know that I’m taking Lily out for a bit of shopping. We’ll be back in an hour or so.” Mrs. Potter smiled placidly as a howl of protest emerged from beyond the door.

“I’M NOT COMING. MUM, I’M NOT COMING.”

Mrs. Potter continued smiling as she gave the noise beyond the door an annoyed glare. “I don’t care what you say! You can’t dress like that in the evening!”

“I LOOK FINE.”

“We’re buying a dress and that’s final!” Mrs. Potter gave an exhausted sigh. “I wanted a girl so badly, you know. I thought it’d be a lot of fun. And it was very lovely at first having Lily. And I was fully supportive of her Quidditch and everything I did at her age, but she’s turning out to be a complete boy. Imagine her turning up in her tattered little trousers for a party in front of her whole family. Really, she’s just something else…”

Unable to help herself, June blurted out, “And what was Albus like growing up?”

To her amazement, Mrs. Potter began grinning.

“Albus was really quite strange! You know, when he was about two or three years old, he got it into his head that he was actually a girl.”

“A – a girl?” said June, flabbergasted.

“Well, he thought he was anyway. Just for a bit. It was probably my fault for not discouraging him, but he looked very cute in little dresses! He was only two, anyway, so what was the harm? He obviously grew out of it, but it was fun putting him in dresses while it lasted. I did want a girl...” She put her hand over her mouth. “But I probably shouldn’t’ve told you. He doesn’t like it when I mention it to – ”

“Oh no, I’ll keep quiet,” said June, wide-eyed and stifling a grin.

 “We’ve got photos downstairs on the bookshelf if you’re curious!”

There was a final annoyed cry of “MUM, I’M NOT COMING.”

Mrs. Potter gave June a small wave and shut the door. From the other side, she could hear Mrs. Potter bellowing, “We’re leaving right now, Lily Luna!”

This family was beginning to give her a headache.

*

June spent the afternoon in solitude in her room, drawing and staring out the window. The ground outside was now covered in a thick layer of white. The frosted, wintry feel of the world outside her window was calming and silent.

Finally, when she heard no noise from downstairs, she began creeping downwards.

There was a bookshelf by the living room sofa that nearly reached the ceiling. She scanned the titles tentatively; most of them seemed to be about Defense Against the Dark Arts, a subject June was apt to know almost nothing about. There was an accumulation of spellbooks from the past few years at Hogwarts, some manuals on Quidditch – they had probably once been James’s – an entire three rows of medical journals (who on earth read these?), before finally –

June let out a small “Aha!” of success upon reaching the Potter family’s photo albums. There were at least five or six of them. With newfound gusto, she removed three and sat down on the ground with them propped open.

This felt slightly creepy. And possibly illegal.

But Mrs. Potter told me that there were photographs, mused June, so she must’ve thought it was okay for me to look.

And besides, this was one of the most famous Wizarding families in England. Anybody would be curious.

The entire first album was of a younger-looking Mr. and Mrs. Potter at their wedding. Pre-Albus time. The second was even further back: Mrs. Potter looked not over eleven in some of the pictures as she waved up to June. As June flipped through Ginny Potter’s years growing up, she felt a slight pang as she reached her Hogwarts life.

There were almost a dozen pictures with her mum in it, beaming up as she stood beside Ginny on different places – beside the Quidditch pitch, in a dungeon, by the Charms classroom, at the Great Hall. June ran her fingers over the varying captions on the yellowed pages as her mum continued waving.

Ginny and Victoria; Quidditch Game, Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff, 1993.

Heather, Beatrice, Ginny, Jacqueline, Victoria – Gryffindor Girls dormitory, 1994-5.

She finally reached a picture where her mum was sitting alone on the grass, looking preoccupied with the large spellbook propped by her arms. June stared vacantly at the picture for a long moment, unsure of how to feel at the black-haired girl who thought she was still alive, who had yet to graduate or marry or have a daughter or leave her behind. It was a picture of a girl reading studiously, for a future she wouldn’t have.

June took out her wand from her pocket and pointed it at the photograph. “Geminio.

As a duplicate of the photograph appeared, she took it out and slipped it into her pocket.

This was getting more depressing than she’d intended.

The next photo album became more cheering. She passed columns of a toddler James scampering over the floor as Mr. Potter ran after him. There were several with a baby Albus looking like a small, blanketed grape. As June turned to the next page, she quickly stifled her laughter.

There he was!

For a moment, she thought that the round face and big eyes poking out of a flowery dress belonged to Lily. But Lily had her mum’s red hair and brown eyes. This baby had black hair and green eyes and was currently wearing a pink, flower patterned dress and ballet slippers.

In the next picture, the girl – boy? – had grown longer hair that was now in a miniscule braid. And was outfitted in robes that were too feminine even for June’s taste.

June bit down on her lip furiously. Albus was still just upstairs…and she’d have absolutely no explanation if he saw her rifling through pictures. Small tears sprung to the corners of her eyes and she aired away her laughter.

This would grow up into the boy that she’d fallen so much in love with?

At the last picture of the girl Albus, she stopped herself to breathe. He was in braids again, with a small skirt and a thin top, pouting up at the camera with his tongue stuck out and a flower in his hair.

And a flower in his hair. A flower was in Albus Severus Potter’s hair.

Oh God. Priscilla hadn’t been right, had she? He wasn’t gay?

She almost wanted to howl at the flower-clad Albus. “You’re supposed to be MANLY. Stop wearing flowers!” It was slightly humiliating that he had been prettier as a child than she had been.

When Daniel had met Harriet, he had been a boy. A boyish boy. Who played Quidditch, swore, failed classes, had the occasional bout of sensitivity, and wrote poetry. June’s current love interest was: most definitely a sociopath, apparently lacked compassion, grew up as a girl…

June could almost hear Priscilla’s voice in the background, positively screaming to see the picture.

She pointed her wand at the pouty Albus-girl. “Geminio.”

With the most satisfaction she had felt in a long time, she pocketed it.

There was a thump of footsteps. Her heart started frantically pounding as she shut the book and put the photo albums back in place.

Albus was lingering near the middle of the staircase. “What’re you doing?”

“N – nothing – um – ” She blushed furiously, racking herself for an explanation. “I was just looking at a book.”

“A book?” His skepticism was quickly rising. “Don’t pretend you can read.”

June closed her eyes and nodded. As if in retaliation for her snooping, the cosmos seemed to intervene with the usual dose of bad luck and horrible timing: one of the photo albums she had been rifling through fell over onto another book.

Albus’s eyes were narrowed. He began descending down the stairs. “I saw you waving your wand over something. What did you do?”

“Nothing, I swear! I really wasn’t doing anything!”

“You closed one of those books over there when you thought I was coming.” He had reached the foot of the stairs; June remained frozen, horrified.

“No,” she squeaked feebly.

He stooped down beside her, his face leering into hers. “Show me. Right now.”

“I didn’t do anything. You can check the pictures. I didn’t take anything.”

“You duplicated something.”

“I didn’t! I really didn’t!”

His voice was climbing. “Enough rubbish. Do you really think you can come into my house and start nicking things that don’t belong to you? What were you planning to do – sell some family photos to somebody and make some easy money? You’re just as bad as those idiots that follow me around school.”

“No, I wasn’t!” I was only planning on keeping your childhood picture. Forever. While prowling around your house. I might show it to my friends, though.

The truth didn’t sound much better.

 “Empty your pocket. I saw you put it in there. Take it out and show me.”

“Or what?”

“I can do it myself.”

June waved her wand in front of herself. “I could stop you!”

“Oh please,” he said derisively, before knocking her wand out of her hand. It landed by his feet and he kicked it away. “You’re stupid enough that I don’t need Expelliarmus to disarm you. Go on, now. Take it out.”

June took a deep breath before her eyes widened with sudden insight. “Alright. Fine. I did take duplicate a picture.”

His eyes flashed in success. “I knew it. Show me, then I’ll tear it up before you can sell - ”

She reached into her pocket and unfolded a slightly crinkled picture. She took another breath and flushed as he stared at it, dumbfounded. The black-haired girl in the photo looked up curiously from her spellbook.

“Who’s this?” He turned it over as the caption glinted: Victoria Frobisher, 1995.

“My mum,” she said, letting an edge into her voice. “My mum and your mum were friends, so she has pictures of her. I don’t have many, so I duplicated this one.”

She pressed it into his hands as he continued to stare at it. “Alright, go on. You said you wanted to tear it up, didn’t you?”

“Er – ” He held the photo gingerly as if afraid of touching it.

“Go on. Tear it up.”

He sighed and held it out to her. “Here.”

“No, you wouldn’t want me to sell it.”

“Just take it.”

“I don’t want it. It’s your family’s, after all. I have no right to – ”

He gripped her hand and turned it over before forcibly placing the picture back in her hand. There was a rough brush of skin as he retracted. He stared at the ground and then his hand. “Enough, alright? I didn’t know.”

After he had ascended the stairs again and left her alone, she opened out the picture of Albus and dissolved into silent giggles. He had almost kind of neared an apology and he hadn’t taken the picture!

June Bernard, as dim as she could be at times (which involved Potions cauldrons, accidentally Transfiguring a Professor, losing her wand, and being unable to remember many a simple spell), did have her moments.

*

After Mrs. Potter’s return with Lily (who was sporting a massively irritated expression) and after the usual party preparations wherein food was laid out and streamers were floating around, the Weasley family began to arrive later into the evening. And they arrived and arrived in a seemingly neverending parade of redheads and their offspring. June cowered for a while in her room with the door shut as she could hear feet pounding downstairs. There were some loud bursts of laughter and her floor shook with the noise.

“Oh Audrey, it’s been ages! – ”

“And then Fred decided to –”

Having already eaten dinner early, June was content to think that she had been forgotten and was left alone in peace.

But not long passed before Mrs. Potter peeked in.

“June, why don’t you come downstairs? Come on, your father’s waiting for you and Lucy’s here.” At June’s slightly queasy expression, Mrs. Potter walked around the bed and took her hand. “You’ll be fine. Just enjoy yourself.”

“I won’t know anyone,” squeaked June as they descended the stairs, “And – ”

She was promptly cut off by the fireplace burning with emerald flames as more people Flooed in. The living room was swimming in redheads, with the occasional displaced blonde among the masses. A dark-haired man climbed out of the fireplace and scrambled on to the floor. Everybody quieted as he adjusted his glasses. Mrs. Potter all but leapt into him.

“Harry, you came!”

He untangled himself from her before kissing her on the cheek. “Hello Ginny.”

“How long can you stay? Can you stay the week? Because you still have to meet – ”

“Not too long,” he said, and Mrs. Potter’s smile flickered briefly. “Just today and tonight.”

“But you’ll be back permanently next month, right Dad?” piped up Lily from the side.

He grinned before going to embrace her. Albus also emerged between two Weasley cousins and walked straight towards his father. 

June took a few steps backward and gave the staircase a longing look. The Potters were talking amicably and hugging. This was quickly becoming very awkward. The sea of Weasleys did not look any more navigable than the Potters. And her room was too out of reach for her to make a mad run for it.

“June?” Yet another redhead was pushing her way through the crowd; Lucy emerged blushing spectacularly. “Oh thank God. It really is you!”

She wrung June’s hand with mixed concern and familiarity. “How’ve you been? Did you get home alright? Because Aunt Ginny told me that the other day – ”

“Good,” said June loudly over Lucy’s chatter, before idly walking to a corner and sitting down on a chair.

Lucy looked at her, puzzled. “Well, you look really pretty.”

June shrugged; the word pretty bounced off her. It was never a word she could take seriously when applied to her. It was for…other girls. She twirled a hand through the mid-length dark blue dress. “It’s just cotton though. Not much.”

“Better than what Lily had to wear. Did you see her yet?”

“A bit.”

“Aunt Ginny made her wear this bright pink dress. It looks like a punishment.”

“Oh,” said June tonelessly. She gave an empty stare to the people around her, all clad in fancy dresses or richly cut robes. Wineglasses circled the air as still more people emerged from the fireplace. Another dark-haired boy climbed out of the fireplace, joined by a girl whom he soon held hands with.

“James! Christine!” said Lucy excitedly as the Potters clambered around James Potter. June turned to see that Lucy had disappeared to flock around him as well as he grinned to stave away the attention.

Spending the evening alone was getting tiring.

Some drunken Weasley uncle stumbled on the ground as June stood up and grabbed her shoulder for support. She pushed up off, slightly repulsed and he tipped over into another Weasley cousin as she made a beeline for Mrs. Potter.

Some company would be better than sitting alone on New Year’s Eve.

Mr. Bernard was now drinking wine with Mr. and Mrs. Potter as they talked to each other, smiling. Lily, James and Albus were grinning besides Lucy.

“So out of curiousity, what does my room look like now?” asked James. “Did mum completely destroy it?”

“You don’t want to see it,” said Lily, “you won’t believe what that girl’s done to the place.”

June bit her lip and began to retreat, before she wobbily walked sideways into Lucy and Albus. Lucy put an arm around her immediately as Albus fell into a trademark frown of disapproval.

“James, this is June.”

June had never before seen James Potter; he looked similar to Albus, but taller and with a kinder face. “So you’re the new girl, eh? How’s my room faring?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“And this is James’s girlfriend Christine.”

“I’m – I’m going to go out for a bit. I’m not feeling well,” said June, her voice quavering without meeting anybody’s eyes. She side-stepped Lucy’s concerned face and yet another Weasley relative. Her room was an enticing possibility, but it was likely that somebody or the other would follow her up.

So she walked back into the crowd and left them behind: James confused and wondering if he had offended her, Lucy apologizing to James’ girlfriend, Lily rolling her eyes and Albus staring after her.

As soon as June reached the door, she nearly leapt out into the snow and slammed the door shut. The clunk and the newfound silence were breathtakingly tranquil. She sat on the doorstep and watched the outline of people move about in the window.

Outside, the houses were quiet and the streets empty. The hardened snow under her feet and the fresh snow softly falling into her eyes slowly began lifting June’s headache.

New Year’s Eve was always difficult. It was like this every year on Christmas and New Year’s – occasions that were supposed to celebrate families but only reminded her what hers could never be. Of course there was her father and he was the only person she knew who she could say shared her blood. But he’d always loved her without understanding her; it was one of the many shortcomings of growing up without a mum. Her mum had had her own family – the Frobishers – and June idly wondered if she could have had a house full of cousins and drunken uncles, but that was all gone for her mum once she’d gone and married a muggle. There had been a few nice times though, with her mum and her dad on New Year’s Eve when she was a child.

Her thoughts wandered to the photograph of her mum she had duplicated that was now sitting on top of her sketchbook.

Sitting with all the other people inside enjoying the luxuries of a family seemed more painful than it was worth. There were too many awkward pauses and shared jokes and backstories that she could never understand or be a part of.

The sound of the door opening startled her out of her nostalgia. A trail of light fell across the snow and the door closed with a click.

“Typical of you to be sitting outside when it’s this cold.” June looked up into Albus’s exasperated expression. He was avoiding looking at her and was instead musing to the snow. “Don’t know why I’m surprised that you lack basic common sense.”

“I don’t want to go back inside,” she said quietly.

“My mum’s wondering where you are. She thought you might be hiding in James’s room again.”

“Oh.”

“He saw what you’d done to it, by the way. He didn’t like it.”

“That’s great,” said June airily, barely able to hear him.

He frowned down at her as he slowly shuffled into an awkward leaning position against the door. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. Do you even care?”

“No,” he said, shrugging. “Just curious, actually. What do you think you’ll achieve by freezing to death outside?”

“I’m not cold,” said June half-heartedly.

There was a long moment of silence as the snowflakes fell and fell, tumbling into her hair and obscuring her eyes. The wetness on her skin made her feel clean and blank.

And very, very quietly, Albus said, “I’m sorry about today, if that’s what it is.”

“It isn’t. Not really.”

“You might as well come in. They’ll be missing you.”

“It’s your family, not mine,” said June, her voice climbing higher.

Albus’s eyebrows rose. “I see. Well, you’re quite pathetic, aren’t you?”

“I guess so.” She gave a shaky laugh. “My fault. Go inside, please. You don’t want to sit outside alone when the New Year comes.”

“You’re going to?”

“I usually do.”

He rolled his eyes. “How melodramatic.”

“If it’s so melodramatic, you go inside then.”

“Maybe I will.” But he stood there nonetheless.

As soon as June rubbed her hands together in a shiver, he went back to frowning.

From inside, there was a loud explosion of noise. Albus gave the house a curious house a look, as if he suddenly found himself unable to understand the lights and laughter. Someone from inside shouted, “Three minutes left!” and there was an outburst of cheering at this news.

“You have a really nice family,” said June. “You should feel lucky.”

“Suppose so. Go in.”

A small smile was appearing on June’s face at his iciness.  “Why? Everyone probably hates me anyway. Lily hates me, and your brother probably does after seeing his room. I brushed off his girlfriend and I ran off from Lucy and I ignored your mum and my dad. And I stepped all over some drunk. I think his wife was probably angry.”

He gave a huff in exasperation. “Uncle Rolf. Of course.”

“And you hate me. So I think I’m better of outside.”

One minute left!”

“Both probably true,” said Albus, nodding. June’s smile slipped. “Either way, come on.”

“And it’ll be awkward. Everyone’ll drink and – ”

 “Alright, I gave you a chance.” Albus gruffly pulled on her sleeve and June rose unwillingly, fighting backwards.

Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight – ”

“Stop it – ”  The snow under her feet on the step was slipping as he yanked her up. “Stop, I don’t want to come! I have my reasons, alright?”

“Did I say you had a choice in the matter?

“When I was younger, me and my mum and dad would wait until midnight on this bridge outside of our old flat. It feels…strange being inside.”

He let go of her sleeve. “Fine. Stay here then.”

Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen –

Relieved, she sat back down on the doorstep and waited for him to leave. Instead, he stooped down and sat on the step above hers.

Seven, six, five, four – ” The noise inside was climbing in excitement. “ – three, two, ONE!

She looked up at Albus. “Happy New Year’s.”

There was no smile on his face, but he nodded. “Happy New Year’s.”

And there it was: the end of her winter holiday. It had begun with a pumpkin juice stained letter, various Priscilla rants on June’s lack of a love-life, an earthquake in which she had lost everything, a Christmas of nothingness, a makeshift new home, muggle shopping, drains and rain and telephone booths. And it had ended with spending the first moments of the New Year with the same boy who’d set off her holiday.

It hasn’t been so bad after all, thought June, as the door opened and Mrs. Potter ushered them in to the sounds of the party and the warmth of the fire.




Author's Note: So, this was a long chapter, eh? But hopefully June developed a lot and had time to get her character properly explored. Any thoughts on June/Albus as a possibliity so far? Even with Albus's somewhat dodgy past as a girl, I mean. Every icy bad-boy needs to have had a mysterious, yet traumatizing past after all!

Thanks for all the support so far and please don't forget to review! :)

Celeste

 

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