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Out With a Bang

The week after Hogsmeade began to pass fleetingly. Soon enough, June was once more sitting through Double Divination on Thursday, her eyes half closing in the heat. The strong smell of old sofas gave the classroom a stifling feel, leaving everyone tossing restlessly on the ground.

June found herself staring across the table, eavesdropping on the Ravenclaws and Slytherins in an attempt to keep herself awake. It was a shame that she found herself stuck with them so often, but she was the only Hufflepuff in her year who’d been allowed to take a NEWT in Divination. At least they were better than the Gryffindors.

Professor Trelawney glid past, blanketed in her shawls and looking like an ornate moth. “Remember my dears, thus far this year, we’ve covered crystal ball gazing, Ceromancy, Dream interpretation and Astrology. Which only leaves Ovomancy before your final exam.”

Her attempt at sounding mystical was promptly ignored by the class.

“I hate this,” said a bored Slytherin sitting across June. She eyed her friend. “Megara, you said this class would be easy. All we’ve been doing this year’s been predicting our own deaths.

Her friend scoffed. The Head Girl badge sitting on her robes glimmered. “You only signed up because you couldn’t get any other NEWT. Don’t blame it on me, Viola.”

There was a groan from the other side as Jelena Jorkins shook the girl beside her. “Victoria, wake up. Treloony’s walking by and she won’t fancy hearing you snoring like last time.”

Victoria Bosworth woke up with a jump. “Wha – “

“Class,” said Professor Trelawney once more. “I trust you’ve all done your reading and now how to proceed with the materials on the table. Pair up and observe your findings. I will retire to my inner chambers.”

“Probably to take a nap again,” came from one of the Slytherin boys.

“My Inner Eye will, no doubt, alert me when you have completed your work.” With that, she stepped away, leaving the class blinking in confusion at the materials on their table.

Finally, it was a Ravenclaw boy who said baldly, “Does anyone here know what to do?”

There was much head shaking that ensued. As June looked at her table, she found a pair of eggs and a candle sitting at the center.

“Ovomancy,” came Rose Weasley’s haughty voice from the Ravenclaw side, “is the process of using eggs to study our futures. Of course, there’s no real factual basis to it but it’s said that cracking open the eggs and observing which way they fall can act as a medium for Divining the future.”

“So we’re supposed to crack these open?” said the Slytherin sitting across from June. She shrugged. “Let’s have at it, I suppose.”

As June turned around, most of the class seemed to have found partners. She gingerly took an egg, staring across the tables and feeling at a loss what to do.

Finally, there was a sigh from the Ravenclaw side.

“Victoria, tell Bernard to come to our side,” came Rose’s voice.

There was a tap on June’s shoulder and she turned to find the Ravenclaws watching her expectantly.

Mostly puzzled but desperate, June arose and seated herself across Rose. Rose was holding her egg aloft, a victorious expression.

“Hello there, Bernard. I’m sure you’re very surprised as to why we called you here, but that’ll have to wait for a little while. Have a look, will you?” She held her cracked egg in the air and let the yolk fall on to the table.

There was much oohing from her friends as they clustered around.

“So girls, what do you see?”

“Well, it’s really yellow,” said Jelena, reading from her book. “That means you should anticipate good luck.”

“The spellbook says that if it doesn’t drip much as it falls, it’s supposed to indicate fluidity in your life,” said Victoria.

Rose smirked. They all looked at June.

She blushed and began stammering, trying desperately to remember what she’d read a few nights ago. “Um – well – the yolk has a piece of the shell in it – doesn’t that mean conflict?”

To June’s utter amazement, Rose broke out in a fresh wail. “I knew it! I knew it!”

Both Jelena and Victoria glared at June. “Don’t worry about her, Rose,” said Victoria, patting Rose’s hand. “She probably has no idea what she said.”

“No,” said Rose, now sniffing, “she’s right, though. The shell means conflict! He’s never going to fancy me!”

“Of course he does,” said Jelena. “You’ve been after him for ages.”

“But you know,” Rose blubbered, “he still tries hiding in broom closets whenever he sees me. He’s terrified of me. I tried asking him to Hogsmeade during Transfiguration and he pretended someone had cast a Silencing Charm on me and that he couldn’t hear me! And haven’t you heard what the Slytherins’ve been saying? I asked Megara Vaisey about him and she said that he’s already got a girlfriend!”

“He doesn’t,” said Victoria, awed.

“Some Slytherin girl. Some Parkinson something.”

“Must be Julietta Parkinson,” said Jelena. “I’ve got Charms with her. She’s quite all right.” At Rose’s glare, Jelena broke off. “Nothing on you, of course. You’re Rose Weasley, after all.”

“Who is he?” blurted out June. As all three girls turned to glare at her, she coughed hastily.

“Scorpius Malfoy,” said Rose reluctantly, watching June very closely. “I asked you here, Bernard, because I wanted to know how you did it.”

“Did what?”

“Won Albus over to your side. So tell me.”

“Hang on,” said Victoria slowly. “You don’t mean Potter and Bernard are – ”

“How did you know?” asked June.

“Albus told me to deliver you a message so what else can it mean?” said Rose, making a face. “He thinks it might be a good idea for you to visit the greenhouses again and quit. Whatever that means. Come on, tell me.”

“I really didn’t do anything,” said June.

“I don’t believe you. What was it? An Entrancing Enchantment? Love Potion number eight? Did that Jordan fellow mix something up for you?” She leaned forward eagerly. “Think your friend Fawcett could perform a nice jinx on this Julietta Parkinson for me?”

“I didn’t mix a love potion or anything,” said June, now inspecting her own egg. “Really. If you want him to fancy you, you should probably just act like yourself around him.”

Rose sat back, looking perplexed. “But I’ve done that too.”

“Well, if he doesn’t fancy you for yourself, then there’s just no point, is there? Who else can you be? I mean, it’s not really very important. The year’s almost over and we’ll all leave anyway. He’s just another bloke.”

Victoria and Jelena exchanged a glance. “Rose…” Jelena began.

Rose sighed. “You know, I’ve asked my mum about him. She said practically the same thing. I’ve already tried every love potion under the sun. What if he just never fancies me?”

As the two girls began to comfort her and assure her otherwise, June looked away, feeling slightly uncomfortable. She cracked open her egg. The bright yellow yolk fell on the table in one swoop. Two small pieces of the shell floated in the puddle of yellow.

*

When she trudged back into the dormitory, she found it empty. Priscilla was off to Ancient Runes and Lucy was in Transfiguration and Trista in Potions. June had barely peeled off her bag when a large owl swooped through the window.

She stared at it, utterly lost. Had she been expecting a letter…?

As she untied the letter from the owl’s leg, it took off with a hoot. There was a fancy blue seal on the letter. V.W.

She felt her mouth go dry. Victoire Weasley. Victoire Weasley had written to her instead of Albus.

She sat on her bed, feeling nauseous and began reading.

Dear JB,

So you must be Albus’s girlfriend. The whole family’s been wondering about you ever since we heard you moved in with my aunt Ginny. Al says you’re in need of a job after graduation. Frankly, your list of qualifications isn’t all that impressive. I haven’t seen any of your work and apparently, you’ve got just average marks in all your classes.

June felt her hands go wobbly. She’d told him! She’d told him there was no point!

 But still, Al assures me that you’re smart and capable and my aunt Ginny did the same. With that said, Mademoiselle is the premiere wizard robe provider of London. I can’t have you starting as a designer or any high position like that because you lack experience. However, our store is in need of a few girls who’ll be restocking shelves and folding clothes and helping our buyers. If you’re good, we’ll see if you can work your way up.

The pay is 5 Galleons per hour. Not much, but it’s what you get for folding clothes. You start on Monday, June 25th.

Victoire

 June stared at the letter, feeling a mix of excitement and joy rush through her. It wasn’t much, but it was a job! It was pay! Even if it was just folding clothes – nothing exciting like Law Enforcement or playing on a Quidditch team – but she’d be working for Victoire Weasley.

Elated, she folded the letter carefully and hid it under her pillow.

*

It was after what seemed like weeks that June found herself lingering around the Herbology greenhouses once more. She hadn’t returned there since the end of the Easter holidays.

From inside, she heard two excited voices.

“Grind it, crush it!”

“Stop shoving, let me see!”

There was a low, “Now boys, please – “

As she carefully opened the Greenhouse door, two small blond heads came bobbing into sight.

“Woah,” said one of the blond boys. “Is that you, Jane?”

“It’s June,” said Lysander Scamander to his brother. “Not Jane.”

“That’s what I said,” said Lorcan with a pout.

“Hello,” she said sheepishly; they both abandoned their positions by the flowers and came to wring her hands.

“Where’ve you been?” asked Lysander shyly. “We haven’t seen you in weeks.”

“Busy with classes and – ” an image of Albus waving the Toothflossing Stringments in her face came to mind. “ – other things.”

“Not that I’ve missed you,” said Lorcan. “But have a look at the flowers! The Rosemallow’s ready to be crushed. We’re getting to work for the Hospital Wing!”

She looked around the Greenhouse; the small purple flowers that she had watered weeks ago had now bloomed.

“So,” asked Lysander, eyes shining, “have you come back to help us?”

“No…” said June slowly. “I’ve got a job after graduation.”

“You don’t need the money anymore, eh?” said Lorcan, giving her a dirty look. “Well, we’re not here for the money! We just like the Rosemallow! And it likes us!” One of the flowers promptly leaned in his face, attempting to take a bite. He leapt back. “Or at least it did yesterday. Bloody flowers.”

“I wanted to see Professor Longbottom,” said June.

“He’s in the next Greenhouse,” said Lorcan.

“So this is goodbye?” asked Lysander.

“Probably,” said June with an apologetic smile. “It’s been fun. I’m sure I’ll see you two around. Take care.”

“Take care,” echoed Lysander as she left.

She could hear Lorcan saying bad temperedly, “Girls.

In the next Greenhouse, she found Professor Longbottom folding seeds into large piles of dirt he’d dug.

When she entered cautiously, he looked up. “You can come in. I’m just planting Mandrake seeds. And don’t worry, they won’t do anything to you. Yet.”

“Professor,” she began. “I’m June Bernard. Professor Aubrey sent me to help with Greenhouse Four a few months ago.”

“I remember you,” he said briskly. “So what happened?”

“I haven’t really been able to come for the last few weeks,” she admitted. “And final exams are coming up so soon.”

“Quitting?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry if you need help.”

He waved at her dismissively. “The Scamanders can manage just fine on their own. The Rosemallow’s been all watered and bloomed and that’s what we needed help for anyway. They’re having a fine time grinding it down.”

“Thank you, Professor,” she said. “For letting me help. And for paying me.”

“Thank you for helping,” he said with a smile.

“Goodbye.” She stepped away, closing the door behind her. So the goodbyes had already begun.

*

“Thank you,” June whispered to the spellbook she was holding in front of her face. “You have no idea what this means to me.”

“I didn’t do much,” came from the other side of the bookcase.

“You did everything.”

That evening after dinner, June found herself in the library, standing alone in the Potions section and holding up an Encyclopedia of Toadstools in front of her face. From the other side of the bookshelf, in the Transfiguration side, Albus’s voice floated by, his face blocked by a book on hieroglyphics.

The library was hardly romantic or solitary. But it would have to do for now. She had met him here entirely on accident.

“So, why’re you here?” asked Albus.

“I came to work on Transfiguration but - but then I saw you. So I had to thank you.”

“Now what?”

“Now we go back to studying.”

She could hear him making a space between two large books. His hand slid through to the other side, grabbing her fingers.

“I don’t want to.”

“Too bad,” she said, untangling herself. “What if we get seen here?”

“So what?”

“So what? I don’t fancy being killed in my sleep, thank you.”

“No, I mean, we’ve only got twenty minutes before curfew. I saw Madam Pince sleeping at her desk. And there’s barely anyone here. Come on.”

He gave a tug. The warmth of his fingers around her wrist reminded her of Hogsmeade and that warm feeling when he kissed her.

She sighed. “Fine.”

She walked to the other side, still hiding her face with the book and found him leaning against the bookshelf.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hi.”

“Have a seat.”

When she did so, he leaned forward. “So. Now you don’t have to worry about what to do after school anymore.”

She smiled at him. “Thanks to you.”

There was a faint shuffling noise behind them. June looked over her shoulder, paranoid, but saw nothing. She turned to find him leaning even more forward.

“Don’t – ” she began.

“There’s no one here,” he reminded her. He pulled her hand and she moved forward, feeling less and less reluctant the more she remembered Hogsmeade. Stupid Albus and his stupid nervousness and his stupid everything else –

“SNOGGING IN MY LIBRARY!

There was a yell and both Albus and June jumped, stopping abruptly. June turned around to see Madam Pince on the other side of the library, dragging two people behind her.

“Hooligans – rascals – the impropriety, indignity – snogging in the biographies! A desecration to the great witches and wizards of our time!”

“Maybe if you had a good snog once in a century, you wouldn’t be so wound up, you old bat,” came a familiar voice.

Madam Pince’s voice threatened to bulge out of her head. “Twenty-five points from Hufflepuff!”

There was a hiss of “Nicholas, shut up!”

Madam Pince burst into view, holding Nicholas Corner and Priscilla Fawcett in a vicelike grip, her wandpoint facing them.

June stared as Nicholas struggled, throwing his hand to prevent the wand from facing Priscilla.

Priscilla, however, stopped tossing abruptly, her eyes immediately flying to June.

June?” she shrieked. “Nicholas, stop, look – “

Priscilla pointed to June. Even Nicholas stopped his writhing, now looking dumbfounded.

But it took Priscilla only a second to realize who was sitting across from June, still holding her hand and whose face was merely inches away from her own.

There was a final shriek of “Potter?!” from Priscilla before Madam Pince ejected them from the library and closed the door behind them.

*

When the library closed for the night, June was still trailing behind Albus. “I knew it was a bad idea, but you didn’t listen.”

“I know,” he said apologetically for the umpteenth time that night. “I’m sorry.”

“I can never go back to our Common Room again. I’m dead. I’ll walk in there and they’ll probably kill me.”

“I’d take you to Gryffindor with me but there’s nowhere for you to spend the night.”

Glumly, she deflated. “I know.”

“Will you be okay on your own? If you want, I can come with you. Make up some story about how I was threatening to put you in detention.”

“While holding my hand?”

“Guess not,” he said reluctantly.

“I have to go,” she said, indicating the stairs that would take her downstairs to the Hufflepuff Common Room. He was still staring at her, looking lost and sorry.  He took one step forward, putting his hand near her face.

“I’m sorry, not right now,” she said softly, taking a step back and fleeing down the stairs.

She trudged down the Common Room. The barrels behind which the Common Room was hidden appeared more quickly than she’d expected. She tapped the barrels and waited as the passageway to the Common Room opened. She clambered in and was welcomed by the usual sight of the low ceilinged room, covered in squashy black and yellow armchairs. Instead of being welcoming, she felt frightened at the sight of it.

The usual cluster of students were crowded around. She briefly caught sight of Duncan Podmore and Henry Bates talking before she flew up the stairs into her dormitory and shut the door behind her.

“So. There you are.” Priscilla’s voice came behind her.

Terrified, she turned slowly. “Priscilla…”

Lucy appeared behind her, her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised. “Hello June.”

Trista was sitting on her bed, looking apprehensively between Lucy and Priscilla. “Hi June.”

“Hello,” June squeaked.

“So I saw something funny while I was in the library,” said Priscilla softly. “You and Potter sitting across from each other. Holding hands. Can you imagine that?”

“Is It true, June?” blurted out Lucy. “Is it really true that you’ve been seeing Albus Potter even after Priscilla and I expressly warned you about him?”

“It’s not – um – I mean, it was just an – he’s not that bad,” said June. “Not anywhere as bad as – “

She broke off when both Priscilla and Lucy loomed over her.

“Not that bad? Do you forget how many times he’s made you cry?” said Lucy. “And taken you for granted or treated you awfully?”

“He’s a bloody idiot! Haven’t I told you?” said Priscilla. “So tell us why you’ve been wandering around with him?”

“He fancies me,” she squeaked.

“Fancies you?” said Priscilla. “He does not! He doesn’t fancy anyone but himself!”

“Look, I know your date with him didn’t work out, Priscilla, but that doesn’t mean he’s a Death Eater or something.”

Priscilla went red. “What?!

“He told me about it!”

“You and Albus went on a date?” asked Trista incredulously. “When?”

“Fourth year!” said June over Priscilla, “She never told us about it, but apparently she set him on fire and everything.”

Although Lucy was eyeing Priscilla with amazement, she said, “Well, that’s besides the point. That’s in the past now, isn’t it? You should be here in the present.”

“You need to trust me,” said June defiantly, “I’m not twelve years old and you’re not my mum, Lucy. I know what I’m doing.”

“Then why’d you keep it a secret?” said Lucy. “Oh, I can only wonder how long you’ve been going behind our backs!”

“Me?” said June. She gave Priscilla a look.  “I’m not the only one!”

Trista turned to Priscilla. “You too, Pris?”

“What? You what?” asked Lucy.

Priscilla turned red. “If I tell you, will you tell us?”

After a long moment, June sighed. “Okay. You first.”

Priscilla glared at everyone. “I’m…I’ve been…I’m seeing Nicholas.”

There was a shriek from Trista who had leaned forward to hug Priscilla. “How long?! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It happened right before our Easter holidays,” said Priscilla, crossing her arms.

“Nicholas’s fancied you for ages,” said Trista, now looking starry-eyed. “Oooh, this’s perfect. At least you and Nicholas worked out, even if Duncan and I didn’t and Lucy and Desmond didn’t.”

“I do not and never did and never will fancy Desmond,” said Lucy, looking exasperated. “And I’m happy you for, Priscilla.”

“I didn’t tell you lot because I knew you’d tease me,” she said, flushing.

“How’d it happen?” asked June.

“Oh, we went for a walk around the Black Lake and he told me. I was furious he’d waited so long. I ended up pushing him into the lake and everything.” She shook her head. “What an idiot. I’m embarrassed to fancy such an idiot. I used to have big ambitions, you know, about this sort of thing. I always thought I’d end up with some great wizard. Someone brilliant like Potter or someone with all the right connections like Baron Davies. Or someone really, really handsome at the very least. Maybe Louis Weasley. My dad would joke about how I’d probably end up being a Minister’s wife. Everyone in my family only marries these sorts of people.”

“Rich or famous,” said Trista, nodding.

“Yeah, or at least well-educated or ambitious or influential.” Priscilla sighed. “And Nicholas is…well, his family’s well to do, I think. He’s only got a few NEWTs. Nowhere near as much as me. And he’s got this insane idea for his little portraiture shop in Diagon Alley. Imagine me telling my family I’m dating a shopkeeper! They’re not going to accept him very easily.”

“But you like him?” asked Lucy gently.

Priscilla groaned. “He’s so irritating and strange. He thinks he’s really charming but he’s so foolish at times. But yeah. I fancy him. I’m an idiot too.” She turned to June. “So there. I said my bit. Your turn.”

“Albus and I went to Hogsmeade last weekend.” As Lucy and Priscilla stared, she shrugged. “It was really nice. We’ve known each other for a few months now so it wasn’t that awkward. And our families already get along. It was just…nice. Really nice.”

“So he didn’t give you a speech on how all Hufflepuffs are dim and how badgers are the stupidest animals next to anteaters?” asked Priscilla skeptically.

“No. He was nice, actually.”

“Well, I can’t say I’m not surprised,” said Lucy slowly.

“He’s your cousin, Lucy. Maybe you should trust him more,” said June. Blushing, she said, “Actually, he’s been loads of help. He’s helped me with Charms before. His family’s letting my dad stay with them. And he got me a job yesterday.”

“A job?” asked Trista.

“I’m going to working for your cousin Victoire, Lucy. She owns that high end place in – ”

“Mademoiselle’s,” said Lucy, her eyes now the size of small plates. “i…I don’t know why I didn’t suggest that to you. Maybe because it’s all very fancy and I didn’t know if you’d like it and – ”

“It’s okay,” said June. “I’ve got a plan now. And we’re going to be staying in a flat together so I’ve got a place to live too.

“And you’ve got a boyfriend,” said Trista wryly.

“Everything worked out somehow,” said June, ignoring her. “The worst year of my life’s somehow turned out to be the best one too.”

*

“And need I remind you that your NEWT examinations are just around the corner!” Professor Flitwick squeaked from his high perch on a tower of books. “You have a mere four weeks left!”

“I hate this,” murmured Trista beside June, massaging her forehead. “All my Professors’ve been on about this. You should’ve heard Professor Vector…she makes it sound like we’re going to be dying soon or something.”

“As it is already almost the second week of May,” said Professor Flitwick, “we have very little material left to cover. You will remember, of course, that you will be expected to know all of the spells and incantations we’ve covered this year. That would include Conjuring Charms, Coloring Charms…”

He went on.

“Great,” said June dully. “More to study.”

“Better be prepared for it, Bernard,” said Desmond beside her. He winked. “The end’s nearly here, but it’s not going to be all sad and dim, you see.”

“What do you mean?” asked Lucy, already growing suspicious.

Desmond pointed to the table behind him where Priscilla and Nicholas were sitting; Priscilla was writing and Nicholas’s eyes seemed glazed over with boredom. “The year’s already seen a fair amount of excitement, that’s all,” said Desmond, trying to sound innocent. “That’s all, Weasley.”

When Lucy turned away to take notes, he leaned into June and Trista. “See, Corner, Podmore, Bates and I’ve got a plan. Emphasis on the I. I for intelligence.”

“A plan?” asked June. “A plan for what?”

“Our end of the year prank. Not really just end of the year prank – more like end of education. Carrying on the great tradition of Fred and George Weasley.”

“What’re you planning to do?” whispered Trista.

“See, it has to be something great. Because last year, Ravenclaw had to be bloody show offs and steal the Sorting Hat. The year before that, Gryffindor became legends thanks to James Potter and Fred Weasley.”

“I…vaguely remember that,” said June. Only an image of Professor Sprout yelling herself hoarse in the middle of the Great Hall came to mind. “I never found out what they did, though.”

“Oh, they did something, all right,” said Desmond mysteriously, shaking his head. “The people who were supposed to know about it found out. Anyway, Hufflepuff hasn’t done anything brilliant in a good decade. The last class that tried anything got themselves ratted out by Slytherins and ended up in detention for a month. We’re going to be brilliant.”

“Why?” asked Trista, looking impressed.

“You see,” he said, leaning in closer, “it’s because it’s nearly always blokes pulling this thing off in Hufflepuff. We always think we can handle this all on our own. But we know that isn’t going to get us anywhere other than Sprout’s office. But this year, we’ve got a weapon. It’s you four.”

Us?” asked June, taken aback.

“Yeah,” said Desmond smugly. “Think about it, Bernard. You’re excellent at blowing things up, even if it’s unintentional most of the time. Fawcett’s got a natural aptitude for this kind of thing. And St. Clair here’s got the leadership. And Weasley’s the last person anyone would ever suspect with this kind of thing.”

Trista and June exchanged a look.

“So,” said Desmond, "are you going to help or not? The year's not over yet. And we're going out with a bang."

*

“Prank?” asked Albus quietly.

June waved her wand dully at the book in front of her. It went zooming off the table and into her hands. At least she could still do the Summoning Charm.

“Yes, I was wondering if Gryffindor had a prank in mind for this year.”

“Maybe,” said Albus, arms crossed. “Maybe not.”

“You’re a prefect, you have to know this kind of thing.”

“I do know. But I’m not telling you if you’re not going to tell me anything.”

“We haven’t planned anything,” said June, trying to seem as innocent as possible.

They were standing in an empty dungeon, still practicing for their NEWTs. Albus had a large cauldron in front of him that was now bubbling contentedly. He looked over it skeptically, adding a vial of something golden into the potion.

“Right,” he said. “Jordan hasn’t gotten anything planned. I completely believe you.”

“It’s true,” she said, hoping she was a convincing liar.

He raised an eyebrow. “You know, I do know how to brew Veritaserum.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I won’t. Unless you make me,” he grinned, sitting down the now empty vial. He began stirring counter-clockwise. A small puff of steam began enveloping the room. “Okay, go on. We’ve got the Cheering Charm, Color change Charms. Let’s try Conjuring. I could use a few more vials.”

June closed her eyes and flicked her wand in Albus’s direction. Three empty vials appeared near his hand.

“Nice job,” he said, looking impressed. “Okay. Something harder. Try an Extension Charm on one of these vials. Inverbally.”

“I hate those,” she said dully. He handed her a vial.

She pointed her wand at it, feeling herself frown in concentration. After a long moment, she looked up. “I hate inverbal spells.”

“Better get used to it. Nobody’ll take you seriously if you’ve got to say the incantation during NEWTs.” He took the vial from her and began sliding some of the potion into it. Half the cauldron was emptied into the small vial before it came to a stop. “Looks like you’ll still need some practice. My aunt Hermione could make things bottomless. What you’ve done is just engorged it.”

Sighing, she sat down. “Okay. Enough Charms.”

“You want to try some Defense?”

“It’s mostly jinxes and hexes. I can do those. It’s just this kind of impossible thing that confuses me.”

“Really?” he smirked. “You want to try dueling me?”

He stood up and faced her. They began walking to the other side of the room and slowly turned. June could feel herself breaking in a nervous sweat.

“I’m not bowing to you,” she called over her shoulder.

He grinned. “It doesn’t have to be so formal. I’ll count to three. One, two, three – ”

Something yellow went whizzing past her. Aiming slightly to the side of Albus, she swished her wand. He leapt out of the way, staring incredulously as the chair next to him caught on fire. “Hey!” He extinguished it indignantly. “I didn’t think you were taking this so seriously!”

You were the one who was trying to hex me!”

“That wasn’t a hex!” he said glumly. “It was a Body Bind – I was just hoping to  - oh, nevermind.” He sat back down, looking put out and went back to stirring. A new scent filled the room. It smelled like her mother’s perfume – a smell June thought she’d nearly forgotten. A few new spirals of gas bubbled out of the potion. Now it began smelling like the clean sheets of her bed in the Hufflepuff dormitory and like éclairs and pudding. After a long moment of the room smelling of rainwater, it transitioned to a new and familiar smell. Like old books and fancy robes. It smelled like Albus.

“What is that?” she asked, staring wonderingly at it.

“Just some potion,” he said as she hovered over his shoulder. “What does it smell like?”

“My mum. And food I like. And my bed. And you.”

“It smells like me?” he asked, surprised. Then a smile briefly flitted across his face. “Oh. I see.”

“Why? What did you put in it? What does it smell like for you?”

“The Hogwarts library, my grandmum’s cooking and flowers.”

“Flowers?” she asked.

But all he obliged her with was a half-smile before turning away. “Yeah. Flowers. Hey, it’s getting late. I need to go do rounds. You should head back before you end up breaking curfew.”

“Okay,” she said, stuffing her wand in her pocket.

He put one arm around her shoulder and gingerly kissed her. She froze in place before relaxing and accepting it, turning towards him and kissing back. It was a long, warm moment. Her hands slid to his face and he leaned in still closer, somehow closing more and more distance.

Finally, when she broke away, it was with a gasp for breath. She blinked.

“Third time’s the charm,” he grinned.

*

It was back to the Hufflepuff Common Room yet again. It was mid-May now; NEWT exams were around the corner.

June found Priscilla perched alone on her bed one night, half perusing her Transfiguration book. When June entered, she looked up. “Off on a little snogging adventure once again?”

“Maybe,” said June curtly. “Been kicked out of any libraries lately?”

“Touché,” said Priscilla.

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Trista’s been training like mad for the match against Slytherin since that’s only a week away. Lucy’s got her rounds with Podmore and all the other Prefects. I’ve got to go now, actually.”

“Go? It’s nearly ten o’clock. Where’re you going?”

“I’ve got a meeting with Desmond and Nicholas in some abandoned dungeon,” she said, rolling her eyes. “To discuss details for our little end of the year…celebration. Anyway, Nicholas absolutely insisted our first meeting has to be somewhere appropriately theatrical instead of just doing it in their dormitory.” Grabbing a spellbook, she began to leave.

June gloomily followed her downstairs. “So I’m alone now?”

“Oh, I’m sure there’s someone around…” said Priscilla, making a beeline for the door.

There was a cry of “June!” and someone popped out of a sofa and into her face.

“See? I said there’d be someone,” smirked Priscilla as she zoomed away.

“Hello Henry,” said June, attempting to free herself from the pair of arms now flailing in her face.

The rather large face of Henry Bates soared into view. He was hovering over her, looking his usual mixture of concerned, delighted and slightly confused. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever!”

Probably because I’ve been avoiding you, thought June ruefully before coughing. “Really? We’ve both been busy, I suppose.”

“Must be it,” he said. “NEWTs and all. I’ve been studying so much for Care of Magical Creatures and Transfiguration and Charms.”

“I’m sure you’ll do well,” said June.

There was a long beat of dead silence.

“June?” he began tentatively. “Would you – there’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, I think, the last of the year – ”

His already large brown eyes widened in hesitation.

“I can’t, Henry.”

He deflated in front of her. “Oh. Well. I see.”

Feeling a strange mixture of pity and guilt, June watched him. He wavered in front of her, looking hesitant.

Of course I’m stuck alone on Friday night with Henry.

She took a seat on the sofa and gave the Common Room a cursory glance. It was mostly empty, save a small group of second years whispering on the other side. Maybe it was finally time to get things said and done.

“Sit down, Henry,” she said.

“Maybe I’ll go for a walk,” he said, trying his best to sound cheerful. “Don’t mind me, June – I was just leaving – ”

“Sit.”

He sat down beside her obediently. She stared at Henry out of the corner of her eye. He was looking straight ahead into the fireplace, where a small flame was now crackling.

“So,” he began.

“Henry, do you think you fancy me?”

Even under the rosy glow of the room, he looked as though he had turned red. He turned and gave her an apologetic smile. “Of course I do, June.”

She looked at him and took a deep breath. Here it was. A year of avoiding him and it had inevitably come to this. “I’m so sorry.”

His expression faltered before fixing itself. His large brown eyes looked even wider. “Ah. No, no. Don’t apologize.”

“You knew?”

He gave a small laugh. “Of course I knew. I’ve only asked you to Hogsmeade a million times.”

She relaxed a little in her sofa. “Then why – ”

He shrugged. “Maybe just to see if you’d ever say yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

Henry gave a dismissive sort of wave, before going back to stare at the fire.

In truth, June barely knew Henry as anything other than the slightly creepy bloke who’d fancied her this year. In the years before, she didn’t remember him much. He had been the quiet boy who was always a little away from the three other boys in his year. Duncan, Nicholas and Desmond had always been friends and Henry seemed to have walked into their group by coincidence.

Of course, the jokes had run amuck in Hogwarts since their fourth year when Henry first fancied Jelena Jorkins and gave her a perfume that sent her to the Hospital Wing. Then a rather unfortunate incident involving Victoria Bosworth and cake and his stalking of Trista through all her Quidditch practices last year cumulated with June. Perhaps that was why she had never been flattered that Henry had fancied her; she was a last choice in a long list.

“How come you always fancy someone?” she asked, voicing a question she’d wondered for years.

He gave a strange sort of smile. “Didn’t you, too? It just seems to happen, doesn’t it?”

Marveling, June turned to him. “I…I guess I did. Evan Sloper was the first boy I fancied back in third year.”

“Evan Sloper? Who’s that?”

“He’s on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, remember? Then Gregory Thomas in fourth. Then Baron Davies in fifth. Then Mark Finch. Then – “

“Yeah,” said Henry with a head bob. “We’re kind of the same, aren’t we?”

A moment of horror surged through her. No wonder Albus hated me in the beginning. “I…it’s not worth it, Henry. You’ll find someone, I promise. When you stop looking so hard.”

“Is it a nice feeling?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, sitting back again.

He grinned, understanding spreading on his features. 

“So,” started June once more. “You’ve never told me much about your family or anything.”

“Well. I live with my sister and her husband. They’ve got two kids.”

“Why d’you live with her?”

“My mum died a few years back. I never knew my dad.”

“I’m sorry,” said June, watching the flames in the fire die down. “My mum died when I was younger too.”

He looked at her and then at the flames. “The sympathy. It isn’t enough, is it?”

“No, it isn’t,” she said softly.

He smiled weakly. “It’s okay. My sister manages for all of us. I’ve got a good life with them. But I’m muggleborn like Trista, so that makes life a bit hard in the summers when I can’t use any magic. And especially not around my nieces.”

“But you’ll be leaving soon, right?”

“Right,” he said. “Duncan and I’ve found a flat above Diagon Alley, so I’ll be moving out next month.”

“That’s great.”

“Thanks.” After a pause, he said wonderingly, “Do you think we fancy people so often because we’re both looking for more people to love? Like we don’t have enough in our lives?”

She froze. Then breathed slowly. “I’m not sure about you, but I fancied boys because I was stupid.”

He laughed.

“And,” she continued, “we’ve both got people in our lives. Not just our families, however small and strange they are. I’ve only got one person and that’s my dad. But we’ve also got our friends. And Hogwarts.”

“Yeah,” he said, looking relieved. “We do. There’s always Hogwarts.”

“Hogwarts is our home. It always will be. Leaving won’t change that,” said June.

“I’m not leaving for good. I’d like to be a Professor one day for Care of Magical Creatures,” he blurted out.

“That sounds amazing,” said June. “But Henry, you must promise me one thing.”

“What?”

“If you do become a Professor, you’ve got to defend our house’s honor and throw Gryffindors in detention when they call us the dimmest house. And you absolutely must become Head of House.”

“Sure,” he laughed. “If Professor Aubrey isn’t still around, trying to poison me with her leaflets. It’s a promise.”

“You’re lucky you’ll be coming back.”

“Even if I come back, it won’t be the same,” Henry shrugged. “Not with everyone gone.”

“Do you…do you think it’ll be hard to leave?” June scanned the nearly empty Common Room. Over the years, the sight of the rugs, the Hufflepuff banners, the portrait of Helga Huffepuff that blinked and smiled, the kitchen that was just a few doors away, the room in which she had met her best friends had molded into her imagination of home. A constant home between all the flats she had spent her summers in. “I can’t imagine leaving in just two and a half weeks and just being done.”

“But it’s been almost seven years,” said Henry. “Maybe it’s time. We can’t sit around here forever.”

“I know…and everyone’ll grow up and get jobs and have to move away…”

“But what’s so bad about that?” asked Henry. “It sounds pretty good. We’ll be leading our own lives. And we might not see each other every day, but we’ll still be friends.”

And for a moment, June thought that perhaps not all goodbyes would have to be sad. The separation was inevitable, but there was a bit of bittersweet hope in them – the hope that they would be grown up and successful and happy and meet again someday.








A/N: Two more chapters to go! And as Desmond promised, they're not done yet. Hopefully this chapter didn't feel too fillery and you guys liked the Junebus bits. The next chapter has the final Quidditch match and the schemes for the prank begin! 

As always, thanks for reading! 

Celeste

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